Take a look at those familiar little icons in the top right corner of the screenshot above. Four of the primary social media sites’ logos adorn a prominent position on the homepage. It’s not an uncommon sight. Some put them at the top. Other put them at the bottom. Some make them large and prominent. Others make them small and subtle. One way or another, most dealerships put them somewhere. They do it for a reason.
The reason is presence. We’ve all heard about the potential of social media but few local businesses and car dealers in particular have found the level of success that they would like. Finding that success is not the topic of this particular article (important though it is). Instead, we’re going to gain an understanding of the importance of social media outside of the obvious.
We all know that Facebook, Twitter, and the other networks have the potential to drive business when done right. Some would say that the effort and cost are too high, that the spend of both time and/or money can better be allocated elsewhere. This may be true for some; finding demonstrable success and true ROI from social eludes the vast majority of dealers. There’s assumed benefits, but real ROI – that’s a whole series of other posts. For now, let’s assume that you’re cruising along with a social media strategy that is basically there for presence only. You have to be there because you have to be there, but the effort or investment are currently minimal. Perhaps you’ve tried it yourself or with a social media vendor and couldn’t justify the cost. For whatever reason, you’ve taken your eye off the social media ball.
It’s okay. Many have. There’s nothing wrong with it. However, it’s important to understand one thing, one spark of an idea that you should consider before abandoning it all together. Whether you’re paying attention to it or not, others are. Your customers are. Your employees are. Even if you’ve given up on the “social” aspect of social media, there are other reasons that make it to where you must pay at least a little attention to it.
If you’re already out there finding the type of success that I’ve seen in recent weeks (and there aren’t a ton of you from what I’ve seen), then this article isn’t for you. If you’re just not sure of the importance of social media, read on…
People look for you by name. Take a look at your analytics and you’ll see that the majority of your traffic comes from people searching for a variation of your dealership by name. As with any search, there will be those who look at the search results page as a whole and click to more than one spot.
Thankfully, those who are doing their social media properly can have their social profiles easily found on searches for their name. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and LinkedIn all hold strong authority in the eyes of the search engine. This is the case for a reason. The search engines know that people like to click on the profiles. If they didn’t, the search engines would not present them so prominently. That’s one of the key factors in the search ranking algorithm – searcher activity.
When they click through from search, will they be pleased with what they see or will they be embarrassed for you over your social profiles? Will they see that you’re using social media as a communication tool or a place to put funny cat pictures? Will they see that people are commenting and you’re commenting right back at them?
If you want to give people a bad taste in their mouths before they even attempt to do business with you, have a dormant or mismanaged social profile for them to click through from search. That’ll do it very quickly. Remember, millions of Americans take their social media seriously. Studies show that 64% of social media users are much more inclined to do business with a company that is maintaining the profiles on their beloved social media sites. Is your profile up to par or better than your competitors when people click through from search?
This is one of the most challenging concepts to communicate to clients. When we think of reputation and reviews, we think of review sites. While these are definitely important, they are best suited for defense. In other words, people look at your ratings on review sites when they’re already in the market. They do so just to make sure that you’re a dealership they’re willing to do business with, but there are challenges to that which I’ll explain below.
First, let me explain the difference in how social media reputation works. In the old days before the internet took over, asking a dealership about reputation made them think of “word of mouth”. Many made a living off of word of mouth – repeat and referral business normally led down an easier road to the sale as well as higher gross margins. That concept has been replaced in many ways to where the thought of reputation has been isolated to review sites.
The problem there is that word of mouth is not only still alive and well, it’s actually more prominent today than ever before. It’s social media. Reviews are “name defending” to allow those who would consider you to continue down that path. 4-stars, 25 point rating on Google, good on the easily visible comments – that’s a great defense. When people see that, they’ll continue looking at you.
Social media takes your reputation on the offensive. It’s not the review components on your social media page as those are rarely used and even more rarely seen by consumers. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to proactive customer sentiment communicated through their wall posts, Tweets, etc. I’m talking about making sure that people are saying positive things about you through social media. When people leave a review on a review site, there’s no commitment. They’re not really voicing an opinion that will be seen by the right people. Yes, it’s helpful, and I hope that everyone understands the distinction here. It’s just that there’s no “skin in the game” the way there is on social media.
When they post something about you to their own social media profiles, they’re telling their portion of the world (much of which is in the local market) through a venue that means something to them, their friends, and their family. This is aggressive, proactive reputation marketing and it can only be done by the consumers themselves. If they say they had a good experience at your dealership on Yelp, there’s not a great chance that anyone who knows or trusts them will ever see the review. Yes, you get the stars, but that’s defensive.
Their Facebook wall, however, is sacred. It means something to them. Their friends and family will see what they said and it will register because they trust that person. It’s word of mouth on steroids. No, you don’t need robust social media profiles to have it happen to you, but it certainly helps. When they can tell that you’re active on social media, they are much more likely to interact with you as well as commend you publicly through these venues. This is the golden ticket that, with very little effort or investment, can translate into increased business. It’s not just about defending your reputation. It’s about advancing it. This cannot be done through review sites. Social media is the word of mouth for the digital age.
The last reason that social media is so important to dealers beyond the actual social aspects of it is presence. This is the easiest place for you to shine as a company. Community involvement, employee spotlights, customer highlights – all of these things express a positive sentiment about your dealership that can have an impact on your potential customers.
It’s through social media that you’re able to humanize the company. This is where the “big, bad, scary car dealer” can be shown to have a heart, to be active in the local area and charities, and to be another business just like the bakery down the block. It’s this presence component that makes abandoning or going through the motions on your social media profiles such a huge mistake. This is no longer a world that relies strictly on proximity and newspaper ads to help them buy vehicles. It’s a world that is open to the realities of entities such as businesses.
You have an opportunity through social media to show your potential customers that you’re truly better than the competition. In many ways, some dealers have decided that they’re not reaching people through social media because they don’t see the interactions. This is confusing because so many times as I talk to dealers they tell me just how active they are on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or the others, yet they somehow feel that their own presence on social media is invisible. If the strategy is wrong, they very well might be invisible. However, when the strategy is strong, the possibilities open up to turn social media into a true advertising medium.
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These aren’t techniques to help you find success. These are simply reminders that social media is hot for a reason, that bad experiences in the past do not have to be repeated, and that there’s more to it than just getting likes and fans. Stay focused on improving your social media presence. Don’t let it slip. As the world becomes more and more social, you’ll want to maximize the potential benefits that can arise from this ever-changing and ever-growing medium.