Do Car Dealers Need to be Social Networking?

Socialmedia_logosWhy aren’t dealers social networking?

When I attended the 2007 J.D. Power Roundtable a few months back, every time I turned around someone was talking about dealers and SOCIAL NETWORKING!

“Dealers need to be social networking!”

“Why aren’t dealers social networking?”

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.

1. Branding and Awareness Opportunities for your dealer

It can be important that your dealer secures its name and brand/message on the more popular social networking sites. I had initially set up a myspace page for Mercedes-Benz of Hagerstown and while I was adding friends, I had several people respond back with “I had no idea there was a Mercedes dealer in Hagerstown”.

Social networks like myspace, facebook and now Twitter, can help get your dealers name and branding out to others that could otherwise not be aware that your dealer even exists.

2. Search Engine Saturation

Tired off all the other websites (like the infamous automotive.com,  invoicedealers.com and now dealer rating sites) showing up on the first page of the search engines, or better yet, first placement when someone Google’s your dealers name?

When you sign up for many of these Social Networking sites, if you set it up correctly, it will include your dealers name in the URL (i.e. www.myspace.com/yourdealersname, http://youtube.com/user/yourdealername, etc.). Your dealer name is many times also used in the title tag of your social profile page.

But why is this important?

Having a number of profiles spread out among various social media sites will help you to have better control over the first page (or more) of search results for your dealerships name. This will help you keep your competitors and 3rd party lead sites like automotive.com from sitting on the first page. Even if they do make it on the first page, you have a better chance of drowning them out.

This can also help prevent flogging!

Websites essentially need three things if they are to experience first page visibility in the search engines.

1. Great Content
2. Great SEO
3. Great Incoming Natural Links.

One way to obtain natural links is to link back to your dealers web site within your social network sites. Many social media sites will allow you to include a paragraph or so about your dealer but MOST IMPORTANTLY, many allow you to add links to your dealer’s website. Once your dealers various social networking profiles are indexed in the search engines, many will count as inbound links to your main site. This will give your dealerships website site a small push in the Search Engines.

4. Traffic to your dealers website

Though I personally think this could be of the initial lesser reasons for dealers using social media and networking websites, it can send traffic to your dealer’s website. Unless you have a powerful analytics tool, it’s hard to track how good the traffic is and if it’s truly resulting in any conversion or sales.

There are ways of using social networks like YouTube and myspace to attract and drive traffic to your dealer website. One example of a dealer really missing the boat with traffic (and viral marketing) is Johnson Autos and their Badger Commercials. They have some great branding commercials that even promoted their dealers website. If they were really smart, they would have uploaded these commercials to YouTube and used the videos on several social networking sites (and their own dealer website). Luckily for them, some “Joe” decided they were funny enough to get onto YouTube and took it upon themselves to record and upload the Badger Videos for the world to see. I’d love to know what kind of traffic spikes Johnson Auto group is getting as these videos continue to circulate.

However, even if Johnson Autos would have known how to take full advantage of placing their badger videos online; how relevant would the website traffic be? I know I personally went to their website with no intention to buy.

5. Interaction with the Public – Online Dealer Reputation

The reason why it’s called “social” is because it allows people to socialize or interact with each other. I would venture to say this has been one of the biggest fears keeping dealers from embracing social media (other then ignorance). “Talking” to your customer is totally different then having to “interact” with them.

Dealers fear customers talking bad about them, and from the dealers perspective, rightfully so. Car dealers and car sales people are already under great scrutiny and it’s up to each consumers own interpretation to how well they are being treated. I have literally given cars away and treated the customer with the utmost respect (while building value in my product) only to find out they still felt as if they could have saved more money or thought I moved the numbers around to benefit myself and the dealer.

However, if this is what you fear then I have news for you; chances are your customers are already talking so you may as well join the conversation. IMPORTANT: Be sure you have the right person at the dealer to interact with these conversations! It’s not easy knowing how to deal with a consumer’s negative feedback.

Having the ability to interact with consumers is not just about dealing with the bad but also taking advantage of bringing further attention your dealer’s products and services. Using social media to show consumers that your dealer employees REAL people, gives back to the community and operates a business under ethical standards shows that you care and can help the consumer feel more comfortable doing business with you.

Don’t be afraid of social network or media sites. In many ways it can set you apart from the competition. Rather than ignore it, be creative as to how your dealership can benefit from it.

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.