For the past few years, I’ve been either a participant or an attendee in just about every automotive retail marketing conference. There are a lot of great minds today helping dealers acclimate to the ever-changing world of Social Media. The one drawback to all of this information that’s being thrust on dealers is that very little of it focuses on the core component to Social Media success.
I’ve seen countless dealership Facebook pages that have a steady stream of updates talking about themselves. Users are bored with this. They’re bombarded with so much noise already so it’s a challenge to get people to like your page and engage with your posts. You feel it personally too, right? It’s not very likely that you’re ever compelled to like or comment on some advertising message.
Technology is what makes Social Media available.
Strategy is what makes you successful.
Technology is simply the tools you need to build your Social presence. Strategy is the design, chassis and the materials that get people to buy. You won’t see much interaction on Social Media without a clear content strategy. All the tools in the world won’t help you have meaningful conversations with your customers. You cannot achieve full marketing potential (ie: sell cars, parts and service) without these 4 deliberate and strategic steps. And they must be in this order:
The world of auto retail, like many other businesses, is shifting into Social Business. Customers are voicing their opinions on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Google Places about the products they buy. In his book, “Smart Business, Social Business” Michael Brito writes that social business forces an organization’s cultural change. We’re seeing now the increase in sales when a company truly cares about the community and wants to meet the demands of the customer. Cultural change must come from the top down and meet in the middle from a bottom up approach.
Employees at every level need to change their thinking, embrace new technologies and shift their focus from traditional advertising messages to building relationships. Of course there will be resistance. Some will rush to defend the status quo, and this is normal. The key is designing and implementing an internal process that welcomes feedback and rewards participation. Social Media marketing cannot truly succeed without employee buy-in. They are your conduit to your customer. They are your first resource for awesome content.
Get a system that works for you, not against you. Provide targeted education so your staff feels comfortable about Social networks. It’s revolutionary but so were the telephone and email when they first appeared. Help your staff learn how to communicate with the customer on the platforms where the customer is. Institute a process so front-line personnel understand 2 things:
- How to be aware of relevant content when it comes their way
- How to foster sales relationships by asking for online reviews and referrals.
In addition, implement a Social Media policy to ensure marketing consistency, employee and protect the organization.
Now we can talk about the tools you’ll need to expedite your Social marketing campaigns. Here are a few I use:
- Google Reader helps you consolidate relevant, recent and local content to share.
- Bitly.com shortens URLs so you can post them on Twitter. (They provide QR codes and cool analytics too!)
- Hootsuite is a Social Media dashboard that allows you schedule out posts at optimal times for best engagement–freeing you up to devote your time to listening and interacting with your fans/followers and write blog posts.
- Post Planner offers a white-label Facebook App to schedule your posts right inside Facebook! Your posts are branded with your dealerships’ ID, you can post photos, and they give you engagement-rich status update suggestions.
- Refollow is a tool to help you grow your Twitter following.
- TweetAdder also grows your Twitter following using more advanced automation tools.
You can’t automate conversations on Social Media. Human interactions happen spontaneously. How do you want to be known online? Your well-planned strategy carries out your mission. Technology is only the facilitator.