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Your Social Media Toolkit

August 2010, F&I and Showroom - Feature

by David Johnson

There’s no debating that “social media” is a term being heard more and more around the car business. But many dealers are left wondering what the big deal is. They have spent as much time promoting their stores on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as anybody else, but they have yet to see a return on their investment. So how do you get the type of return the so-called “experts” say you should be getting?

The answer to that question lies not in whether you should be using social networks, but in how to use them effectively. We see stats all the time that tell us that Facebook is where the fish are, but you will never catch them if you’re using the wrong bait. Let’s break down the specifics on five of the top social networking platforms available today and discuss strategies for putting your dealership on the top of your customers’ minds while generating — and influencing — word of mouth.

Facebook

With more than 500 million active users, Facebook.com is the most popular social networking site in the world. The site allows businesses to create official profile pages to communicate with their customers and fans. It’s most definitely where the fish are, but it can also be a huge waste of time if not used correctly.

Basic Strategy

1. Create a profile: Click on “Create a Page” and select “Automotive Dealer/Vehicle Service” from the types-of-businesses list. Use your dealership’s name for the page name and check the “official representative” box. Once you have set up a profile page, you can populate it with your dealership’s address, phone number, photos, videos and other information.

2. Use photos to generate testimonials: Take photos of sold customers and their new vehicle before they leave the lot and let them know you will post and “tag” them on the dealership’s profile page. Once the photos are uploaded and tagged, Facebook will automatically post them on the customers’ walls (i.e., profile page) for their friends to see. Take this a step further by having the salesperson add a complimentary comment about the photos. The goal here is to get customers to say something nice about their experience at your dealership in return.

3. Build your fan page: Now that the communication lines are open and customers have been directed to your fan page, it’s time to engage your fans by asking thought-provoking, open-ended questions. You may even want to stage contests and giveaways to keep them coming back to your page. And remember, the quickest way to get your fan page to go viral is by conducting contests that require your fans to create content to qualify.

Twitter

There is more to Twitter than sharing the mundane details of our lives via 140-character text messages. After all, it does describe itself as the “real-time information network,” connecting businesses to customers 24 hours a day. Dealers can “tweet” about their inventories, special promotions, rebates and anything else under the sun. The purpose is to generate conversation with customers, build relationships with them and gather market intelligence and feedback.

Basic Strategy

1. Build a following: Personally, I like to use Twitter as a catalyst, as a way to drive traffic to my other social networks. Use the advanced search feature at search.twitter.com to find Twitter users (or “tweeters”) in your local market. These are the people that you want to “follow,” as doing so is the best way to get them to follow you back. To remain within the site’s terms of service, you must follow 50 people or 10 percent of the total number of people who are following you. Every couple of days, use a service like Buzzom.com to identify those tweeters whom you are following but that aren’t following you back. “Unfollow” those people to once again ensure that you stay within Twitter’s terms of service.

2. Make friends: As your Twitter following grows, interact with as many different people as possible. Remember not to spam your followers and never talk about yourself. Additionally, ask your loyal followers to befriend you on Facebook. You can also direct them to your blog and YouTube videos.

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