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Dealer Insights - Nov/Dec 2010 Auto Dealerships Using Social Media Sites — How well are you working them?

Does your dealership have an account on at least one of the popular social media sites — Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn? Is your business using its account(s) effectively to boost its online presence, cultivate relationships and, ultimately, bring in customers? Whether your dealership is already active in social media or still on the sidelines, there are compelling reasons to test this viable marketing tool.

Tweeting on Twitter 

If you think that this popular instant messaging system — which reports 65 million "tweets" (or messages) daily — is for kids, you're mistaken. According to digital marketing intelligence company comScore, only 11% of Twitter users are ages 12 to 17. So Twitter can help dealerships reach plenty of grown-up car buyers. And, like the other sites mentioned here, Twitter is a great way to build exposure and identify people who are in the market for a new car.

Twitter users keep current with their "followers" (other users they've allowed to view their tweets) through cell phone text messaging, the Twitter site or a third-party Twitter application. Brevity counts with Twitter — only tweets up to 140 characters are allowed. But that hasn't discouraged some auto dealers.

Writing on the blog dealermarketing.com, for instance, one dealer shared that he uses Twitter's hyperlocal search to find people who are messaging within 100 miles of his store. He uses search words like "car" and "break down" to locate motorists having car trouble and then "tweets" them with "I have the perfect car you might want to see."

Facing up to Facebook 

Using the Web's most popular social media site might be a little overwhelming at first because of the immense amount of traffic that passes through its "walls." (The site reportedly has more than 134 million unique visitors.) But brave dealerships everywhere are finding good uses.

One store that prides itself in vehicle maintenance regularly posts short articles on its Facebook page to support its "expert" image. Topics are selected carefully — how to do a prewinter self-inspection of your vehicle, why you need to replace your timing belt on time, and so on. The dealership also posts news on the latest recalls and customer satisfaction surveys. Links take the reader to the dealership's blog for the full-length articles.

Other dealerships take advantage of Facebook's "Photo" application by uploading photos and creating albums of their sales staff. And some dealers use the site's polling application to survey "fans" and "friends" on vehicle and accessory preferences.

Linking up on LinkedIn 

Some customers may be more willing to communicate on a business-oriented social media site, and that makes LinkedIn, with some 65 million U.S. users, a logical choice. Registered users keep a list of "connections" — people whom they know and trust in business. And isn't that a designation you'd like to have?

Using webmail import, you can quickly see all of the people you know who already are on LinkedIn. And the ways to communicate with them are limitless. Would your new-car customer write a testimonial about your dealership? Would a customer whose lease is running out (and her network of contacts) like to hear about your current leasing deals?

Users also post questions on the "Answers" page, where you can respond as an expert to prospects as well as people who've already given you their business. Additionally, users search for "service providers" and select one based on recommendations from people they trust.

One tool of many 

Social media is only one of many tools in your marketing toolbox. But its widespread popularity makes it worth trying. Whatever social media sites and features you decide to test, be sure to measure the results. If your goals for the site aren't being met, it might be time to try another tactic.

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