CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. — Stone Meta Media is offering auto dealers four tips on how to ensure that their digital presence puts them at the consumer’s moment-of-truth (MOT), the critical decision point when their desire for a new vehicle emerges.

The MOT is the convergence of online marketing variables that make it more likely the consumer will find your dealership and inventory first when looking for vehicle product and dealer information, according to the social media strategy company.

“If you’re not there at the MOT, the consumer will likely connect with a competitive dealer who is,” said Rob McClurg, CEO of Stone Meta. “Digital marketing has moved on now to where simply being online isn’t enough — a dealer must engage consumers in a triage manner, where website, social media and online reviews all connect with the customer at the MOT.”

In the past, consumers made purchase decisions by relying on input from their physical social circles, such as friends and coworkers, according to Stone Meta. They once consulted print publications for their reviews of various products and services. Today, this third-party review process is now runs through social media, where consumers seek the opinions of others on a wide variety of products, businesses and services.

Here are Stone Meta’s tips for how to be at the MOT when a consumer starts searching:

1. Engage consumers via Facebook: Stone Meta encourages dealers to embrace a “swarm and herd” social media strategy that makes the site buzz with activity and interest. This includes managing social conversations, monthly promotions, special coupons and local links that create business opportunities for the dealership.

2. Integrated dealer website: Create the most effective and consumer-friendly and consumer-engaging website and make it easy for consumers to find it. The dealership website must link to the dealer’s Facebook site and vice versa.

3. Online reviews and sites: Have a plan and program for monitoring online review sites where the dealership’s business and or products are likely to be reviewed. Manage any negative reviews using sound reputation management practices. Use Facebook to post reviews and let fans post reviews on it. Dealers should also encourage fans to provide their opinions on the dealership the products and services it offers. Additionally, consider ways to link from review sites to dealership inventory pages. Dealerships also should make a review forum available on the store’s website to gather favorable commentary and glean process improvement insight from those that are not.

4. Engage consumers live: Consumer engagement isn’t just for online interaction, but must carry over to the moment the consumer walks onto the dealership property. It is one thing to be helpful and cheery online, but that impression and judgment continues when the online shopper steps into the store as well.

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