Is Social Media for Every Auto Dealer?

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Is social marketing for everybody? Should every dealership jump on the social media bandwagon? I’m sure most social media consultants would say yes, without even thinking about it, but I would have to disagree with them and say no. Yes, you heard me correctly, I said no.

No because not every dealership is ready for the prime time. By prime time I mean the public eye. While its true that we live in an age of transparency, there are some dealerships that would do well by trying to stay out of social media all together. I’ve consulted at a lot of different dealerships, all across the country, and without naming them, I can think of two or three that would cut themselves with the double edged sword of social media.

One dealership in particular, which was run by and for the sales people (you know the type of store I’m talking about), was in no position to engage their market using social media. Of course, to better understand my point of view, you have to understand that I don’t see social media as just another outlet to advertise you specials or to showcase your inventory. It’s a way of marketing your influence and building word of mouth, while at the same time engaging in relationship building tactics that puts community before the pitch.

It’s a strange concept for any dealership to grasp, but while utilizing social networks, the less you pitch the more you sell. Social media requires not just a face lift but a whole shift in the outlook of the entire dealership. What I mean by that is you can’t try to portray yourself one way then treat the customers another way entirely when they cross the threshold.

Think about it. You’re engaging people where they live, on Facebook, on Myspace, on Twitter and on blogs, its just a matter of time before you get the reputation of being a car dealership. I think you know what I mean by that comment and that I didn’t mean that in the literal sense or in a positive way.

It takes only one bad day for a sales person, a sales manager, or even a service adviser to post something that could lead people to form the wrong opinion of the dealership. In other words, the reputation of the whole dealership is on the line, each and every day, day after day. Some would argue that’s the case with or without social media and I agree ,but you also have to think that because of services such as Facebook and Twitter, the bad apples now have a bullhorn to yell into and the world is listening.

Not only is it listening but what’s being said is indexed and can be pulled up for days, weeks, months, years– forever. Do you really want to give a voice to somebody you can’t trust, who at your dealership would you NEVER allow to speak on your behalf. What about on the behalf of the dealership? (Dealership Social Media Policy)

Now imagine if you had a store like the one I mentioned at the beginning of this post and you, as the dealer, wanted to implement a social media strategy. How long before you had pissed off, social media savvy, customers blasting you all over the web, how would that impact your business?

If anything I hope this post has gotten you thinking. Think of the negative impact a social marketing campaign can have on your dealership if the players aren’t ready for prime time.

What say you? What potential fallout can you see happening because a dealership isn’t ready to live up the reputation their trying to portray on social networks? Leave a comment below.

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  1. February 24, 2010

    JPesce

    Some very good points are made for Social Media for the auto industry as a hole. It's not about ‘IF’ or ‘WHEN’ you are getting involved… Without a presence you cannot be heard or seen. The true question is ‘HOW’ you will utilize it for your business. Also good site/source: Auttr.com, it’s a gateway to real-time information in the Auto Industry. Good blog site, thank you for the link and information.
    My recent post Good Morning, With the recent focus on …

  2. February 24, 2010

    DavidJohn_son

    Thank you for the comment, I am glad you liked the post!

  3. May 10, 2010

    Philip Zelinger

    I too know dealerships that would be exposed by social media that would have them run over on the Internet Super Highway. However, by choosing not to participate they are not avoiding the bullet since their customers haven't stuck their head in the same hole in the sand!

    The Internet barn door is open and their dark secrets are getting out wether they know it or not. To win the new online marketing game they have to be in it to win it. C2C comments will trump self serving messages — which should be avoided at all costs, however, monitoring customer comments and addressing them even if you don't solve them shows that you care; even if you don't!

    Bad business practices will put you out of business faster than before the WWW, but at least the Internet gives you a chance to see the bus coming so you can get out of the way — or get out of the business — your choice!
    My recent post Automotive Advertising Agencies Use Social Media To Listen, Learn And Teach As Much As Their Customers Do

    • May 10, 2010

      DavidJohn_son

      I totally agree with you Phil, the part about being better off NOT using social media was more tongue in cheek because you are absolutely right when you say that avoidance will not save you.

      We are in an era when the customers voice is amplified, in fact it's even louder than the dealerships voice because after all a brand is what the customer thinks, not what the marketing department wants it to be.

      With that being said a dealer can let things progress as they will and hope for the best or they can get out there and harness the wave. With social media though dealerships have to be careful that who they really are matches who they are trying to be on the net, after all social media is an inside out culture change not a "Lets bolt this thing on and see what happens" change.

      Phil, Thank you for taking the time to read the post and comment. It's very much appreciated!

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