As I sit down to write this post, I’m reminded of a situation where I once had to break the news to the owner of a dealership that he needed $1 million cash infusion to keep his store running. He’d been doing things the same way for years and it cost him dearly. The signs of demise were always there, predictions were made, but he chose not to act.
It’s a similar story with Social Media and online reputations for dealerships today. Doing things the same old way will not cut it in this new economy. The following is a list of my top 6 Social Media predictions for dealerships in 2011. Some points could be considered wishes but hey, a girl’s gotta dream, right?:
1. There will be more Adopters and less Adopt-Laters. Dealerships will buy into the fact that a well-defined strategy for Social Media generates leads. It’s not about waiting for the customer to come through the door anymore. It’s about meeting the customer where they are and listening. Everyone will become better for this.
2. Dealerships will realize they can’t do it alone. Social Media is part PR, part marketing, part advertising, part geek…with a twist. The futility will become clear in the thought that Social Media and online reputations can be managed in someone’s spare time. They’ll see that the Internet Sales Dept is there to field the leads that come from Social Media and that those sales professionals can’t do that when they’re struggling to find content to attract new buyers.
3. Dealerships will allocate 25% of their advertising/marketing budget to Social Media and Online Reputation Management. Ford did it in 2010 and they’re now the leader on Social networks.
4. Dealerships will stop “blocking” Social Media sites from their staff’s workstations. They’ll establish a clear Social Media policy and fear will no longer blind management’s ability to see the value in having employees–their ‘brand advocates’–share cool things about the store to their trusted networks. Management will understand that staff is already using Social Media on their phones and laptops so blocking is pointless. Sure, it’s a shift in the way we measure productivity but by using positive reinforcement and recognition, management will be able to drive employee enthusiasm. The benefit will be that when the staff shares their enthusiasm with customers, it’s contagious.
5. Dealerships will recognize that content rules. Social Media is not only about a new medium, it’s about new and more meaningful marketing messages. Here’s what killer content does:
- Attracts customers
- Educates buyers
- Establishes credibility and trust
- Builds buzz throughout Social Networks
- Inspires customers to love you
- Increases your PageRank in SEO
….and it generates word-of-mouth and quality leads!
6. Dealerships and managers will have the patience it takes to build a following on Social Media. We all remember how comfortable it was to sit with the print advertising rep each week, design our ads and watch the customers come in the door. Dealerships in 2011 will see that today’s customer wants to buy or service their car from someone they know, like and trust. They’ll accept that Social Media relationships take time to build and this will encourage more dealerships to start using Social Media and integrate it into their budgets for 2011. The payoff is Customers for Life!