Guest Posting by Audrey Knoth
Should we revisit the Dealership Handbook?
It’s time to turn the auto dealer employee handbook into a marketing tool – one of the most effective that dealerships could have.
How could a weighty tome on such subjects as paid-time-off and the dress code heat up sales? By adding a section on how the dealership would like to work with each new employee to incorporate dealer information into his or her MySpace or Facebook page.
Of course, this idea is fighting uphill against prevailing auto dealer attitudes about Web 2.0. Most dealers don’t understand the value of embracing Web 2.0 as part of their companies’ web presences and they’re downright scared when it comes to their employees’ personal profiles on social media sites. It’s that nagging fear that an employee may be chronicling his after-work bar crawl on the same page where he’s posted his dealership logo.
And in a land that treasures the First Amendment, management is uncertain about what’s appropriate to say to employees regarding their social media presences.
As a result of all this, dealers say nothing. In the process, they’re missing an important business opportunity.
Recently, a colleague and I scoured the social media for these allegedly hair-raising personal employee sites. We found that these personal social media profiles tend to be tame – surprisingly so, given the anxiety management has felt about them.
On the majority of the sites, employees identify themselves as working for car dealers, but they don’t name the dealerships. I believe that many auto dealer staff are unsure whether their companies allow them to mention their name on their personal profiles and whether it’s permissible to use the dealership logo, and so they’re erring on the side of caution.
What these personal pages actually represent is unplowed and fertile territory for dealerships to build business and it starts with the dealership employee handbook.
Why the handbook? Because that’s where all employees gain the same base of knowledge of company practices. By including the dealership’s policies and philosophies on Web 2.0 in the handbook, the company ensures that each staff member thoroughly understands its view of and approach to social media.
In the handbook, the dealer should explain that if employees would like to talk about their positions at the dealership on their personal social media profiles, the company is happy to support their doing so. By “support”, I mean the dealership would continually produce and provide to employees content to post. This content would go way beyond logos: a stream of video, photos, short news on product, and more should be provided to employees on a regular basis so they can constantly be freshening their sites.
And the company can assist with the dialogue, too. For example, if an employee is unsure of how to respond to a posted comment that relates to the dealership, management can help him or her develop a response.
We all know that the first place that inexperienced new dealership employees are supposed to look for business (besides waiting for the public to amble onto the lot) is among their friends and family. Employees with active social media profiles by definition have a great amount of contact with a network of people, and this kind of dynamic content will say more than a phone call or business card ever could.
Additionally, when dealerships recruit experienced auto salespeople who have loyal customers, they often run ads showcasing these new hires. The purpose, of course, is to make sure that those customers bring their business to the salespeople’s new place of employment. Working with employees on relationship-building and promotion through social media is in many ways an extension of what has long been common practice.
Of course, traditional advertising is a totally controlled environment. Social media is not and the lack of control is what scares dealers. But the upside of this venture far outweighs the possible downside, because each employee who is active in social media is a potential public advocate for the dealership – a visible and connected advocate. Using this approach, the dealership can build an army of advocates, with new business resulting, in very short order.
About the Author: Audrey Knoth is the Executive Vice President
for Goldman & Associates Public Relations