By Cesar Yepez, Integrated Marketing Manager
The Internet is a highway without speed limits. You don't have a destination but you do have a goal - staying ahead of your competition. Showing up higher in search engines. Showing up more often. How do you manage to do this? There are a plethora of free and not so free options for auto dealerships in a thriving yet tough online community. I've outlined some of the tips of the trade and common info when it comes to staying ahead of the game in the social media world. Read on and feel free to share with fellow dealers!
Back to the basics... What Does It Mean When a Dealer's Brand "Goes Social"?
Social Brands Compete 24/7 For auto dealers today, managing a brand includes managing their online reputation, and the brand starts among the dealership's employees. In the old way of thinking, branding was projected through advertising and was different from the treatment of people on the showroom floor. Now branding is connected to how people are treated at the dealership. Positive customer experiences are a competitive advantage - because they result in five-star ratings in Google Places and good reviews. Thus managing a positive online brand is a 24/7 competitive advantage.
Social Brands Are Dynamic and Personal
In the 24/7 world of social media, your brand is never stagnant. It changes day-to-day. Like other marketers there is an importance on keeping a consistent brand voice while taking advantage of social media's dynamic conversations. Your values should be consistent while your interactions are fresh.
Car lots are all the same, right? Wrong. I have a completely different approach to working with our customers. One that is engaging and involves a dialogue, rather than simply selling your products. You see, you could throw a bunch of sales pitches at your clients. But, research shows it is best to break those stereotypes.
Social Brands Are Both Global and Local
Our mantra is, "Think globally; act locally." Build credibility by starting globally, and use it to legitimize your local activities. Become a 'mover and shaker' at your level. You'll create a perception of legitimacy and exclusivity. It is acceptable for your dealership's marketing to still include sales-related content, but it is also important to build a relationship with key influencers.
Steps for Implementing Successful Social Media
The development of a successful social media program requires a careful, step-by-step process. Here are the steps that I recommend to transform your dealership into a Web 2.0-savvy dealership.
1) Build Quality Internet Marketing Tools
A strong website is your central communications hub. After you've launched your site it is then you branch off into social media channels ie Facebook, Twitter, YouTube.
2) Design a Simple Communications Strategy
Here's a great Social Media "battle plan." I used combat metaphors to make it fun! Facebook will be your Calvary, YouTube your artillery and Twitter your reconnaissance division. Your blog would then be the supply train feeding all his other units. This strategy will work! Your site will have a powerful collection of social media content, which will improve your search engine rankings, along with positive reviews on DealerRater and other sites.
3) Find Contributors - Inside and Outside Your Dealership
Most businesses implementing social media marketing programs find the volume of the daily status updates, written content, online conversations and monitoring activities to be daunting. We believe that dealers should "democratize" their social media. Start with employees who are more social-media savvy and don't force those who are uncomfortable to get involved.
4) Create Original Content
This is so important and often overlooked! Successful social media features a lot of unique content. Sure it is ok to repost or retweet some content by others, but remember social media is a lot more than having a Facebook 'Like' button. I am also a big proponent of another classic marketing tactic -- human interest stories featuring members of the local community your brand of dealership's vehicles.
5) Develop a Solid Following in Your Community
"Engagement" is a buzzword that has gained new prominence with the rise of social media, however, what is meant by the word can vary from dealer to dealer. Engagement essentially means the pursuit of relevant connections. You want people from our area who can contribute to conversations and help your dealership connect to your local customers. The quality of people a dealership reaches matters.... you want people who can spread word-of-mouth news about your dealership... in a positive light.
Finally, build expectations, relationships and trust through online dialogue, knowing that if you successfully accomplish all three, YOUR DEALERSHIP will be first in the customer's mind when it comes time to purchase a vehicle!