Dealership Marketing

Mobile Social Networking Apps WILL Threaten Your Dealers Online Reputation!

I’m sure by now you’ve heard of foursquare and gowalla. They’re a location service-based social network; a cross between a friend-finder, a social city-guide and a game that rewards you levels of “badges” for “checking-in”.


Ok, that’s all good and fun right?

But now, Yelp has decided to jump in the game (I’m sure others will follow). Yelp is looking to make their current service even more interesting by adding a location based feature that allows reviewers to show how many times they have “checked-in” at a location while at the same time allowing users to write a review right from the Yelp mobile app.


You’re following me right?

Let’s say Mary Smith brings her Nissan 09 Maxima in for service. She finds herself waiting in the lounge 30 minutes past the intended time. Just as frustration sets in, the unfriendly service writer finally enters the waiting lounge only to let her know it’s going to be another 20 minutes (and forgets to apologize). Mary’s car is finally ready; she deals with an insensitive cashier and finally makes her way to her Maxima tightly parked between 2 other cars in the parking lot. As she approaches, she notices a scratch on the driver side front fender.

By now she’s had all she can handle and has determined that she’ll no longer be returning for service. She reaches for her iphone, fires up her mobile “check-in/review” social app and in less than 5 minutes has written about her whole experience before even leaving the dealer!

Mary just happens to have her Yelp and/or foursquare account tied into her Twitter and Facebook account. So not only will her negative review of this dealer be posted on this dealers Yelp business page but also automatically makes it’s way to her Facebook page and twitter stream. TRIPLE WHAMMY!!


Can this really happen? You bet it can.

If you’ve been reading DealerRefresh for any length of time, you have a keen understanding of the importance of your dealer’s online reputation. As this new wave of social/review app continue to surface, it’s going to be even more imperative that you have a pro-active and re-active reputation management process established.

Are you currently tracking your dealer reviews on Yelp and other social business review websites?

Founder of DealerRefresh - 20+ Years of dealership Sales, Management, Training, Marketing and Leadership.
Glad you brought this up Jeff. It is a bigger deal than anyone is giving these kinds of things credit for. I have to commend DealerRater for helping to start the industry trend of pushing reputation management, but that is just one of thousands of websites.

Eventually I think we'll see a big player (Google is doing this to some degree) combining all reviews into one place. However, it might still be some time before we see anything like this. In the meantime, you've got to work on your SEO results in order to attempt to control these sites for at least your search engine results. It is just impossible to get your happy customers to write positive reviews on every review site.
Alex wrote:
"It is just impossible to get your happy customers to write positive reviews on every review site."


It's not that tough Alex. I am running an online review promotion for my company that is having pretty decent results. We are offering the chance to win a plasma HDTV for every review of our company (good or bad) submitted to any review site by our customers. The more site submissions the customer posts them on, the more chances they have of winning. All they have to do is e-mail me the link to their submission and their name goes into the drawing.
Steve - how many review sites are there? I can think of 30 that just belong to local radio stations, TV networks, and newspapers in my market. Then you've got every phone book company, Google, Yahoo, Edmunds, and so many others. I'm not even going to get into the niche forums.

You call that possible? I can't even keep up with how many different sites there are.

I like your idea though.
I did a handout/mailer that suggested some top sites: Google Maps,, Citysearch, Yahoo Local,, etc.

The beauty of it is that the customer can get an additional chance to win for every submission. Most just went to the seven sites that I suggested, others got more adventurous. It just depended on how much time the customer wanted to spend finding sites to submit to. Some only did a couple, others sent reviews to more.
I provided our customers with a list of many of the top review sites. They could submit a review to as many as they wished....adding a chance to win for each submission. The more submissions, the better the chance of winning. Some did several sites, some only a few. But after 25 years in business and thousands of customers, I was a little frustrated in the lack of feedback out there for us. This definitely helped
Steve, not sure of all the details but the FTC did release new regulations for review sites and obtaining reviews. Not sure if offering the chances to "win" something would fall under the new laws but I would double check to be sure.
  • P
  • January 25, 2010
Good timing with this article. I just stumbled upon Foursquare a couple weeks ago; this app can also be actively used by sales management & staff. I myself am the "mayor" of my dealership and left a tip instructing guests to ask for me. As the popularity grows, I imagine it could be useful for attracting prospects.
Great article Jeff, the timing couldn't be better, Thanks for the heads up!
I think Jeff's article brings a good point and stands true with most of the current advancements on the web and social media. In short, like other industries, these applications create transparency and more efficient channels for customers to share their experiences.

I agree with Steve about getting customers to post positive experiences and "it’s not that tough." It just takes a little effort.

Social Media in general is based on this premise and dealers must realize that their customer service efforts must be improved now more than ever and that positive customer testimonials play a vital role in all of this. I can assure you of one thing, it's a lot easier to get positive experiences out there than to get rid of the negative experiences that tend to linger forever. That's right forever. Chances are lots of this content will remain on the web for years, maybe even decades and your brand reputation strategy is going to be key in the 2010 and the years to come.

Great article Jeff.

Adam Boalt
Maybe I missed it somewhere, but hasn't anybody considered using the negative postings to correct problems? Imagine the strength of a new posting from the same customer talking about the dealership proactively helping solve the problem. Granted, as Alex pointed out so eloquently, there are more sites than God ever imagined, but keeping a watchful eye on the bigger ones is certainly worthwhile. Great article, Jeff. Anytime my paranoia meter responds, I know you're on to something!
Sorry, Jeff. I gave Alex credit for your article. See what paranoia does to me?!

I think your right about using negative posting to correct problems. There are a couple of well known studies on just that. The most famous incident is one that involves Domino's Pizza. Two employees created a video with lets just say a pizza you would not want to eat and the CEO of Domino's realized that he could only turn the lemon into lemonade because so many negative comments had been posted. He posted a video response explaining the situation and publicly addressing the matter where as most would hide. As it turns out, everybody's sentiment changed and they felt that he handled it correctly.

Great post, Jeff.

Of course, the greatest threat to a dealer's online reputation has always been their offline actions. With these new services, just re-actively managing your online reputation through a site like DealerRater is not going to be enough.
The reality is every dealer and sales person is a target and if you do not have a strategy in place to be proactive with both happy and unhappy customers, you will suffer the consequences. The trick with getting happy customers to participate and say something nice about you online is to make it very stupid/simple for them to do it.

Even very good dealers have negative stuff out there.

Dealerships that ignore their online reputations do so at their own risk. The quality and price of these solutions vary but its clear you have to play the game.

Mark Dubis
Location based activity is definitely a hot item now...having your guests "check-in" at your store(s) is good, having them post a review (can be) great, and getting them egaged with a "tip" or "to-do item" in Foursquare is even better.
Really awesome article Jeff. Ever since the reputation management trend hit I find myself being just like the customers. I love review sites. I love to be able to read about other experiences. I do not mind spending more money if my experience is better. I use my dealership's positive reputation as a closing line on the phone and in person when dealing with customers that want to shop. This program is awesome because it is in tune with the mobile world.

I just had this exact conversation with an dealer last week using the Service Dept. analogy.

The combination of Smart Phones and Social Media has led to an empowered consumer and a definite need for dealers to focus on customer service.

Reputation Management is very important but finding out and dealing with a negative or positive comment, post, tweet, etc. is after the fact. It starts with providing the best customer service first.
Great article.. love the site. Is anyone using any repeat check in, Mayor offers or other type Four Square loyalty programs?

I was considering implementing a customer loyalty program in our service department. 5th check in is free oil change, 10th check in is a gift card to the movies or restaurant and the Mayor gets something as well.

However, I don't want those that work here checking in and becoming Mayor since it interferes with a customer becoming Mayor and getting the Mayor special.

Would love to see what other dealers are doing.. I understand the tips section etc but am not sure that it will drive customer loyalty which is what I desire.
Whrrl check-ins are indexing on my name. Not on the Dealership name though. I have yet to see any check-in from Yelp or Foursquare hit any of my Google Alerts though.

Yes, I have Google Alerts setup on my name....and all of our Execs' names too.
I wouldn't worry so much about the check ins not showing up in Google Alerts since the real benefit (in my opinion) is that the check ins show up in the Twitter feed (if on check in you select "tell Twitter").

That way whomever is checking in at your dealership is implicitly telling all of their Tweeps (Twitter friends) that they are at your dealership.
  • G
  • October 5, 2010
Mobile social networking can also work in your favor. Has anyone heard of SCVNGR yet? <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> They did an interesting campaign with a dealer down in St. Louis. <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>
@Gary -

These guys did such a pitch-perfect job of executing this promotion...was just reading about this the other day.

Watch these type of location-based campaigns to continue their growth. Talk about WOM power...

SCVNGR got a nice boost recently with their new alliance with Facebook places.

I realize you posted this awhile ago, but I just came across it and had to jump in on the action. Reputation management is a hot topic, and I couldn&#039;t agree more about how crucial it is to know what others are saying about you online.

My social media marketing company marks off time two days a week for a member of our team to run through our list of aggregated rating and review sites customized for our automotive dealership clients. We check for new mentions, opinions, ratings, and reviews of experiences with the dealership. Brand reputation monitoring is absolutely essential; if you don&#039;t know what others are saying about you, you certainly can&#039;t correct any misconceptions, or address any misunderstandings. And whether you want to hear about it or not, word about your business will get out fast. Moral of the story: offer your best service from the get-go, and then pay careful attention to how your consumers respond.

On a side note, having an excellent social presence will also help; customers with questions or issues sometimes feel most comfortable contacting you on social sites they often use (like Facebook or Twitter), and being available, personable, and having consistent interaction with potential clients will boost your positive ratings and encourage others to get to know you. Thank you for an insightful article. Cheers! -Nannette