Best Practices

Social Media Etiquette for Vendors

I just got back from Digital Dealer 8 and almost every presentation was on Social Media.  Many vendors were preaching why dealers should be doing something in Social Media, but there weren’t many telling their clients how to do it right.  That’s mostly because many of these vendors don’t understand how Social Media truly works themselves.

Social Media is a platform where many people can communicate equally.  It is really that simple of a definition.  It is not just facebook, or twitter.  Those sites have a lot of eyeballs, but the ones that really last forever and are more relevant are the blogs and forums – especially for our vendors.  Blogs and forums index with search engines, and if your company is talked about on one of these blogs or forums (like DealerRefresh) those conversations are going to show up when a potential client searches for your name.  I’m not tooting the DealerRefresh horn, or DrivingSales’, or ADM’s, or even David Kain’s platform; I’m just going to stress that these kind of places can make or break you.  And this is going to become a bigger factor with time.

Here are some easy rules to live by:

1.  Get involved. Not being there is just as bad as not advertising.  If you are advertising on one of these sites, simply paying to have an ad on the site isn’t enough.  You really need to have a voice with the ad.

2.  Once involved, don’t spam.  Be a knowledgeable assistance to the conversation.  Sure, feel free to start your own conversation asking for input from others, but don’t always talk about your product – it is annoying and doesn’t help with my next lesson point….

3.  Think about what is in it for the reader?  If your post solely benefits you, have you done enough in the past to really ask that favor of the entire community (asking for input is the same as asking for a favor)?  My favorite take away quote  from the Digital Dealer 8 conference is from Mike DeCecco whom I’m not quoting word for word:

If you have lived next door to someone for 5 years and never said “hi” or tried to make friends with that person, would you ask them to mow your lawn while you’re on vacation for 2 weeks?  When you just use Social Media to advertise you are knocking on your neighbor’s door to tick them off.

4.  When someone posts something negative about your company, reply to that person honestly.  If you’re not going to fix the problem, say so and why – then I suggestion trying to steer the conversation in a different direction.  If you are going to fix the problem, then this is a golden public relations opportunity to come out looking like a superstar!  Thank the poster, fix the problem, and thank the poster again by giving him credit for bringing it to your attention (even if you already knew about it) – you’ll gain huge brownie points with him and… point 5

5.  Only 3% of all readers will publicly post.  10% will send a private message or email related to something they saw online, so you have to assume that you’re not seeing 97% of the people who are following your online Social Media actions.  I can assure you that DealerRefresh’s site analytics certainly give credit to this statistic.  This is a BIG reason you should take my first point to heart.

6.  You love where you work.  You’re passionate. You cannot fathom why someone would ever say something bad about you or your company.  25% of people will be a great friend.  50% of people will be acquaintances, and 25% of people don’t like you.  That’s just the way it is and you’re going to have to accept it.  Sure, there are exceptions to the rule, but when someone types something negative about you, your product, or your company don’t freak out.  Don’t get so offended that you call that person’s boss asking for him to be fired or force him to pull what he said down.  We talk, we know who you are and this is the most damaging thing you can possibly do to yourself or your company.   In a situation like this, the angry poster might be able to be turned back to your cause, but if you can’t work things out one on one with that person, then you need to publicly respond for your 97% non-posting audience I mentioned in point 5.

I’ve been watching a few vendors do these things wrong for a while.  I hope some of you can shed your fears to get involved.  And the ones who are involved, I hope this helps you to better approach a situation that pops up.

Some other Social Media articles for further reading:

Stop Spamming on Social Media
Social Media Best Practices White Paper from GOSO
Tools to help with Social Media Reputation Management
The next step in Reputation Management

Who knew an argument with Jeff Kershner, in 2005, would lead to Alex becoming a partner with him on DealerRefresh. Where will the next argument take ...
  • S
    Shawn Morse
  • April 22, 2010

Great post as usual.
I agree regarding spamming. When you are just pitching cars on your facebook page you are asking for the "hide button" or worse, fans leaving your group. My theory is that you aim to give the fans more than cars. I try to mix up what I post. As a GM dealer I try to build trust with the brand rather than push the brand. Also, I post things non-car related to push people to the page when I do begin posting car specials. I have posted my page and would love any comments you all may have!

<a href="!/pages/Vassar-MI/Cook-GM-Super-Store/315627429720?ref=ts" rel="nofollow">!/pages/Vassar-...</a>
Great post, and you are right! We are seeing a lot of WHY an auto dealer should be using social media but not a whole lot on HOW to use it effectively.

I see a lot of vendors focusing on technology without giving much thought to the human side in all of this. After all technology changes but the human side never will.
I&#039;m a life-long sales &amp; marketing guy with an increasing interest in following, learning, and -- hopefully soon -- involving myself professionally in the &quot;digital dealer&quot; vendor marketplace. From an outsider&#039;s perspective, then, I am struck by your assessment of digital dealer vendor community as not &quot;understand[ing]how Social Media truly works...&quot;


This is surely bound to cause, hopefully, discussion and reflection. So I wonder, are vendors &quot;talking to,&quot; &quot;talking with,&quot; or &quot;talking down&quot; dealers? Are vendors &quot;presenting to&quot; or &quot;sharing with&quot; dealers?
Alex, your opening paragraph hits the nail on the head.

&quot;vendors&quot; all too often are ex-dealership sales guys who are attempting to impart their wisdom. They&#039;ve had a history of teaching sales, which is great because that is what they know.

Why is it then, that these guys feel they are qualified to be teaching media strategies?

To use just a single, small example, when I finally began promoting Driven Wheels on Twitter, I came across several dealers who were asking me for advice on the most basic of topics. What is Follow Friday? What is #? How can I see responses from my followers?

In several cases, these dealers had been &quot;coached&quot; to use social media by traditional auto sales &quot;vendors&quot;. Rather than coaching, it is more like blind leading blind.
...quick follow up...

While following the event from afar (not being at #DD8), I&#039;ve detected in some of the dealer twitter stream a sense of impatience or irritability or distrust of vendors, their approach and methods. It seemed to me that from the dealer side of the market, there is a perception that the vendor side of the market spends lots of time &quot;engaging&quot; but little time actually &quot;listening and sharing.&quot;

Thoughts Alex, Jeff, dealers?
I did not attend this month&rsquo;s Digital Dealer 8 in Orlando; I figured that not that much could have changed since 7 in Nashville (plus I live in Florida and would rather fly to Tajikistan than drive to Orlando, but that&rsquo;s just me) I must admit that all the posts and tweets from the exhibition hall made me a little jealous. I am not sure though that I could have stomached the &ldquo;Social Media Fest&rdquo; that took place.

Every trade show has a buzz word or right now product or service to sell or there would be no trade shows. I don&#039;t think that I have ever seen or heard of a more ambiguous service or product than &quot;Social Media&quot; expert.

If you are now convinced that you need to jump into the &ldquo;Social Media&rdquo; ring with your dealership or business remember this. If you think that you are going to use this medium for anything other than what is was born to be you are mistaken. Whether it is your dealerships facebook page or you decide that you are ready for blogs and forums please listen to people like Alex, they are designed for social interaction so participate in them. Don&rsquo;t stand out front with a sign like your trying get on the Today show, because that is exactly what will happen, you will find yourself &ldquo;outside.&rdquo;

I am not sure what to tell anyone who is now convinced that they need to pay someone or some company to manage their facebook and twitter pages. I only wish that I could be a fly on the wall during those discussions with their GM when they return to the store.
@Juan Lulli I think that the mistrust stems from the early days of the Automotive Dealers Internet Sales era. Many Dealers fell pray to buying worthless shiney objects that were &quot;cutting edge&quot; and would cure all of their internet sales needs.

A lot of wasted money later there are still many dealers that are in their infancy where their digital programs are concerned and the bright shiny objects are still out there.

There are many great companies at DD that are very willing to partner with dealers to help them achieve success, They are usually not the trend jumpers but the trend setters.
Rob, looking at your Twitter page. We need to talk!

Of course, nicely put together.

Ironically, I wrote my post before seeing yours - and having seen several other SM optimization articles recently, there&#039;s 1 item that is consistently left out...Listening to your clients, listening to industry peers and anyone else willing to bend your ear...

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  • M
    Mike Keesee
  • April 23, 2010
How to be relevent to the &quot;eyes&quot; that are reading what you post is sometimes hard to do, but if you really step back and like Alex said, &quot;Think about what is in it for the reader?&quot; I&#039;m glad you guys are back from Digital Dealer now I get to hear all the good stuff. I was unable to make it.
Juan - there is always going to be a certain level of frustration with our vendors, no matter how good they are. When it comes to digital marketing, our vendors hold the keys to the kingdom. Most of the dealers you are following are the more proactive. These dealers will get the basics right and push vendors to do more, and this is where their frustration will mostly stem from. Unfortunately, this is maybe 15% of the dealers out there. The other 85% just don&#039;t understand what vendors are doing for them on the more advanced levels. So, their frustration is more with themselves.

On a second note to this, Rob makes a good point in saying that most vendors were once dealers. They may not fully understand everything themselves and that is where this article comes into play. I heard a lot of bad advice being given at DD8 and have seen some stuff happen on DealerRefresh - this is where the frustration you&#039;re reading in this article comes from.

Eric - good point. I was hoping that part would go without saying, but you&#039;re right - I need to make things more obvious.
Alex -- thanks so much for replying! As you know I am interested in transitioning into the &quot;digital dealer&quot; market from the vendor side, your reference to the 85%/15% mix astonishes me. Makes me even more convinced of the tremendous opportunity for me to do my fair share in advancing automotive retailing, sharing and explaining the value of what the new &amp; traditional marketing offer -- for the sake of owners, consumers, and vendors. And thank you and your community for showing the way.

Point #4 is the end result of listening; some may simply not make the time to do so - or perhaps not even know how to do so efficiently...

Imagine a feature that, for the first 30 days of signing up on a social site, limited your ability to post anything. All you can do is just watch &amp; listen.
Great Post and will follow the advice given.
A lot of very valid points. I enjoy the conference and the speakers. There were some great presentations of social media but bery few. The only issue that I have with this is that we are getting so ahead of ourselves. Social media became the most important thing. Yes it is great for relationship building, reputation management, and keeping your name out there. However, we have not seen trackable ROI as of yet. We stopped talking about the basics. We stopped talking about the important of handling the pones properly or handling your leads properly. We stopped talking about things an effective internet sales manager should be doing and how they should be doing them. We talk about technology and how should be used. We over talk about social media. It is ridiculous and at this point very annoying. Let&#039;s talk about social media but let us not forget that people coming to these sessions what to know how to not only better position themselves in the digital space but also how to sell more cars effectively. Another interesting thing that I saw was that I had an idea about a year ago to do something but I questioned the success of it and how it will operate. Well now I see about eight other ideas exactly like mine competing for dealer business by selling social media services. Well I would like to wish these company a lot of luck because it is interesting to see how they progress and what they can do for automotive dealers.
  • B
  • April 24, 2010
How to be relevent to the &quot;eyes&quot; that are reading what you post is sometimes hard to do, but if you really step back and like Alex said, &quot;Think about what is in it for the reader?&quot; I&#039;m glad you guys are back from Digital Dealer now I get to hear all the good stuff. I was unable to make it.
Nice post Alex. I can&#039;t agree with you more. In fact when I still had my dealership and Google started to really become popular and every vendor in the world started selling SEM marketing in some form or another I like most people became confused so I decided to become informed. I went and became Google Adword Certified. Now this might be extreme but really that upfront work educating myself paid off big when vendors came to my store selling vaporware. If I didn&#039;t take the time I might have bought useless crap without knowing any better and wasted a boat load of money chasing the dream.

I feel Social Media is at the same point as SEM was a couple of years ago. Sounds great on paper but we are all still waiting on the execution to see what happens and who can deliver. I can say their are a lot of great resources and knowledgeable people out there. Though most are outside the auto space. My suggestion is roll up your sleeves, educate yourself then start small.

As professionals we must continually educate ourselves for our ability to learn faster than our competitors is our only real competitive advantage in the age of the Internet.
Excellent post. I have to agree with Stan above. Social Media has its place, but it can not be the only connection to customers. People who come into internet sales and think they can sit on a computer all day and never make some kind of personal interaction with people are sorely mistaken. Internet sales really rely on taking the tools that the internet gives you and using them to create real connections with people over the phone and *gasp* in person to make the sale. Social media is just a piece of the great puzzle and is a wonderful way to supplement what should already be in place if you are a great salesperson.