Automotive Social Media Basics

This is an old article that has been converted to a blog post for thematic reasons. The original, for as long as it exists, will be here.

Abstract

As social media continues to emerge as a valid venue for most types of businesses to engage with their customers, car dealers and others in the automotive industry are going to take advantage of it. Social media is a different animal than other forms of marketing, as direct advertising through social media is ineffective. Here, I will detail the basic steps for getting involved in a way that will prevent spamming and encourage actual engagement along the road to achieving the goals.

The world has gone Web 2.0. It has been heading in that direction for years, but the automotive industry is often a half-step behind when it comes to emerging forms of engagement and marketing. It isn’t their fault – the vendors in the industry are often slow in bringing forth the latest and greatest on the Internet and delivering them to car dealers in an effective manner.

This is Part I of a general walk-through of automotive social media.

What is Web 2.0 and Social Media?

Before being able to participate, one must understand the terrain. According to Wikipedia , “The term ‘Web 2.0′ is commonly associated with web applications which facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design and collaboration on the World Wide Web.”

This Wikipedia entry on Social Media tells a similar tale. Which is right?

The answer is, “Yes”.

Web 2.0 and social media are for all intents and purposes the same thing. While social media was happening before Web 2.0, they became inherent aspects of the same things. They are interchangeable. For the purposes of this Knol, we will stick with Social Media to describe it.

Automotive Social Media – An Overview

As Chris Brogan so eloquently described at the Driving Sales Executive Summit in Las Vegas, October 2009, advertising directly through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook before understanding and interacting with the community “is like walking up to someone with their hand out to shake and then sticking your tongue in their mouth.”

Simply put, you can’t start a relationship so strongly. Social media is about relationships. Relationships require trust before they can go beyond the handshake. Trust comes from interacting and engaging with the communities in ways that aren’t completely self-serving.

In other words, going on Twitter and Facebook, creating profiles, and starting by spamming inventory items will not start the conversation and relationship off well.

Listen First

Everyone has heard about why we have 2 ears and 1 mouth. The same is true in social media. There is no way to know how to interact with the community until you start listening to how the community is interacting itself.

Search the sites. Read through what people are saying and how they are saying it. Know what similar people (perhaps other car dealers) are saying and see how successful or unsuccessful they are at getting their message out there.

Ask Questions

There are plenty of people who understand social media. You can always contact me, JD Rucker , if you have any questions. More importantly, use the communities themselves to get a feeling for how to interact. There’s nothing wrong with joining Twitter, making some friends, and asking people questions. If you are unfamiliar with the proper use of a Hashtag on Twitter , for example, find people who are using them and ask what it means.

Search and Engage

Use the search features on sites to find people talking about things that interest you. If you’re an Orange County Toyota Dealer , you can search for “Orange County” or “Toyota” and see dozens of discussions that have been happening in the last few minutes. If you have something to add to the conversation, join in. The worst that can happen is that they don’t reply to you. If they do, you are engaging. Time to sell them a car? Of course not! Listen, talk, discuss, and let the conversation happen naturally.

Where to Start

There are always companies that can help you to get started or help to grow your current profiles. This Knol is for those who want to understand what they need before they go out and get it or build it themselves.

Currently, there are 100 trillion social media websites out there (at least it feels like there are that many). Where does a car dealer interested in automotive social media start?

Automotive Blogs

Every car dealership in the world should have a blog. Having an active, engaging venue to post everything from recent employees of the month to local community events and sponsorships to the barbecue tent sale event this weekend is the first step to “humanizing” a dealership.

Facebook Fan Pages

Once a blog is established, Facebook is the next step. Offering your current a future customers a place to post their feelings publicly about you will help you to manage your reputation and gain the trust of those considering buying from you. Those who choose not to do this because they fear negative comments are not seeing the big picture – if they can’t talk badly about you on a site that you can control and respond to such as your Facebook fan page, they will find someplace else such as RipOffReport to express their feelings.

It’s always better to address concerns head on and Facebook is the perfect place to do so.

YouTube

If you aren’t on YouTube, you’re missing out on a major tool in regards to both social media and search engine optimization. While links from YouTube are nofollow and do not count towards you search rankings, the videos themselves have an exceptional opportunity to rank and drive traffic to your primary websites.

Twitter

Much like Facebook, Twitter is a place to establish relationships, allow people to vent (or commend you), and engage with the local community. Everyone from the guy next door to the biggest celebrities and companies have taken to Twitter as a valid resource for communicating their activities.

Building a strong Twitter profile is often difficult, but it doesn’t take very much time to maintain. A couple of “tweets” per day is normally enough to stay active within the community. A Tweet takes less than a minute to do.

MySpace, Flickr, Digg, and the Rest

There are other large social media sites that also offer a nice venue for communication. While they aren’t as strong as the above mentioned 4, these sites have other qualities and values that can help you achieve your goals.

DON’T SPAM

I cannot stress enough that spamming on any of these sites can hurt you and your dealership. It’s more than just losing out on the engagement opportunities. There are many instances that can be detailed where people or businesses use social media sites in an automated fashion or strictly to expand their own agendas. If you intend to spam these sites, it’s better not to join at all.

There are companies out their selling automated services, quick and easy feeds, or “set it and forget it” packages that do nothing other than annoy the communities they target. Do not fall for these as they will do more harm than good.

Automotive Social Media Example

In Parts II and III, we will go into more specifics on how to use social media directly, including tips and tricks, but for now, here is an example of how to put it all together around one single event:

The Scenario:

The dealership is sponsoring a local celebrity softball game to support a local charity this weekend.

The Process:

First, a blog post is written detailing the event. It should be 5 paragraphs long or more with quotes from relevant people such as the organizers, the dealership owner or GM, and perhaps the beneficiary charity. Next, the blog post is linked to from the Facebook Fan Page and the MySpace blog. The 5+ paragraphs are broken down into 1 smaller paragraph with a link to the original blog post. A Tweet goes out on Twitter telling of the event and linking to the blog post in 140 characters or less. As the event nears, more tweets and Facebook/MySpace updates go out. The text should be different – not just the same thing repeated every day. The day of the event, videos are made, pictures are taken, and it’s all posted on YouTube and Flickr. The next day, more blog posts are written about how the event went. Some of the videos and images are posted in the blog. Other videos and images are posted on MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter with some linking back to the latest blog posts. Rinse Repeat

* * *

I’m a Christian, a husband, a father, and a son. I am founder of Soshable and Hasai, two social media marketing firms, and Director of New Media for TK Carsites, the automotive internet marketing division of KPA. You can find me on Google+, Facebook, KPA, Tumblr, Pinterest, and just about anywhere else that’s social.

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