SUNNYVALE, Calif. — Car buyers are increasingly using social media as part of their vehicle purchasing process, according to findings of the Digital Air Strike Fall 2012 Automotive Social Media and Reputation Trend Study. It found that review sites, dealership websites, and Facebook were named as the top three most influential digital mediums used to help buyers make their dealership selection.

The study also found that vehicle buyers are relying on review sites to determine which dealer to visit when shopping for a vehicle. And car buyers are willing to drive greater distance to buy from the dealers with the best reviews.

“The study found evidence that car dealers actively engaging in social media and reputation management have the potential to increase both their market share and their market reach,” said Alexi Venneri, co-founder, CMO and COO of social media for Digital Air Strike.

The bi-annual study included an in-depth analysis of how 600 U.S. dealers use social media, and an online survey of 1,600 consumers who bought a car in the last six months. Results showed that 67 percent of consumers had used a review site when selecting a dealer. Of that group, 70 percent said that if dealers had equal star ratings, they would be more likely to buy from the dealership with the most recent reviews.

Additionally, the majority of car buyers (71 percent) used Google search to locate a dealer and 49 percent of that group said they clicked on a review site found in the search results.

The Top 5 review sites used in dealership selection were (55 percent), Edmunds (50 percent), Google+ Local (40 percent), Yelp (14 percent), and Yahoo! Local (11 percent).

And when they find the dealer reviews their looking for, car buyers are willing to drive farther to reach dealerships with positive online reviews, with 24 percent indicating that they would drive 30 miles to a dealer with positive reviews. Fifteen percent said they would drive as far as 40 miles, while nearly one-third (31 percent) said they would drive 50 miles or more.

The study also revealed that a vast majority of car buyers are using photo/video sharing social networks. The Top 5 sites used were YouTube (70 percent), Pinterest (21 percent ), Flickr (18 percent), Instagram (17 percent) and Photobucket (14 percent).

Dealership Facebook fan counts are also increasing; the average count rose to 719 likes, up from 560 likes in April 2012.

Additionally, more than three quarters (77 percent) of dealers' Facebook fans live within a 50-mile radius, making Facebook a valuable marketing tool for dealers to increase awareness and reach to potential car buyers.

Thirty-two percent of car buyers said they recalled seeing dealership ads on Facebook and 16 percent said they clicked on the ads.

When visiting dealer Facebook sites, car buyers have clear ideas about what they want to see. The Top 5 items cited as valuable on Facebook pages included: dealership service promotions such as coupons or discounts, pictures of cars, sales promotions, reviews from consumers about the dealership, articles about cars and/or car care tips.

The study’s findings will be discussed in more detail during a three webinars, scheduled for Nov. 6, 8 and 13 at 12 p.m. PT. To sign up, visit