Why Are Dealers STILL Not in Social Media?

Why aren’t dealers social networking?

social-media-bandwagonThat’s the title of an article I wrote back in Dec of 2007. I can’t believe  I had almost forgot that I written it? It wasn’t until I was digging through my analytics and took notice to a top referring site pointing to the article.

The title of the article was a little deceiving. I didn’t even write about why dealers are NOT in social media …

“There are many reasons why dealers are not social networking and I’m not totally convinced that all dealers need or should be social networking. But rather than writing why dealers shouldn’t be social networking let’s look at a few of the advantages why maybe they should be.”

Instead, I wrote about 5 advantages to dealers for leveraging social media. Interesting enough, these same 5 advantages still hold true today are have become the backbone of many articles about the dealer industry and social media found on some of the “other” social sites in our industry.

  • Branding and Awareness Opportunities
  • Search Engine Saturation
  • Build Link Popularity
  • Build Traffic to your Dealers Website
  • Interaction with the Public – Online Reputation

Our industry has come a long way since writing that article in 2007 (well maybe not that far). But the question still remains…“Why aren’t dealers social networking?”

Are you even convinced that dealers should even be focusing their efforts in this medium??

It’s still a great question, and one that no one has really talked about. Well…I’ll tell you why most dealers are not OR should not be focusing their effort on social media…

  1. Most dealer still can’t answer the phone with professionalism while asking the right questions to get to know the customers’ wants and needs.
  2. Most dealers lead response time is still over an hour on average AND when we do get a lead, most don’t know how to respond to the customer with relevancy.
  3. Most quit following up with the customer after 48 hours and then wonder why the customer bought from the other dealer.
  4. Most dealers still struggles with its “Brand” / its “Message”, a strong Why Buy from Me.
  5. It’s too much damn work and most DO NOT have “that person” to manage and take ownership of it.
  6. Dealers still struggle to fully embrace New Marketing and trying to understand today’s consumer.
  7. Most vehicles comments are still “power windows, power locks and A/C”.
  8. Most dealers have no email marketing strategy or better yet, have an email capture rate of less than 20% on the showroom floor.
  9. Heck, most dealers still can’t keep their Specials Updated.
  10. Your Reason Goes Here…

* Most of these dealers are not reading DealerRefresh, that’s another issues in itself (and another post).

The list could go on and on and I bet YOU TOO have a few reasons you could add to the list.

It’s simple..get your 101 on target before you worry about engaging the customer via social media. Social Media, when done right takes real dedication, time, care and finesse. Don’t ask “how many cars will it sell me this month” because there’s no report that going to truly track it to a direct sale!! Humm..maybe its time for your dealer to become its own “BRAND”.

What reason do you think car dealers are still not taking advantage of Social Media??

And heck..maybe you agree and are convinced that not all dealers need or should be in the social media game.

Jeff Kershner

I’m the founder of DealerRefresh. I got my start in the dealer business when I was 18. From there I've worked throughout several departments within fixed to variable ops. Whether it’s managing the desk, perfecting sales process or studying online marketing and media trends, I absolutely love this business and the challenges it brings. On top of keeping up with DealerRefresh, I consult with dealerships and key industry businesses. My passion has been and continues to be helping dealers leverage new media to sell and improve customer service.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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47 thoughts on “Why Are Dealers STILL Not in Social Media?

  1. Why indeed. My response is there are several reasons. First, lack of understanding. They not only don’t understand the magnitude and reach of social networking, they may not perceive it as a value-added benefit to the store.

    If they do understand the reach, they probably do not understand HOW to use it. For example, one dealer I work with called a buddy and told him he has to get a facebook and twitter account for his store. That was it. No advice on how to use it because he thinks simply putting a vehicle on fbook and twitter will yield sales.

    Secondly, to your point, there may not be someone to take ownership. And if there is, wouldn’t that take time away from selling a vehicle? That is the thought. If someone is not in front of a customer or calling someone on the phone, they are not being productive. Many times I heard the “get out there and prospect” speech, but push came to shove, management would seldom let sales people leave the store to prospect.

    Third, and there was a recent post on Mashable about this, more than half the employers block social networking sites, and in many instances, for good reason. This would preclude the opportunity to engage.

    Lastly, it is amazing to me to see how much attention is given to fbook, twitter and other user generated content sources, yet those who ARE using social networking are not paying ANY attention to their onine reputations. I would be interested to see if the latter is actually HAMPERING a dealers online efforts, especially with regards to social media.

  2. Gerald – did you get a schedule of the next few DealerRefresh articles? There are a few in the can about a lot of what you just said.

    The big point you have is something we aren’t planning to write, but I’d love to….maybe I will now. It would be an address to the IT Directors and the people who pull their strings about dropping their paranoia of social media. In today’s business environment the IT department’s policies can hamper business, and I believe some reorganization is needed in that area.

  3. Jeff,

    You hit all the key points. I have recently worked with a small dealer group on just getting their understanding of what the future will look like in the near term with the Gen y buyers, and the future impact it will have on the sales methodologies that will be needed.

    Your last statement that the dealer needs to be his own brand really hits home for me ( I agree), how do you truly make your dealership not the same as the customer base is doing everything to make it a commodity- If you asked all the GM’s at the dealer level if they have a written mission statement that is written anywhere besides the employee handbook and is talked about weekly in some format what % do you think will be doing it. (when was it updated last, with employee, customer, vendor involvement?)

    From a business ecosystem there are some flaws that make it a short term quick sale 100% commission..if they leave you never get them back mentality that will make it very tough to look long term- why did it take so long for them to adopt real e-commerce compared to other industries? Social Business Design is the way it really needs to be looked at- not Social Media because with that term you just get the “oh a new channel or tools” not a ah-ha moment of wow I can listen to my customer, I can engage with them, and can get them to help me change my way of doing business that aligns more with the way they want to do it. These communications technologies will be changing our society the same way that Mr.Ford did at the start of the industrial revolution- it will be that big. The dealers will all get there over time it just going to be the forward thinking ones that can really make the biggest moves…

  4. @gerald your last point is a big one. How many dealers even read their online reviews or know where and how to find them. Also how to engage with a customer in the social realm is different, do you know his /her social graph, best avenue to approach, plan in place to resolve. It is different than the telephone for sure.

    I think making a dashboard for the key folks to be able to hear and see what is happening with their online conversation would be the best way for them to start.

    @alex just had a big conversation about this blocking thing- “with my i-phone and my own laptop. I don’t need the companies stinking computer to do what I need to do? (GenY comment and thought in survey) Also the next gen will not be interested in working in that environment. Social media policy needs to be put in place so that everyone know the rules and what it would take to be fired over it. IBM has one of the best out there, and it will work for any business because the size doesn’t matter because being social is a 1-1 game if done right. Look forward to reading future posts.

  5. I’m on the record on this topic, “The Emperor has no clothes” http://forum.dealerrefresh.com/f44/emporer-has-no-clothes-243.html

    My 2cents…
    Working Social Media is simply working an audience. Have you “worked” your web site’s audience to its maximum potential?

    FACT #1).
    99% of your BUYERS visited your site prior to purchase (that’s powerful!)

    FACT #2).
    99% of your sites visitors… DON’T BUY FROM YOU.

    Want Proof? Read our forum thread, “Where did they all go?” http://forum.dealerrefresh.com/f43/web-visitors-vs-sales-survey-218.html

    YOUR TIME IS NOT INFINITE.
    We’re talking ROI of your time! Why work Social Media when there are so many marketing and merchandising opportunities on our web sites!

    Do the math, improve your visitor to sales ratio by one tenth of one percent, now that’s ROI that gets me juiced!

  6. OTOH, If I am a sales rep, I am all over Social Media because it’s an extension of yourself. It leverages your personal connections (and travels with you where ever you go ;-).

    Social Media = Self Media.

  7. Hey Alex- good to hear from you. LOL, no I am not privvy to what you and Jeff are writing…

    However, as you say the paranoia of social media can best be illustrated by the now infamous case of the young woman who fired for fbooking her boss was a wanker and some other quality remarks about her place of employ.

    the point is, she is an illustration of why it is important for a business to keep a reign on what is being published. By keeping it in the hands a select few with control will minimize that business’ liability or embarrassment in the online AND real communities

  8. Great point Joe. The old days were “How many people are in your Rolodex?” Can’t remember the last time that was asked.

  9. Gerald – it isn’t like we don’t see each other every day on twitter and facebook – lol

    The paranoia I speak of, inside IT Departments, is on two levels:

    1. Security as viruses are passed through holes in Flash code and deception in links that most people aren’t savvy enough to see.

    2. The work environment can be plagued by time wasted on social media sites not doing work. On top of that it is virtually impossible to block the porn or other things that shouldn’t be seen from these sites.

  10. Oh Alex! Just force Dealers to buy Macbook Pro’s!

    I did 2.5 months ago and I’ll never look back. Although I do peer at the glowing green light in my docking station under my desk to see if my Dell hasn’t died. ;)

    There are great answers here. For the most part I agree with Joe. If you don’t embrace and maximize conversion from unique visitation, it’s hard to justify an effective Social Media or CGC strategy.

    Do a better job of understanding the what-why and how of traffic to your site and Social Media becomes a natural extension.

  11. First of all, if history tells us anything, it’s that when it comes to technology, car dealers are usually among the last to adapt. Social media is/will be no different.

    Secondly, too many dealers want that report that you speak of, Jeff…”how many cars will this sell me this month?” From a dealer’s perspective, I can understand this. They want ROI, and they want it immediately. Social media simply does not provide for an immediate ROI.

    Dealers need to approach this topic more as social branding and engagement, as others have stated, not as social media. All of the tools and applications available with Web 2.0 make it easier and more cost-effective than ever to brand your business and engage your customers. In fact, other than time, using Web 2.0 tools cost virtually nothing. Dealers need to see the big picture and look at the long term ROI possibilities, rather than the “how many cars will this sell me today?”

    Think about it. The traditional media (TV, newspaper, and radio), while they may allow you to help build your brand (less and less every day), do any of them allow you to truly engage and interact with your customers? No. Furthermore, with the Internet, DVR/TIVO, and satellite radio, how many people is your brand actually reaching? Fewer than ever. Yet, these media remain very costly.

    Until dealers learn to adapt more quickly to changing technologies and changing culture, they will continue to spend their resources that provide for immediate (albeit significantly smaller) ROI, rather than the longer term (and potentially much higher) ROI.

  12. I, like so many others are on facebook, and for the most part, it WAS a means to connect with old friends from high school university, etc. which I would wholeheartedly agree has little to no value in the workplace.

    HOWEVER recently, business contacts began “adding me” as their friends and soon businesses that I have done work with began adding me as a “friend” or inviting me to join their “Group”, and so I am embraced it – NOW my facebook page has grown to be both business and social.

    The reality is, most people log in to fb (or their social network of preference) almost everyday, and yes, I see the mundane comments of a an old friend who just got a new puppy, but I also see the newest Pre-Owned units at some of my clients stores or that they just got a load of the new 2010 Whatever in stock….

    Talk about being “top of mind”!!!

    For a dealer to be “in front of” their customers on a daily basis in any manner is invaluable!

    Facebook or any social network is simply where the “customers” are, and those dealers who are using it, no doubt are realizing RETENTION of their customers moreso than a dealer is who is not.

  13. The answers to this are the same as Why We Suck! Even the people in dealerships that do, and can, handle Social Media are not given the due respect because, “Yeah but did you sell a car today?” is all most GM’s and GSM’s know how to say. Until we as an industry can stop living in the past we will always be way behind the times when it comes to all the things a good eCommerce manager has to do on a daily basis. We might not have, “sold a car today” but we certainly influenced 80% of the cars that the dealership sold.

  14. One question I ask many dealers is “Why ARE you using social networking?”

    Countless dealers are on these sites, but have no one regularly managing it, no idea how to leverage the platform, and no goals. They simply created an account BECAUSE it is a buzzword. That is unfortunate. A waste of time and effort unless you have a specific plan in place to achieve results. If dealers are not properly using it, social media serves no benefit. My recent Digital Dealer article titled “The Social Networking Gut Check” speaks on this very topic.

    It is like my mother always said, “if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you too?”
    Just because others are utilizing it to its fullest doesn’t mean it is a breeze to see results. It must be managed, maintained, monitored, and measured.

    If your dealer has accounts on these sites, you have many questions to answer internally before you can truly say you are in the soc med game.

  15. @alex here is the link for my bookmarks on social media policy guidelines.
    http://delicious.com/Hjumper/policies

    the Ibm one is here.
    http://www.ibm.com/blogs/zz/en/guidelines.html

    There is also a wiki that I am trying to find that is of documented business case studies and another one with SM policies… Hope this helps you with writing about the need for these in dealer biz. I am at @smallbiztwit on twitter and from there you can get all my contacts points online and off.

  16. We look at the social networking sites as a great way to have a dialogue with our customers all the time. We can share information with them that they might call up and ask about, such as how to maintain proper tire pressure or get their cars ready for winter. We can tell them about money-saving services. We can introduce our staff, so that our customers feel comfortable when they come in. And we can hear back from our customers all the time, on any topic, in a way that’s very easy for them. We want to know what they’re thinking, what they need and what they like.

    Our business success is built upon relationships with people who buy and service their cars with us. Being on Facebook and Twitter and writing a blog is a great way to develop those relationships. We can connect in a very non-obtrusive, helpful way and be a real resource in the community. Our customers become our friends, so we look forward to staying in touch.

    We just got involved in the social websites in the last month or so. We have a blog that is updated 3 times a week and is tied to our twitter and facebook. Check us out and see what we are doing.
    http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/pages/Fort-Wayne-IN/Don-Ayres-Honda/133331050685?ref=ts

    http://www.twitter.com/donayreshonda

    http://www.donayreshonda.blogspot.com

  17. @jim very nice job on your blog,FB and Twitter and it is nice seeing a customer on your site raving about your service dept. Great way that you are highlighting the service side- best wishes with building of your community. I am still looking for a dealer to use their fan page with a quick vid. of a new car buyer taking delivery of their car, and then sending him a link to it on your fan page and then let him pass it on to his fb friends- it would work better than just cards…

  18. @Jim- great stuff on the social front. I was wondering if you have considered putting your blog on your home page to drive SEO, or at a minimum, a link from your blog to your website?

  19. @Steven…we are looking at putting pictures up of our customers at time of delivery and also videos. We are working with our advertising agency on a release form for that.

    @Gerald…we are in the works of getting a new website put together which will be active next week hopefully and will have all of our links on there. We are also going to have a youtube channel with walk arounds.

  20. @Jim-

    There are many services out there for doing your own press release with good results. Just FYI.

    Look forward to seeing the new website.

  21. If you are on every social networking site, pay crap loads of money to have the best website, best SEO, gimmicks, do-dads, best this and best that – there’s absolutely NO guarantee it will make you more money. I’ve done it all and don’t see the hype add up to anything. I think people inside the business are pushing for all this stuff, but the customers I talk to don’t care – they just want the lowest price.

  22. @chris is there a guarantee in life except death? Where are these people that just show up at the dealership wanting the best deal coming from? Thin air I think not.. Do nothing then and see if anything changes.. just drop all your efforts and see if they still show up love to track that program. Social is not the be all end all but if you are not going to get in the game it will just ignore you too…

  23. @Chris:

    I realize that most of the world thinks that car sales is the entire Industry….. but amazingly enough… get ready….. they actually have to service their vehicle every few months…

    @everyone:

    The various Social networking sites are an incredible tool for the Fixed Operations Departments… making customers aware of service specials, accessory promotions,etc. and in general just staying in front of the customers throughout the entire ownership experience. Especially for facebook groups or twitter or any of the “opt-in” choices!

  24. @tyler here here 1st stop should be the customers you already have. It seems all the car guys care about or at least discuss is selling them. The best chance to engage and get them using your new tools is thru service without a question. How about linking real time updates on service to your customers that use twitter.. they will love it because more than likely they are addicted and they love to share the cool stuff ( hey they get it ) and will.

  25. We have had great sucess with Facebook in our business. Our page has more fans than some of the large dealer groups I have looked at. I believe that is because we let everyone we talk to via email, in person, and over the phone know that we have a very interactive facebook page and it is a great place to view the pictures and testimonials of our customers. We even have the FB logo on our busiess cards as well as a Facebook Badge on every signature from the company email. We are looking at Facebook as a giant networking party and we are the hosts we invite as many people as we can and like to share information as well has have people get to know us as a company. Our entire business is about 70% internet and that is combined, Facebook and Website and other internet sources. Right now our Facebook is linked to the Twitter site, but we are changing that due to the fact that they are two different platforms and should be treated as such. Yes the salespeople get on Facebook for personal reasons, but they are also intrumental in gaining us fans, they have embraced the internet and as we tell our new hires-
    We don’t have an internet department. We are an internet dealership. We have embraced it and will use every aspect of it to our advantage. What new idea do you have to expand our internet presence?
    They must be able to answer that question or they are not a fit for our team. We also don’t have a whole lot of turnover. You are probably wondering if we can track sales to Facebook, well we have. We have gained a fans and within a few days they are contacting us via our webiste. This has happened twice in the last month. As far as traffic to our site last month FB was the #5 traffic driver and the #1 amount of time spent on the site at 22 min. Check out our FB page here:
    http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=99092&id=92638243725&saved#/pages/Grand-Junction-CO/Intermountain-Auto-Sales/92638243725?ref=ts

  26. @Jeff – Its still amazes how dealers, and even other businesses, still miss this mark.

    While 99% of the people visiting this site understand the key tenets you spelled out above:

    Branding and Awareness Opportunities
    Search Engine Saturation
    Build Link Popularity
    Build Traffic to your Dealers Website
    Interaction with the Public – Online Reputation

    Most business owners either don’t understand or “hear” what the this ultimately means with regards to improving their bottom line.

    There is a direct relationship to the revenue generated by a company and their level of online engagement.

    The results of the recent EgagementDB Study showed the highest engaged companies online saw higher year over year revenue increases than those companies who were not engaging their customers.

    The most engaged companies saw revenue jump 18%, while the least engaged saw revenue drop by 6%.

    Elements of engagement included:
    Blogs
    Facebook
    Twitter
    Wikis
    Discussion Forums

    Ultimately it all comes back to the bottom line. As time passes, it’ll be easier to demonstrate the ROI for all of these efforts.

    Nice thread Jeff.

    Eric

  27. @ericka great job on your page. I love it that you are not that OEM dealership and that you are the pirates in the auto biz. More hustle and personality than you see in the big boys. You are the type of smallbiz folks that I have worked with my entire career and feel free to follow me on twitter @smallbiztwit. Again love the face you have put on your dealership. WOW

  28. @Joe Pistell Social Media = Self Media. True true – Could you imagine a day when you could be hired (or fired) according to your online social status/worth? LOL

    @Joe Webb “If dealers are not properly using it, social media serves no benefit.” Not only does it not serve a benefit, but IMO once you start something, you better be on board for the long run or it can have an adverse effect.

    @Jim Bell – Nice job with your social

    @Chris “but the customers I talk to don’t care – they just want the lowest price.” I hope you don’t truly believe that. Yes customers are looking for a price but I firmly believe most are looking for a great deal / value. And when value supersedes price, then the close becomes much easier. Customer are looking for someone they can feel confident in doing business with. Do you perhaps sell Honda’s?

    @Steven “It seems all the car guys care about or at least discuss is selling them. The best chance to engage and get them using your new tools is through service without a question.”

    Dealers too often forget about the fixed ops side and focus all their marketing efforts on sales. That’s a huge mistake, not only with traditional but even more with social. Keep your customer engaged with your service offerings. Less likely they bounce or opt out.

    @Erika Thanks for sharing!

    @Eric Thanks for the stats and comments. “The most engaged companies saw revenue jump 18%, while the least engaged saw revenue drop by 6%.” There is no reason these percentages can not and do not apply to our business.

    Side note: This is not a plug for DealerRater (since they are currently advertising here) BUT..they do offer the ability for you and your customers to post comments to your face book page. You can also grab the “post to facebook” link (use copy link) and post it to your facebook fan page as well! I through an example up on the DR fb fanpage http://www.facebook.com/dealerrefresh for reference.

    Another quick note to THANK everyone that has comment so far. We’ve seen quite a few new contributors..so I thank everyone. Let’s keep the comments coming!!

    Why aren’t dealers social networking? Or share you success story.

  29. What it comes down to is getting the right person and the support for that department to engage further into the social media / marketing / branding of the dealership itself. It also comes down to having the time to do it. I still speak with dealers that have the Internet Manager sell, take calls, respond to leads which prevents them to update their specials let alone their social media.
    Branding is huge and surely should be taken advantage of. I suggest all dealers take advantage of this is as it is their reputation that is held in the consumers hands.
    Great post Jeff!

  30. Some dealers still just have no clue. A lot of dealers do not take time to read Digital Dealer or AutoSuccess or even visit sites like these to learn about best practices. Those are the same ones that are failing becausethey are set in their own ways. The few that are successful ad clueless are just plain lucky. I learned that you do not have to spend most of your day on facebook. To work it propery you only need maybe 20 minutes per day with logging in about 3 to 5 times to check out messages and make status changes as well as grow your network. This is what I have been doing. This is one of the things that I do in addition to the 1000 other tasks I have.

  31. This has been a fascinating post to watch and the comments show many different perspectives. I especially like Jeff Kershner’s summary with acknowledgment to each of the more significant commenters, and support Jeff’s kudos and responses. However, I would like to pose a counter observation to Alex’s original assumption… While two years ago there was certainly cause to ask such a question, today as we are in the last quarter of 2009 the issue posed by Joe Webb is far more relevant than asking why more dealers are not yet using social media marketing tactics.

    The fact is that out of the dozens of dealers I get to speak with every week, it is now the exception to find one that has not had an employee or the dealer principal create some degree of social media presence with at least a blog, a Facebook profile and or Fan page, a YouTube Channel and maybe a MySpace account. To reiterate Joe Webb’s point, and capitalize on the issues raised by Joe Pistell’s hiring criteria, the real question in my opinion is how to create some sort of cohesive social marketing strategy supported by tactics that do not use more dealership resources than justified by the benefits received. I have implemented what has become an ongoing series of social marketing strategy pilots in over 20 Dealerships since June 2008, with each one a little more effective than the previous one as me and my colleagues get to cull the chaff and focus on what achieves objectives. At this point we are working with dealers who are selling cars daily to people whose relationship with people at the dealership was created and fostered via social media channels. The early dealers we first started with have become the new sales volume leaders in their respective OEM regions. Bottom line is that we don’t know all the answers, but now have a pretty good idea of how to recognize and measure success indicators long before people start coming in to buy cars.

    I will present details and KPI’s during the Tuesday morning general session at Digital Dealer 7 in a couple of weeks. Yes, Alex, that is an intentional “plug” for Digital Dealer 7 in Nashville… I have also published a virtual social
    media implementation guide via dozens of articles and file uploads at http://www.AutoDigitalmarketing.com that are free to use. We are all learning how to leverage social media and the lessons will continue to be learned for a long time. The key, this time is to pay attention to lessons already learned by others and then buildvupon them for the benefit of your dealership.

  32. Ralph – Plug Master! I say that with a smile on my face, as I did when I tweeted it too. Don’t ever stop because you’ll ruin all of our expectations. By the way, I’m expecting a call soon. We’ve got some business to conduct!

  33. You’re going to laugh but I strongly believe that dealers are still somewhat skeptical of social networks branding their business online! Because their business models doesn’t support on-line efforts to “MAKE IT HAPPEN” have you ever listened to received calls from consumers inquiring on autos on line and hear what comes through phone very depressing! We’ll it is basics 101 dealers don’t take the time to effectively train their BDC/Internet Managers, Sales Staff to be in compliance with a process or procedures to = positive results! I see it every day in the field it really is amazing that dealers want to sell more cars via internet but forget training is the “keys to success”!

  34. I believe that a “company” social media presence will be a waste of time unless it is really worked. Social Media is for socializing with people, not for selling product. If a dealership used SM to promote interesting conversations with their customers and never tried to sell something, then it would be a huge hit.

    When it comes down to it, nobody cares about your business. They only care about and relate to the experiences with the people of your business.

    For example, I just had some service work done to my Subaru. The dealer is part of a large dealer group. I was treated like a number instead of a person I will not be taking my car back to that dealer next time because of one person. I made a decision to not do business on the entire group because of one person.

    There will actually be a time in the future where you won’t have many marketing choices. The newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, and even email are slated for extinction. (Did you know that many colleges around the country have stopped handing out email addresses to incoming freshmen? Have you seen the demo of the future Google Wave?)

    I believe that it is very easy to have a profitable dealership these days.

    1) Train the salespeople, service writer, and parts guy to have a great attitude, smile, be fun, and LISTEN to the customer. (Think Southwest Airlines)
    2) Obtain info from all your very expensive sold and UNSOLD leads. Setup a great promotion that everyone will want to sign up with. Mandate the name, address, and salesperson name to be eligible.
    3) Get everyone of your salespeople to send out monthly personal mailers that say something other than a sales pitch. (this is not impossible!)
    4) Mandate that every salesperson sign up for Facebook. Train them on how signup, search for all their friends, and tell them to not actively try to sell something.

    It is only after these four steps that I would even consider a “company” social media effort.

    Imagine how powerful it would be if your sales staff treated all your leads like Southwest Airlines treats their customers.

    Imagine getting the mailing information from every one of your leads and hitting them with a totally personal message from the face of your dealership.

    Imagine every one of your salespeople just getting in touch with their 150 friends and the sphere of influence that your sales staff now wields.

    Here is a question for you.
    Why are 90% of the sales people in the country NOT promoting themselves persistently?

  35. Hey Devin,

    Lighten up a bit…

    I think you are WAY too myopic in your vision.

    Social Media if used PROPERLY. I REPEAT…USED PROPERLY…can, will and has proven itself over and over and over again.

    I really just don’t understand how dealers, assuming you are a dealer…(considering you didn’t put any hyperlinked info when scrolling over your name), like yourself, can just with a wave of the wand just dismiss an entire INDUSTRY within an INDUSTRY…just like that.

    Devin…here is a cold hard fact:

    Almost every single person that walks INTO your showroom or lot has visited your site at least once if not twice. Oh and yeah they are checking out your competition literally at the same time. Some people even have spilt screens opened and view the sites side by side.

    Bottom line is that a dealer wants to stay relevant for the next 5 years…this is what they need to do.

    A few years ago very few dealerships were doing anything remotely close to Social Media. Even still today, many like yourself, are reluctant to do anything that DOES NOT bear fruit IMMEDIATELY.

    Why are you guys so impatient? Search Engine Marketing, when done correctly, takes up to 1-3 months to show up by Google. With Social Media, you’re impact is immediate. You are showing your clients that you are with it. That you are forward thinking. That you actually want to evolve with the times as opposed to being a relic of the past.

    Will someone join your facebook page to read over and over again? No. Will they read your Tweets? No. Will they pay attention to anything at all? Probably not, BUT…and here is the HUGE BUT. By keeping your name and reputation out there and being in the forefront of your competition you are engaging your customers as they read their email, read their tweets, or check their updates. Your name stays out there. Think of it as viral advertising.

    There are a million and 1 ways to do a successful Social Media campaign. The first step to making it happen is visualization of what is possible.

    And now I get to pick apart your examples:

    1) Train the salespeople, service writer, and parts guy to have a great attitude, smile, be fun, and LISTEN to the customer. (Think Southwest Airlines)

    [Wait a minute…did you just say TRAIN your SALESPEOPLE? What planet are you on? Have you spent time in most dealership? Not going to happen. No incentive.]

    2) Obtain info from all your very expensive sold and UNSOLD leads. Setup a great promotion that everyone will want to sign up with. Mandate the name, address, and salesperson name to be eligible.

    [of course…EVERYONE…will just sign up. Poof! just like that. Wow, incredibly realistic scenario there…/sarcasm off]

    3) Get everyone of your salespeople to send out monthly personal mailers that say something other than a sales pitch. (this is not impossible!)

    [Get the salespeople to send out ANYTHING…good luck with that one. THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE! I’ve been around many, many, many dealers and sales people from different parts of the US. There is one common theme: least flow of resistance. Whatever is the easiest way around doing ANY work is chosen. That goes for any job BTW, not just the auto industry.]

    4) Mandate that every salesperson sign up for Facebook. Train them on how signup, search for all their friends, and tell them to not actively try to sell something.

    [Ummm…most of the salespeople are ALREADY on Facebook because their kids that are in college are on there or their wife is on there, etc. FYI, people don’t use facebook like that. Facebook is a bit more organic in the respect that most if not all the people that are your friends on there are indeed your real life friends and family. Twitter is anyone from Romania to NYC to Timbuktu. LinkedIn is in a sense the formal version of facebook, but for business.]

    Devin, I am sorry if I have come off as semi-crass, but you can’t just knock an entire sub-industry that is literally changing the way business is done all over the world. I’m sorry, you just can’t.

    The proof is in the pudding, just open your mind to what is possible rather than what’s in front of you.

  36. Andrew DiFeo said on October 8th, 2009:
    “I’m in Joe’s camp. Before you can maximize your opportunities on your own website, I wouldn’t put a lot of resources behind Social Media…just yet a least.”

    The key thing to extract here (IMHO) is “…maximize your opportunities on your own website…” The deeper and deeper I get into this thing the more I am convinced that everything starts with the dealer’s website – and that 99% of them fail at the mission they are tasked with accomplishing. But I’m sure this topic is already a thread somewhere on the forum, I just haven’t taken the time to find it. We could go on and on….

  37. Nice one Jeff! (Thanks to @globalcopywrite for flagging this beaut piece.)

    I've just spent a several weeks trying to buy a car, and the dinosaur syndrome seems to extend beyond social media.

    Same dirty tricks, same old gender bias.

    Interestingly, if one dealer had've sent a follow-up email like he promised, he probably would've got my business.

    Not sure if you allow links, but if you do, our dealer debate is at http://mybrc.myobnet.com/2010/09/09/auto-destruct… Best regards, P. :)

  38. Jeff Great post! I was just scrolling around and come across this one.  One of the biggest reasons that dealers don’t go social is the fear of not being able to properly do it right.  Which in fact as you pointed out above that hit the nail on the head which is still the problem dealers have today. 

    Not having the proper social media strategy is where dealers that have gone social get hurt in the long run. Then that is the reason they don’t believe it works. 

    Just like websites, when not properly maintained by the dealer (uploading monthly specials, etc etc) the dealer then feels the website doesn’t work for them. 

    When I scroll through all the auto dealers on Facebook / social networks etc. I still notice about 80% of them have a friend page…!

    Great post!