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This is Part 3 in a 5 part series. Read Part 2 here on Driving Sales.
By now, you should have an understanding of the importance of having an individual - preferably the owner, general manager, or someone else of authority at the dealership - as the "face" and "voice" of the dealership on social media. People like to talk to people, not brands, and when you can develop a true personality that is both professional and completely human, you have the opportunity to start making real strides in using social media as a true marketing tool. It isn't just for social; the search engines are putting a lot of faith in social signals, so whether you believe in social media as a tool for your dealership or not, you have to admit that search engines clearly drive traffic that can turn into leads and sales. For this reason alone, social media is extremely important for moving well beyond your competitors in 2013.
Once the right person has been established to be the brand's identity, it's time to get turn that person into a powerful account on social media. There are several strategies that work - the tips below are the ones that we've used. In many cases, the majority of our strategy has been developed from what we've seen successful dealers do. This particular part of the series is the most challenging for me to describe because I am part of the subject as well as the observer. It's a little uncomfortable describing the techniques that I use, but for better or for worse, I am part of our own brand's identity and the techniques that we've employed to promote it can be applied easily by dealers.
The power account's face and name should be displayed often and attached to the brand. Forgive the quality of the image we used above - I didn't have access to the design team when I was posting this tip so I winged it. The end result is still easy to understand. We were posting a tip for dealers to our Facebook page and used an image that I built that will be used whenever we're posting SEO tips.
At the dealership level, this could be quick tips on SYNC, winter preparedness, getting their trade-in ready for inspection, or anything else that can fit into a paragraph or two. Make sure that in the attached image or in the text itself that the name of the power account is included. It should be a tip from the owner, not just a tip from ABC Motors.
One of the biggest mistakes that dealers make when using social media is that they don't want to be frivolous or get off topic. This is debatable. Some would say that there's no reason to talk about anything other than dealership business or cars in general. Even if you subscribe to this way of thinking, that doesn't mean that you can't insert personality into the posts.
Whether you're willing to let your dealership power account go off topic from time to time or not, you must make sure that there is a real personality portrayed in some (perhaps all) of the posts. Let their opinions be known. Personally, I'm a Christian and I often assert this in my posts. That doesn't mean that my company is strictly Christian and people know this. Religion and politics are often dangerous bedfellows with professional social media accounts. You must make sure your dealership is 100% on board with it before heading down that road.
Regardless, having an opinion (even if you avoid politics and religion) is an essential piece to the puzzle. If you want to avoid the potential controversies, you can post things that are still opinionated without being risky:
In this example, my personality is expressed through an opinion without risking controversy. It's extremely humanizing to talk about things that the individual behind the power account truly feels. If it's the owner, for example, you will hear them say things from time to time that strike you. If it strikes you in real life, it has a chance to come across well on social media. Let them know, "That's great - I'm tweeting that for you." I know of one dealership in particular where the owner is such a great personality in real life that the internet manager who's running his account often follows him around just to get social media ideas. The owner loves it and the internet manager has said that her job is easier as a result.
It's easy to sound smart on social media. Unfortunately, it often doesn't translate into a lot of likes or shares. Clever, on the other hand, has the opportunity to go viral.
Whether you're finding content on the internet to post or if you're out there generating and capturing content yourself in the real world, look for opportunities to entertain. When you're making people laugh or smile with your social media profiles, they are much more likely to help you spread the word (and as a result, your brand). Look for "cleverness opportunities" and get them posted through your power accounts often.
Talking about the events that either recently happened or that are happening in the future is challenging. On the days leading up to the election, it was hard to get traction for posts surrounding it because there were simply so many other posts out there on the same subject. Finding the balance between timely and still-interesting is hard. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to find content that isn't saturated yet but that's interesting enough to share.
The image above struck me when I first saw it. The storms the night before in Dallas were absolutely mean and the subsequent images were incredible. I found one that I thought was most impressive and posted it to Google+. Despite the "ghost town" mentality that so many still hold onto when it comes to Google+, this particular image ended up with over 1000 +1s. It was timely and incredible. People love timely and incredible and they're willing to share it.
Some say that you should never post links to social media. This is an insane thought to me, but I'm sure there will be naysayers.
For me, it's important to post links that are truly important. In my niche, I must find the best content that circles around automotive social media and automotive SEO. For a dealership, you must find content that circles around your manufacturers, the local area, and your important dealership news. Your power accounts must be the thought leaders when it comes to your topics. Every link that you post should be important and interesting to your target audience, namely potential buyers of your vehicles or fixed ops customers.
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In the next part of this series, we'll go over ways to take advantage of your power accounts once they're built. After all, it's not just about being interesting. You want to get some real demonstrable ROI out of the efforts. We'll discuss how to attach the accounts appropriately to promotions, how to get your customers to be outrageous for the sake of the dealership (I call this "getting them into the social media trunk"), and how to turn liking into sharing for the sake of your marketing. Stay tuned.