Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Social Media Survival for Car Dealerships

Engaging consumers through social media is important for both car companies and local dealerships.

What is social media?
Social media is digital networking. It’s done online, either on computers, phones or tablets. It’s quick, it’s short, and it’s targeted. Twitter, Facebook, Four Square, Pinterest, Google+, Yelp are the first that come to mind. Using social networking allows you to interact with customers before they come in to your dealership.

Why is social media important?
Most buyers (90%) use social sites and search engines to research car buying decisions. They also use social sites to complain about issues; and to let others know what they like and don't like.

Who's buying?
Gen X (ages 35-50) are buying now; Gen Y (ages 18-34) are 40% of buyers now; but will buy 75% of all new cars by 2025

Why is online social interaction important?
It seems obvious, but these can be a make-or-break interactions. You must be available when people want you -- 30 seconds is a long time to wait for Gen Y and Gen X; most of us have become accustomed to immediate interactions.

Dealerships who are nice, quick to respond, and offer valuable information are more likely to get the buyer to come in to drive a car. Consistency is key here. Buyers are fickle, and they can be loyal, although not as loyal as previous generations. 
If Dealership B has a better interaction online with a potential buyer than Dealership A, then it’s more likely that the buyer will visit Dealership B.

What content is important?
Funny, helpful, interesting, and relevant is always good for social networking. If you have a YouTube page, then post videos, share corporate ads, show how the mechanics are doing what they do, and then share links via Twitter and Facebook. Tell about sales, service specials, the latest article in a magazine -- always with links. Answer questions. Respond to issues. And do it all quickly.

Who should be in charge of social media?
The people who build the content, respond to the tweets, and interact digitally with buyers should be knowledgeable, kind, passionate, and on task all day. The only way to build up followers and interactions is to be there. Sporadic and lukewarm won’t cut it. You need a dedicated social networking staff to do it right. Ideally, someone should be watching the streams 24/7, but realistically, always during business hours, 10-7, Monday-Sunday. The person doesn’t have to be on-site, they just need a laptop and the ability to post to your Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+ sites.

How does it get done?
Digital Media/Social Media software/apps are necessary to help wrangle the digital media world into one manageable spot. Apps like Hootsuite and SproutSocial have free trials and you pay for more robust systems as you grow. Scheduling posts is a good use of time, and such apps allow that.

Having someone who knows their way around a video camera and YouTube is essential. The 18-34 demographic is accustomed to visual interactions, watching rather than reading, and they like to see and listen to their news and information. So film it, post it, and link to it. Keep it clean of any date specifics and you can cycle back to videos throughout the year. Make it educational (how to sync a phone, how to install a car seat) and you’ve got something that others will share and talk about.

Engage consumers and tell stories. But make them short and to the point.
Engaging in social media/networking is no longer a choice -- it’s survival. The younger buyers will visit an average of 25 websites for research, and travel over 50 miles to get to the dealer they like and with whom they have engaged online. Your digital interactions can make you shine, or bring you down.

What successes have you had at the intersection of social media and car buying or research? Where do you look for information? And what do you want to get out of these interactions? Let's talk. 

Sources: Time magazine and autonews.com

(c) Copyright 2010-2016. Erika JN Fish. Car Mama. All Rights Reserved.

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