Social Media Best Practices For Automotive Dealers


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This e-book, Social Media Best Practices for Automotive Dealers, is for the automotive dealer starting out with social media — an entry-level overview if you will. While social media requires a solid amount of effort, time and interest, this short read will
equip you with the knowledge you will need to enter the digital social age that is upon our society. In this book, you will learn how to get started, best practices and tips and tricks.

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Social Media Best Practices For Automotive Dealers

  1. 1. By Adam Boalt
  2. 2. PrefAce This e-book, Social Media Best Practices for Automotive Dealers, is for the automotive dealer starting out with social media — an entry-level overview if you will. While social media requires a solid amount of effort, time and interest, this short read will equip you with the knowledge you will need to enter the digital social age that is upon our society. In this book, you will learn how to get started, best practices and tips and tricks.
  3. 3. Table of contents Introduction to Social Media for Auto Dealers............................................................... 4 Social Media Benefits ................................................................................................... 6 Brand reputation .......................................................................................................... 7 Word of Mouth/referral Marketing ............................................................................... 9 Social Media Best Practices ....................................................................................... 13 Top channels for Automotive Branding & customer reach ........................................ 16 Twitter ........................................................................................................................ 14 facebook .................................................................................................................... 16 YouTube ...................................................................................................................... 17 Blogs ........................................................................................................................... 18 Measure Your Progress ............................................................................................... 20 retaining customers with Social Media ..................................................................... 22 Developing Your content Plan ..................................................................................... 25 The Brilliant Summation of everything ....................................................................... 27 About the Author ......................................................................................................... 28 Appendix ..................................................................................................................... 29
  4. 4. Introduction to Social Media for Auto Dealers Turn on the television, read a newspaper, or even talk to a teenager, and before long you’ll hear mention of social media and networks. OK, what you likely will hear are phrases such as... “I heard about it on Twitter” “Message me on Facebook” “Did you see that video on YouTube?” “I read on this blog...” Social media is a growing part of the internet, and is something every automotive dealer needs to be aware of, even if at this moment you’re not quite ready to embrace it. Why is it Growing? One clue is in the name – social media is social. It is people talking to people. That is powerful, and also scary at the same time. What do people do when they get together? They gossip. When you’re in business, that means there is a good chance they’re gossiping about you or your competitors. Some of it will be good (like testimonials and recommendations), and some of it you will not like. One of the best phrases about branding came from Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, who said something along the lines of your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. The benefit of social media is when they’re saying it, you can be in the room if you want. The other reason why social media is growing so rapidly is because of the other part of the name: media. 4
  5. 5. If you’ve noticed, people are no longer relying on traditional media outlets. Instead people are creating more and more media for each other. • Video • Audio • Photographs • … and of course news and articles Why does this matter? Well, for one, it means traditional media like newspapers and television isn’t the first place people turn for information. More and more people get their product recommendations from peers (social network) and their news from peers (social media). What Does This Mean for Auto Dealers? It means you have an opportunity to connect with your customers. A great many people who are visiting websites based on the recommendations of their peers, buying or avoiding internet sellers and brick and mortar stores based on what their peers are saying, and being told what to think by people like them, rather than big media. However, there is more to social media than just a source of new visitors to your dealership. Social media is also an opportunity to keeping the people who have already bought from you to come back. Using social media you can turn more of your one-time customers into repeat buyers. And don’t forget the “just looking” crowd. Get them to follow you and just maybe they’ll come back to the store when they’re more serious about purchasing, ultimately creating a customer for life. Chances are your competitors have already found social media or are at least considering it. It’s obvious you don’t want to be left behind or you wouldn’t be reading. Well don’t stop. It’s just starting to get good. 5
  6. 6. Social Media Benefits Why specifically should you consider social media? Here are some of the benefits to be gained by engaging these services: • Build visibility & authority. Social media allows you to attract and maintain an audience of people who want to interact with you. • Grow your traffic. Once you have an audience you can drive people to your website. • Connect with key influencers. In social media the gatekeepers are removed so you can gain direct access to key people. • Attract prospects. By increasing your visibility and making yourself useful, you can attract prospects and leads. • Provide customer service. Help solve customer’s problems before they start to complain and cause negative word of mouth. • Encourage links. Boost your search results by gaining more links to your content. • Reputation management. Improve your reputation management by creating more results in the search engines and social sites for your brand. • Create positive brand associations. Boost your brand by helping people see you as a positive member of your community and industry, by creating more trust, and improving your reputation for customer service. • News & gossip. Get the inside scoop on what is happening. • Loyalty. Hold the attention and maintain your visibility to customers, contacts and prospects. 6
  7. 7. Brand reputation A dealership’s brand reputation is more important than any full page ad in the Sunday newspaper. Your reputation is less about what your community says and more about what your digital record says about you. The online community is now your local community because the first place most people go for information is the Internet. Take into account the popularity of sites like Yelp! with their slogan: Real People. Real Reviews. They boast 26 million unique visitors and 8 million user-generated reviews. Those are big numbers that are growing daily. 8 million reviews that will be online forever. Google doesn’t forget. They never, ever forget. In the automotive industry is the standard and is growing more everyday. A car is the second biggest purchase after a house and in today’s sluggish real estate economy it is probably the biggest. It’s not something buyers take lightly. Building Trust No matter the business, whether it’s selling a car or a cute kid on the sidewalk selling lemonade for a quarter, trust is by far the most important factor in completing a deal. No one knows what those kids put in their lemonade, but you have to trust it was sugar, water and lemon juice. Trust means repeat business. Let’s be upfront, automotive dealers do not have the best reputation. A lot of people dread going into a dealership. Why? Well, some bad eggs have left a sour taste in the mouths of consumers. In the mind of many consumers, automobile salespeople are akin to Darth Vader. It’s hard to overcome years of public scrutiny, however, it’s simple PR. The first rule of PR is to take control of the message. That means getting out there and joining the conversation. When someone says your dealership is shady, you have to say, “No, it’s not and we’ll prove it. Come talk to us.” 7
  8. 8. Strategies for Building Trust in the Online Age The first part of building trust is the way your company is presented. You may have the most beautiful dealership in the area with the best cars out front, a staff of knowledgeable salespeople, but don’t forget that you also have an online image to maintain. A large portion of your business originates from Internet leads. According to, is the 205th most visited site in the U.S. That’s huge! AutoTrader drives a ton of traffic. Every dealership knows that your website drives traffic. If your website is bad then consumers assume your dealership is bad. And don’t forget, on the Internet your competition is only a few clicks away and they probably don’t take their website lightly. Before a buyer makes it to your site they have to find it. Unless you’ve been living in a cave the last five years, you know Google. It’s the biggest search engine in the world. Google has become part of our everyday speech. Everyone says, “Oh I’ll just Google it” or “I Googled that place last night. I read their service stinks.” (Let’s hope they don’t say that about your dealership.) We know about Google’s dominance in search but Facebook and Twitter are dominating in real-time search. Which means that the latest information about your product is coming straight from the consumer’s mouth and it’s originating on these two sites. You don’t want someone to leave your dealership and immediately tweet: “Just left ABC Auto Mall. The salespeople are rude and the cars are filthy. Don’t go there!” If someone searches ABC Auto Mall they will likely find that at the top of the search because Google now includes real-time tweets into their search. Real-time search is the next step in search. It’s so great that Google has made deals not just with Twitter but with Facebook too. What Does all of this Mean? Well, it’s time to adapt again. Everyone was skeptical of the Internet. However, businesses made the leap and no one has looked back. Kids today only know a world with the Internet. They can’t imagine life without it. They are your future customers. 8
  9. 9. Many, many businesses today have the same skepticism of social media. The thing you have to remember is that your customers do not share your skepticism. They’re on social media and they won’t stop using it anytime soon. What Does This Have to Do with Trust? Well, trust is built by the impression a buyer has of you and your services. It’s also built on third-party recommendations. This includes friends, family or anyone who has worked with your dealership. Someone might say not to shop at your place on Facebook and someone might read that and take their word for it. Trust is based on a customer’s belief in your ability to provide a particular service or perform a desired task. Daniel Rosensweig, former CEO of Yahoo, summed it up best in an interview in 2004 with The Economist magazine: “The web is the most selfish environment in the world. People want to use the Internet whenever they want, how they want and for whatever they want.” Word of Mouth/referral Marketing rOI of Word of Mouth John Jantsch is the creator of the blog He said a great thing about word of mouth referrals. “Referrals are credible right from the start. When a trusted friend tells you about a business you transfer that trust to this company...even if you’ve never heard of them before.” I don’t think I could’ve said it better myself. 9
  10. 10. According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, two-thirds of all economic activity in the United States is influenced by shared opinions about a product, brand or service. TWO-THIRDS! That’s massive! That number is much higher within the automotive industry. Social media is word of mouth. That is your business. There are no ifs ands or buts about it. If someone is talking about your product it is on Facebook, Twitter or a dealer review site. You want to make sure that what they’re saying is positive. A negative review will affect your sales. When it comes to the automotive industry, the first search is for the car. The brand you’re selling, whether it is Ford, Honda or BMW, already promotes their product on these social networks. After they have sold someone on a model, the buyer must find a dealer who sells the car. If they decided to buy the car on Twitter then they will likely search for a dealership on Twitter too, or Facebook. One of the most important aspects of word of mouth marketing is Conversation Creation. That’s where social networks come into play. A successful social media campaign is exactly that: a conversation. Buyers want to interact with sellers. Especially in the car industry. A car isn’t a small purchase. It’s a huge purchase. After a house, it’s the second largest purchase in a household. Here’s an example of an actual Twitter message from a buyer to a dealer: “Do you guys still have the used blue XC70 on your lot? I called sales a while back but no one called me.” The dealership responded... “Give us a call at (***) ***-****, ask for Joe ***** and he can help you out with any questions you have. He’ll be expecting your call.” This is someone that some how fell through the cracks in the sales department but found another route through Twitter. If this person buys from that dealership, the word of mouth referral will be something like this: “The sales department didn’t call me back but when I tweeted them, they responded quickly.” From then on you can expect some buyers to contact you through Twitter. 10
  11. 11. Social Media Best Practices What to Do... • Be honest. Above everything else you take away from this book remember to be honest. There is nothing more important to consumers than honesty. A car is a big purchase and they don’t want to be duped. Don’t use deceptive practices. Don’t use social media for any unethical practices. • Be you. On top of being honest, I want to add “be you”. Social media reacts well to honest and open dialogue between humans. If you act like a spammer or like a business you may not get the reaction you want. Be genuine and they will come. • Listen to your customers. Don’t think of social media as a way to spread your word. Think of it as a way to hear what your customers are thinking. What they want and how they want it. Then you provide it for them. • Don’t just take. If you want participation from fans, followers, and subscribers then you need to engage them. Talk to them and they’ll talk back. • Make a plan of attack. It might be easy to start Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube accounts, but if you don’t know how you’re going to use them it’s not worth the time. Make a social media plan and stick to it. • Time. Time. Time. You have to be able to spend a lot of time on your social media efforts. It’s worth it though. It’s important to understand that this isn’t something that will happen overnight and it’s not something you can spend 10 minutes a week on. So include time availabilty in your plan. • Integrate your social media efforts to offline channels. Consider it as important as your phone number and address. Make it prominent and make it clear to get customers to find you online. 11
  12. 12. What Not to Do.... This is the tough love portion of the book. Think of a customer’s engagement as a graph. It goes up when they’re engaged and down when they’re not. For the most part it stays pretty steady. A nice little ebb and flow. Then the dealership does something deceptive. All of a sudden the engagement graph plummetts. Can you bounce back from that? Sure, you can find a steady level again, but engagement isn’t what it was before the deceptive practice. My point is customers see everything. Consumers are very smart and they can see right through wrongful practices. Here’s what to avoid to keep your reputation spotless: • Terms of Service mistakes. Everyone has a Terms of Service. Twitter has one, YouTube, Facebook, Craigslist and other dealers. Read the Terms of Service of every network you join and follow them to the letter. If you don’t you open your dealership to legal action. Facebook Terms of Service says that businesses must have a Fan Page and not a general profile. If you have a profile, you need to open a Fan Page before you get caught. When they find you they’ll delete your account and you’ll loose all of your friends. Besides a Fan Page is more versatile and there are no limits on the number of Fans you can have. • Twitter no no’s. I’m going to say this again and again. So be prepared. Don’t tweet your inventory. When a dealer can’t think of something to say to their community they go to the backup plan and that’s to tweet information on one of their cars. Don’t do this. Instead, a better strategy for tweeting inventory is to create a specific Twitter account for your brand that focuses strictly on inventory deals and specials. Followers of that account will not feel spammed because they’re following you and your inventory by choice. Another Twitter tip is to only comment on trending topics if you have something to say about the topic. People sometimes use the has tag (#) with a trending topic to advertise a product totally unrelated to them or send out a tweet with all of the trending topics in it. They hope they will get noticed and maybe someone will click on their account. It looks desperate. Everyone who is on your Twitter account will notice this and it doesn’t look good for you. 12
  13. 13. • YouTube. Keep your tags relevant to your video and your dealership. Don’t tag your video with the name of your competitors. Although not a violation of anything and won’t open you up to any lawsuit, it’s just not best practice. The image you want of your dealership is that you’re honest, trustworthy and provide the best service. Things like this say that you’re conniving and will do anything to sell a car. What’s to stop the consumer from thinking you’ll try to pull one over on them? Top channels for Automotive Branding & customer reach There are a handful of channels that automotive dealers need to be using online to grow their brand and reach their customers. Social networks are important, as are blogs and YouTube. Getting Started With every new account you opne you have to essentially do the same things. 1) Create a username 2) Design your page 3) Fill out profile information 4) Provide photos The key to all of this is consistency. The profiles you create online are an extension of your brand. The goal is to carry your online recognition to your dealership. How do you do that? Use the same username for all of your sites. Make sure that it is as close as possible to your dealership name. Avoid things that are hard to say, spell or recognize. Fill out all of your profiles and add personal, human touches that let the world know you’re neither a robot nor a spammer. Upload the company logo as the user profile photo for group accounts. 13
  14. 14. For images like the Twitter, YouTube background images and your Facebook fan page image, be consistent. You want all of these to follow your brand image. If you have a different design for each of your pages, then you don’t have a consistent brand. Consistency helps your recognition. Tweet and post before you look for friends and followers. Once you create your account you need to post a few things before you invite people to come over. If you don’t the ones that come will think you’re a spammer and not hang around. Social Networks Social networking is all about person-to-person contact. Just like there are real world social events and business networking events, there are different online social networks too. If you are only looking for business people then you would look to a business-focused networks such as LinkedIn. For consumers and more casual contacts you would look to the networks popular with consumers such as Twitter and Facebook. The most popular social networks right now are Facebook and Twitter. While there are many methods of increasing the scale of your social network, the old adage “quality over quantity” holds true with fans and followers. While Oprah and Ashton Kutcher command networks in the millions, you can do very well with a tiny fraction of their numbers, just by having friends and contacts who actually want to hear what you have to say. Remember it’s quality not quantity. TWITTer Twitter was originally designed to provide “Status Updates” in the form of answering the question “What are you doing?” It has since evolved into a cross between a news headline delivery service, a chat room and an instant messaging system. 14
  15. 15. Twitter messages are limited to 140 characters, keeping Twitter messages down to a size compatible with mobile networks. This size constraint is part of the appeal, as it means people have to be concise and to the point. Succesful Twitter Practices • Read first. Find interesting people and see how they use the service. Work out the style and flow of the system before wading in. • It is not a popularity contest. While people who follow many contacts tend to have greater number of followers, you want to have a good signal to noise ratio otherwise it becomes unworkable. Follow people who are interesting, not just to rub shoulders with celebrities! • Prepare. Do not launch into connecting with people on Twitter until you have done the preparation work. You need a page full of tweets and the basic profile information before you follow anyone. Set all your preferences and fill in your details at least to the level where a casual visitor would know your name, where you are, your blog and a little of what you think. • Be friendly. The whole point is to make connections. Follow people you know, have heard of, who reply to you or who others send @ messages to. Eavesdropping on others conversations gives insight into some of the best people to follow because you can see a taste of what their conversations will be like. • Reciprocating is optional. Do not be upset if someone does not follow you back! People have limited attention to spare and cannot follow everyone. • Don’t spam. Post information, links and questions. Post too many links or follow too many people too quickly and you will find yourself banned or at least flagged by Twitter as spam. • Network. Engage interesting people in conversation. Ask interesting questions and you will get back interesting answers. Do not be afraid to reply to a question posed by someone else. The worst that can happen is they do not reply. 15
  16. 16. • Search. Twitter is a great tool to find what is being said about your brand right now. Use the advance search features at to search for brand mentions within the vicinnity of your dealership. • Register. Register your Twitter account with places like We Follow and Twellow so consumers can find you easily. • Reach out. Ask your followers about their weekend plans. Throw out a “Happy Monday!” at the beginning of the week. Talk to them. See what happens. • Inventory. Don’t tweet it. It’s a quick way to get someone to stop following you. fAceBOOk Facebook has an estimated 350 million users. There is hardly a demographic not covered by the service. It is the ultimate way to get in front of consumers on a daily basis which means there is a lot of competition for that attention. Although a lot of emphasis is put into the friend finding and interaction side of Facebook, the service also allows you to update your account with notes, video, photographs and links, plus like Twitter, you can post short “status updates” to tell your friends what you are up to. To grow your Facebook following, use the viral nature of Facebook, adding content, encouraging people to share that content, and using tagging, events, and invitations. Also offer something exclusive for your Facebook fan page people. You can hide content so that people have to become a fan in order to see it, providing a real incentive. Successful facebook Practices • Interact as much as possible with fans, customers & prospective buyers; it could help those people remember your dealership when they are finally ready to buy. • Add Dealer Rater to your fan page so that fans can see all of your reviews on Facebook. 16
  17. 17. • Use Sound Cloud to upload your jingle or radio ad to your fan page. • Keep posts short and eye-catching, don’t make them too text heavy. • Interact. Interact. Interact. The purpose of your fan page is to meet your customers. So talk to them. Comment on posts. Solicit posts. Ask questions. • Don’t delete negative posts. When you see a negative comment the first reaction is, “Oh, I hope no one saw this.” Well, it should be the opposite. Think of it as an opportunity to show everyone how your dealership reacts to unhappy customers. Respond to the negative comment. Be kind. Be polite and fix it. Now the comment is positive and everyone who reads it knows you take care of your customers. You’ll get more traction out of a corrected negative comment than you will out of a page that has no negative comments. • Monitor your insight. Facebook fan pages have detailed statistics that will help you understand how your fans are reacting to certain topics and content. Follow it. If you’re posting a specific kind of content, and it’s getting little reaction or feedback, consider cutting it. • Charities, contests and raffles. These are great ways to get fan reaction. One dealership created a scavenger hunt. While another asked that fans simply post a message on their wall and they would in turn donate a $1 to charity. They donated $5,000. YOuTuBe YouTube is one social media site that has the potential to dwarf even Facebook. YouTube is a wildly popular video sharing site. This site has been responsible, through millions of video plays, for launching the careers of many Internet celebrities. Not only does it get serious traffic, it is now the second biggest search engine after Google. However, the lines are blurring because Google actually shows YouTube videos prominently in their standard search results. 17
  18. 18. A video can now be a quick way to leapfrog your competitors in search. kinds of Videos: • Walk through videos where you record all the important things about the car. • Photo slideshows set to music with the key features. • User submitted videos of the cars they bought from you. • National ads or other videos created by your OEM and favorite them so they show up on your page. • How-To videos for your customers. Topics can cover anything from how to change a tire to maintenance tips. Successful YouTube Practices • Create great titles and descriptions that will match what your audience wants for great visibility. • Reply to negative posts from customers and alleviate any hostile situations. • Thank your subscribers and nonsubscribers for their comments. • Monitor the YouTube Insight page (Account > Insight). Here you’ll notice which videos get the most views and you can adjust future video creation to maximize viewership. BlOGS What is a Blog? Blog is short for Web Log. It is essentially a public journal of an individual, organization or company. For businesses with an online presence, a blog is the first personal contact a customer might come across. 18
  19. 19. A key purpose of a blog is to aggregate and archive all the content that you are creating and sharing. Written articles go there, links can be grouped into a “useful links” article, video and photography can be embeded, and so on. Nothing needs to be lost or fragmented among the many places that you might be contributing. Your blog will also be a clear channel for highlighting all of the social networks you’re using. So if a customer reads your blog and thinks, “Hmmm, this great information.” They will likely head over to whichever social media icon they prefer and start following you. So think of your blog as your social media brain. The place where everything originates. Successful Blog Practices • Keep it current. If you have people reading then you want to make sure they keep reading. Write daily if you can. The more you have for them to read, the more like they are to return. • Show them who you are. Your blog is a great place to write detailed articles about the soul of the company. You have room to connect with your audience that the social media networks don’t have. But keep it car related. This is afterall the company blog. • Make a plan. Your blog is about your company. Your company’s goal is to sell cars. Make a plan for the blog so that it talks about your company and sells cars. But don’t let selling cars overshadow selling your brand because you will be surprised to find out that you can sell cars by just talking about your company and what you do. • Define your style and stick to it. If you want a fun and playful blog then write one. If you want a stiff, business focused blog then write that. It will be really hard to have both. • Perfect your content. Customers are reading your blog to learn about your brand, the auto industry and your company. So give it to them with well thought-out content. • Add a photo. Place a little Gravatar of the author next to the post. Seeing a face adds a lot. 19
  20. 20. • End your post with a rhetorical question. This will engage your readers to contribute. When they do you respond and before you know you have a conversation and a relationship. The two things you want. • Keywords, keywords, keywords. Inject your content with important keywords that will help your blog show up in natural search results. Although your website is static for the most part, your content is a living document that changes daily and adds more ways for people to find your blog. What Not to Do • Don’t insult your readers. This may seem like a no brainer but you’d be surprised how many blogs think engagement means telling everyone how they’re wrong and that the blogger is right. • If you’re not sure whether you should type it, don’t. If you’re a little skeptical then it goes without saying that a lot of your readers will defnitely think what you typed is offensive. • Don’t get too personal. Sure you want to share your company with your customers. You want them to see you as real people, and you want them to become your friend. Don’t get confused and think there is a closeness with your readers that doesn’t actually exist. So no complaining about finances and never under any circumstances mention the results of your colonoscopy. • Don’t insult or confront your competition on your blog. Sure challenge them to a friendly contest to benefit a local charity but using your blog for petty business battles is something that turns customers off really quickly. Measure Your Progress You can measure how much progress you make in social media by tracking certain metrics. As you use social media tools, monitor the impact you are having on your normal day to day marketing results. Wherever possible, capture the lead source so you can track through to sale and repeat customer loyalty. 20
  21. 21. Obviously the first place you will look at performance is profit: • Increase of income. You want to add more money to the bottom line, by attracting more customers, and selling more to the customers you have. • Cost savings. If you can be more efficient, do more with less, then this is also a great benefit. • Share of customer. As mentioned above, rather than just attract a steady stream of new people, you want to retain and sell more to your existing customers. • Long-term value. It would be unwise to just look at short term profits and cost savings without knowing how this impacts the business longer term. There are also other measures that are not directly related to money but help the business overall: Brand Mentions - How many times are your company name and the phrases associated with your dealership mentioned online? - How many times do you get positive references, links to articles, testimonials and recommendations? How many negative references do you find? You can use a buzz monitoring tool to discover some of these mentions. Traffic to Your Site - Is your website traffic increasing or staying level? - What are you doing that is helping your traffic increase? 21
  22. 22. - Are people returning to your site or hitting the front page and going away? - Which content are people being attracted with? What were they looking for in search engines? - Is there certain content that holds attention for longer or gets people to come back for more? - Use Google Analytics to measure your website traffic and tiny urls, like, to count how many people visit via your links that you mention in Twitter. leads and Opt-ins - How many additional followers or fans did you attract? - Are your lead and newsletter databases improving? - Is long-term customer loyalty improving? - Do you attract good quality prospects? - What insights about these prospects are you gaining that can be useful in the future? retaining customers with Social Media Social Media is an “attraction” tool and can increase your visibility in your market. However, aquiring new customers should not be your only goal, retention is equally as important. Also consider your social media engagement as a way to keep your existing customers loyal, happy and willing to return to you again and again. How you go about this varies and you can tailor the actual techniques to your circumstances, tastes and to what you find works for you. Take a look at the following ideas and consider how you can use these or similar approaches with your business and customers. relationship Marketing The first and easiest route to keeping in touch with customers is to provide them a regular stream of communication. This keeps you in their minds. You know the saying, “out of sight, out of mind,” 22
  23. 23. well you don’t want that. So you must stay active in their life so when they want to buy another car, it’s you they remember. What you don’t want to do though is barrage your customer with unnecessary, unsolicited, and annoying sales messages. So how do you keep contact without being an unwelcome prescence? Thankfully there is an answer that not only works, and works well, but your customer might thank you for it. The strategy is called “Permission Marketing” and was popularized by the marketing guru and pundit, Seth Godin in his book by the same name. The emphasis on “Permission” serves us very well in this circumstance. Gaining “Permission” to communicate is vital, and maintaining that permission and not abusing it is the key to your success using the approach. First you gain permission, via whichever means or mechanisms it takes or requires, and then you reward that permission with useful and welcomed communications. At a bare minimum it maintains awareness of you and your business. When done to the highest standards these communications serve to build a true relationship, with growing trust, confidence, connection, and potentially advocacy. This goes beyond mind share or even share of wallet, but something more significant - happy, long term customers who market for you. Gaining Permission The first challenge on the road to building a permission-based relationship is gaining permission through an opt-in approach (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, email newsletters, RSS feeds). So how do you get them to opt-in? The key principles are easy and straight forward to follow: • WIIFM. It is obvious what your dealership gets out of the deal, but you have to answer on behalf of the customer: “What’s In It For Me?.” 23
  24. 24. Why should someone want to hear from you? If you cannot answer this effectively and succinctly then good luck getting or holding their attention. • Explain. What do they get for opting in exactly? • Make it easy. Make people jump through hoops and they will find something more important to do with their time. • Make it useful. It is one thing to get a customer’s contact details, yet another to keep them listening to you. • Make it easy to leave. If for any reason they do not want to hear from you any longer, what happens then? This kind of marketing has long been associated with direct mail and email communication, but actually when you look at it, you can see how ideal social media is for the purpose: - For the most part the recipient can “sample” the content before deciding to opt into more of it. This means they can make up their own mind if there is value that they can use without any pressure or hard sell. Also, it is likely that the recipient finds you rather than the other way around much of the time. - Social Media users are already pretty savvy to how these things work and don’t need much explaination. Of course it does mean that there are certain expectations and ettiquette that you should be aware of. - As a following thought to the previous point, because social media users are already happy with how these tools work, they know they can follow you or not very simply, and that they control your access to them. Regardless, your first job before you can get permission is to decide what you are going to communicate to these people. You need to work out what the benefit is going to be for listening to you on a regular basis, and how you are going to explain that. This is your content and communication plan. 24
  25. 25. Developing Your content Plan If you want to hold a prospect or customer’s interest then you need to be able to keep up a steady stream of useful, interesting and usable content. You might find that initially you are over flowing with ideas and have no problem at all finding things that you can share or write about. Unfortunately this early rush of inspiration can often dry up, after which you would be glad if you had made a plan. You’ll be glad to have that supporting guide when you’re faced with the blank screen of doom. Before you build your plan, consider very carefully that there are a whole spectrum of topics. There are “broadcast” topics like newsletters, that anyone interested would find useful. Then there are “personal or personalized” types of communication. These are the areas where you need to be a little more concious. These are the conversations when you are fully aware of who is listening, and the more private conversations that you only ever have one on one. Remember anything blurted out on the Internet can stick around for a very long time and will spread like wildfire. If in doubt, don’t say it, share it, or even type it. There are two core factors that your content plan needs to deliver: 1) Interest 2) Relationship Interest requires you to come up with content that your social media contacts, friends and followers will appreciate, and hopefully engage with, comment on and share with others. That might sound like a tall order, but you can either create original content or share someone elses content. Social media is designed around the concept of sharing, whether it’s yours or not. Your network will appreciate great content providing it has something remarkable and worthwhile about it, no matter who created it. This means: 25
  26. 26. - Having a strong network that you can listen to is as important as having a network of people who listen to you. - Being aware of the current trends and events of your market and industry. - Monitoring what your audience and contacts find useful and interesting and where they are less interested. Relationship requires that your content provide “personality” and a human connection. These basically boil down to injecting some of your company culture into how you communicate, and if at all possible, communicate as individuals under your brand rather than as a faceless organization. I am not sure who said it, but someone wise once said, “All things being equal, people prefer to buy from people who they know and like.” So you need to be a person that people both know and like, rather than just a company name that they recognize. Ideas for content You might be wondering what you should be developing in terms of content as opposed to what you should be sharing. Sharing is easy, essentially anything that you think your followers and contacts would find interesting. Creation is often much more difficult. Here are some ideas: • Industry News. The auto industry is always changing so there should be lots of things you can share with your customers and prospects to interest them. • Local News. Again, things can happen regularly on a local level that your customers will want to know about. • Brand and Company News. Got something to brag about? Have the car manufacturers released something cool? Tell people about it. 26
  27. 27. • Links. Your contacts and the websites you routinely visit will be publishing lots of content, from articles to video, that you can send to your audience. • Customer Questions. If customers often ask similar questions then you can write up the answers as articles and share them. • Questions to Customers. Results from surveys, polls, and so on • Tips. There are millions of opportunities to provide car tips, from how to get better mileage to how to care for your car. • Editorial/Opinion. An extension to sharing news is your opinion about the news. • Interviews. Interview car celebrities, politicians, sports people, or anyone else who would be interesting. • Service Coupons. Bring customers back to the lot with promise of a free oil change or a similar service coupon. • Reminders. Remind car owners about performance changes in the winter months and how to make the adjustment. The Brilliant Summation of everything A lot of things were laid out in the previous pages. Some of it is perfect for your dealership and some of it isn’t. You have to be able to determine which social media avenue is best for you. When you figure that out, embrace it. If you’re still a little skeptical about social media you need to remember one important thing: you’re competitors aren’t. Do you want to be left behind? 27
  28. 28. About the Author Adam Boalt President & Founder, GOSO Adam Boalt has been a new media innovator and thought leader for over a decade, making waves both as an individual and an entrepreneur. He’s won numerous awards and accolades over the years, including multiple write-ups in CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and was recently featured on a social media segment on the Speed Channel. He’s a regular speaker on the industry conference circuit, and has four innovative e-commerce patents to his name. As well as masterminding the GOSO project, Adam is the founder and owner of BOALT, an interactive agency that’s worked with over 30 of the Fortune 500 companies in building high-end, bespoke web solutions. He continues to provide entrepreneurial direction across the board, offering leadership, experience, and the problem-solving skills he’s put into practice in over a decade at the forefront of eCommerce business. Follow Adam Boalt on Twitter @Boalt RESOURCE LINKS: GOSO, the Automotive Social Media Management System Visit @MyGOSO BOALT, an Interactive Agency Visit @Boalt 28
  29. 29. Apendix Automotive Twibe worth following: Cliff Banks Vice President, Editorial Director @Cliff_Banks Jesse Biter CEO, Homenet, Inc. @jessebiter Larry Bruce Vice President of Managed Marketing Solutions, Reynolds and Reynolds @pcmguy Ray Fenster Independent Consultant @rayfenster Glen Garvin General Manager, Dominion Dealer Solutions @ggarvin Jeff Kershner Founder, @dealerrefresh Brian Pasch CEO of PCG Digital Marketing @brianpasch Ralph Paglia Director of Social Media, ADP Dealer Services @ralphpaglia Alex Synder Contributing Writer, @axsnyder 29