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Four-Step Strategy for Social Media Success

Midlands Honda in Columbia, S.C., is proof that social media can improve a dealership’s bottom line by generating ROI and creating loyal customers.

December 2010, F&I and Showroom - Feature

by Rob Hagen

Standing outside the Midlands Honda showroom is Robert Carter, the dealership’s finance director. The dealership has found social media to be an effective tool in a retail market that includes a major university, a U.S. Army base and a large number of retirees.

When it comes to social media, the first question most dealers ask is what their return on investment will be. Unfortunately, compared to traditional media, ROI for Internet marketing can be difficult to measure and sometimes impossible to achieve. Still, many dealers continue to jump onboard Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media platforms in hopes that they can boost their dealerships’ bottom lines.

One success story is Midlands Honda in Columbia, S.C., which was named one of F&I and Showroom’s 2010 F&I Pacesetters. The dealership’s foray into social media paid off. Not only did the new technology improve Midlands’ bottom line, it generated ROI and created loyal customers.

“Historically, people have only seen us as a place of business,” says Randy Threatt, Midland’s general manager. “Now, they are seeing us as a vital member of the community, as a friend.”

The dealership followed a four-step process and established an attainable goal, which was to create a recognizable brand while improving Web and floor traffic. In the process, Midlands Honda created an equally satisfying experience for its customers, whether they were shopping online or in the showroom. Let’s take a closer look at the path the dealership took to achieve social media success.

1. Create a Plan Outline

A social media strategy cannot be a cookie-cutter process. It needs to be customized to fit a dealership’s market, inventory and services in order to be effective and generate revenue. Midlands Honda’s social media strategy was based on the following four basic steps, which were modified to fit the dealership’s capacity and objectives: 

Investigate Your Market: Look at your market like an outsider. Examine the demographics, find things that interest people, and take good notes.

Create Realistic Objectives: Set your goals by using the SMART method: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Like everything, you want to be able to inspect what you can expect.

Choose Community-Building Activities: Think about how you are going to build your online and offline community. What kind of activities will you use to attract people to your dealership? Will you include social media in offline advertising?

Select Appropriate Platforms: Facebook is the big animal and the best place to form relationships. Twitter, YouTube and Digg are the best places to pitch vehicles, products and services. Local Web forums also are good places to reach customers.

Keep in mind as you’re developing your social media strategy that dealerships are local businesses and need to have a local focus. When you build your community, build it with local people who will, hopefully, one day become your customers.

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