If you’re thinking that social media is just for teenagers, think again. More than half of those logging on to social media sites are in their mid-thirties or older.
Traditional media outlets such as newspapers, radio, and television have long served the purpose of delivering one-way messages, like your dealership’s advertising.
Social media, by contrast, uses Web-based platforms to not only deliver your message, but to allow the recipient to participate.
You’ll find a number of technologies under the umbrella of social media, including e-mail, instant messaging, blogs and social networking websites.
In fact, sites like Facebook and Twitter have now surpassed traditional search engines when it comes to reaching new car prospects, according to J.D. Power and Associates.
The end result? Social media is not only changing the way your customers access news and information, but how they do business. If your dealership has not yet embraced the power of social media, it might be time to take another look.
What Radio Station Do You Drive?
Brandcasting is what manufacturers, including some auto dealers, are doing to promote their products in a way that is less intrusive and more inviting. Rather than employing the traditional media to do “push” marketing, they are using social media to “pull” the audience in. How? By cleverly linking the public’s passion for cars with their passion for music through a dealership-provided “radio station.”
The radio station is brand-specific and is linked from the dealer’s website. The public can access the station 24/7 on their computers or smart phones, and play the music in the background while they migrate to other sites or answer e-mail. If a listener should happen to visit the actual brick-and-mortar dealership, he or she would likely hear the same station playing in the showroom or as the “on hold” music during a phone call.
The idea, of course, is to marry the listener’s love for cars to the dealer’s brand. Towards that goal, the music is embedded with subtle messages that promote the dealership’s new and used cars as well as its service specials. Think of it this way: the music is the precious cargo, and the marketing messages are the Styrofoam packing peanuts that fill in the empty spaces along the journey.
It’s a clever idea that goes straight to the heart of selling… using shared interest to turn a prospect into a friend.
Two Success Stories
If branding, communication and targeted marketing efforts are not compelling enough, consider the following social networking success stories:
Texas Dealer, Domestic Automobiles. A dealership in Texas recently launched into the realm of social networking. To get the ball rolling, the dealer decided to tie its social networking initiative into a fundraiser for Haiti relief. For every fan added during a specified time frame, a dollar was donated to the Haiti relief effort. To further sweeten the transaction, the dealership’s corporate offices jumped on board and matched the dealership’s pledge.
Employees spread the word about this fundraiser through posts on their own social networking sites. And, in just over a week, the dealership added several hundred fans. These additions not only translated into several thousands of dollars donated to Haiti relief, but, the fundraising and fan-raising effort garnered a significant amount of publicity for the dealership as well as an online following.
Minnesota Dealer, Foreign Automobiles.Interested in entering the social networking realm, but concerned about the time commitment, one Minnesota dealer adopted software made expressly for dealers interested in expanding their social networking ventures. Within days, the dealership boasted a number of accounts, including one on Facebook. In addition to establishing a presence, the software integrated with the dealership’s dealer management system, which allowed for their inventory to be displayed directly on their Facebook page.
The dealer added more than 150 fans during the first week and received recognition from a number of traditional media sources. The dealer now averages 35 client and prospect interactions per week as a result of this social networking initiative.
Social Networking Websites
Separate from our professional lives, many of us have a profile on at least one social networking website. That’s why many businesses, large and small, are employing this innovative new marketing tool. Automobile dealerships are no exception.
Adopting these technologies, however, involves more than creating a profile or fan page for your dealership. To really be effective, it requires a shift to a culture of transparency. And, it is this window into your dealership that makes it more important than ever for your message to be consistent at every point of contact with current and prospective customers.
How Social Media Puts You Out Front
Establishing a presence on social networking sites can give your dealership a competitive edge in several ways, including:
1. Brand Enhancement.
Profiles, fan pages and participation in groups all serve to build awareness about your dealership’s brand. They also provide an opportunity to interact with current customers as well as begin the relationship-building process with prospective ones.
2. Open Communication.
Social media, including social networking, is based on the principle of two-way communication.
Your dealership can benefit from both the positive experiences and negative feedback that customers voluntarily share. Not only can you address these customer concerns publicly, but you then have the chance to make any necessary improvements. You have the unique opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons.
3. Target Marketing.
Establishing a presence on social networking sites can help you identify, and subsequently target, potential customers. While the need for advertising through traditional media outlets may not be eliminated, the ability to target marketing communications reduces overall costs and provides a greater return on your marketing investment.
Tapping into social networking analysis tools may also assist with targeted marketing efforts. What if, for example, you knew that online discussions about trucks and SUVs waned during the prior 12-month period, while conversations about fuel efficiency, including hybrids, increased significantly?
Now there is some market intelligence to take under advisement when developing your marketing message. It is important, however, to keep in mind that overt advertising on social networking sites can be received negatively, so your message should be developed with that caution.
Social Networking Best Practices
Whether you are new to social networking, or a seasoned veteran, it’s important to:
Make a Commitment.
Social networking, like most marketing tools, requires a commitment to time and possibly finances — perhaps even cultural change within your dealership — in exchange for successful results.
Make sure that your brand remains consistent between the various social networking sites. Develop a communications plan that keeps your dealership visible, but that does not overwhelm your online following.
Listen First, Respond Second.
Once your program is established, monitor the social buzz daily to keep a pulse on both current and potential customers. Much like a dinner party, you must listen before you respond. Then, once you have a clear picture of what is being said online, you can determine a course of action.
Keep it Local.
Customers and prospective customers alike want to do business with dealerships that are within driving distance. Keep this in mind as you develop and refine your social networking plan.
Make it Easy.
Remember to make it simple for people to find you. Add social networking information to business cards as well as your dealership’s Web site.
If your dealership hasn’t yet gotten its feet wet in the world of social networking, it may be time to rethink your marketing strategy. Establishing a presence on social networking sites can be particularly effective when it comes to heightened brand awareness for your dealership and for identification and targeting of potential customers. In addition, finding ways to tie social networking initiatives into community efforts can create a win-win situation for everyone involved.