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Let's Get Social: How Dealerships Can Use Social Media to Get Referrals

Chances are, if you’re doing great business and delivering an outstanding customer experience, your customers are spreading the word. Did you even know it? Take moment to check out social media, and you may find out that people are talking about you. Am I making you blush? Be proud – you’ve got brand and dealership ambassadors doing the work for you, and you didn’t even know it! This is known as social referral. That’s nice of them, isn’t it? But don’t rest on your laurels – banking on buyers to do this on their own, day after day, is wishful thinking.

20 years ago, you sold a car to Jane. Jane loved it. She went home, and told her family and neighbors how happy she was about the car buying process. She told her hairdresser and her kid’s soccer coach how helpful your staff was. They listened, and maybe they came by for a test drive. That was nice of Jane.

Today, Jane’s son Bob bought a car from you. He, too, had a fantastic experience. But instead of telling his friends in person, he went on Facebook and Twitter, and called your dealership out by name. He linked to your website, and your social media handles. He raved about the great deal he got.

Instead of telling 10 people in person, like Jane did, Bob broadcasted his experience to his entire social network – all of his college friends, his bowling league, his quizzo team, his gym buddies, his co-workers. Probably over 1,000 people saw what Bob had to say about YOU.

So what can you do to encourage other people to be more like Bob? What can you do to get more people on social media networks talking about your dealership, getting them into the showroom, and driving away in a new car?

1) Get them talking

Why SHOULD Bob mention you?  Because you did something amazing and made him stand out. Make the car buying experience something he should brag about. Snap a photo of him before he drives off the lot in his new car. This gives him a reason to check out your page and share it. This connection is something their friends will see, and at this moment, his word is gold. His friends are likely to comment on the photo – weighing in, because maybe they want a new ride now too? Whatever they say, and whatever questions they ask, it’s on your photo so you’re there to respond and engage!

2) Give out an offer

It’s no secret – everyone loves getting stuff! You can’t expect a customer to rave about you for nothing. So Bob is going to ask, “What’s in it for me to tell my pals about you?” Ask him to leave a review on Facebook. Ask him to share a free car wash coupon with 5 of their friends through email. Something along those lines. In return, he’ll get a gift. Maybe it’s a free oil change. Maybe it’s a gift card or even cash. Be proactive, encouraging customers to spread the word and make it EASY for them to do it. Think to yourself- what’s an extra sale worth to you?

3) Be available

So you’ve got a few leads from Bob’s handy work on social media. “I want to redeem my free car wash…I got it from Bob, he Facebook messaged me about it.” AWESOME. Don’t disappoint! Be responsive, both socially and in person. It’ll leave a great first impression. Bob has already said great things about you – so keep the good vibes going and keep his network of friends happy too. If they leave with a good experience, they’ll share it with THEIR social network. It goes on and on.

4) Keep on listening

When you’ve got loads of people talking about you, you’ve got to monitor that conversation! When customers leave stellar reviews, say thanks! When they aren’t happy – let everyone on social see that you’re being 100% helpful towards resolving their issue. Shout out loud that you’re there and ready and willing to help. Showing that you’re attentive to their needs, and thankful for their feedback, speaks even more volumes.

In summary

You can sell and sell on social all you want – but if no REAL people have anything to say about their buying experience, you may as well be invisible. Social media, when being used as a referral tool, allows you to have an authentic message that reaches thousands of potential buyers. While it does require a significant amount of time, planning, and investment, it’s worth the effort to take a closer look at your customers’ preferences and overall presence. Dealerships that establish themselves as providers of helpful answers and creative content, as well as presenting themselves as leaders of their industry, will leave a lasting impression.

In a person’s quest for a new ride, they’re likely to choose the dealership that’s got all of angles covered, backed by happy customers, decent reviews, and a responsive team that’s there to clear up any doubts.

Be quick. Be smart. Be reciprocal. Be thankful. Be engaged. Be there to sell, and in return, they’ll be there to buy. 

All the best,

Julia Giacoboni

Julia is a Social Media Team Leader at Stream Companies, a Philadelphia area advertising agency.
Scott Nelson
Great post Julia! :o) Creating a positive experience for customers is #1, then watching those efforts get mentioned online is the icing. You gave some great ideas to ensure that the positive buzz makes it online for friends and family to see.
Stream Companies
Thank you, Scott! I appreciate your feedback, I'm glad you found the post helpful. Thank you, Julia
Dan Ferguson
well said, Julia. a strong social media presence starts from doing the right things at the dealership. It should be organic, not forced.
Stream Companies
Hi Dan! I couldn't agree with you more. It's so important to keep any type of social engagement organic - prospects and customers can see right through any business who is forcing the conversation and not putting a true, genuine voice to their Facebook page (or Twitter, Google+, etc.). The more a dealership keeps in mind what's important to the real person on the other end of their posts, the better chance they have of making real connections. Thank you for your comment! Julia
Mike Elliott
Great article, excellent points and examples. I hope dealers read this. Thanks.

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