Friday, July 12, 2013

Aftersales 2.0 – How Should Dealerships Effectively Manage Social Media?

Vision: A customer arrives at your dealership (or one of your brand’s dealers) and says “I need service and remember seeing your dealership on Facebook, so when I drove by I decided to drop in. Can you help me fix my vehicle?”,

Reality: A customer drives by your dealership (or one of your brand’s dealers) because he or she isn’t in the target demographic for your “traditional” advertising. Your mail, TV, and radio ads aren’t reaching this person.

How can we get from the reality to the vision? Dealers can use social media to promote their stores, and OEMs can support dealers’ use of social media. Right now, your customers are out there researching, reading, writing and/or sharing articles, reviews, comments, and opinions on your dealership. They are deciding where to service their car, and chatting about their latest visit – the good and the bad.

A 2012 study conducted by Dealer.com found that, “69 percent [of those who use Facebook in the automotive purchase process] indicated that a friend’s favorable post about a dealership positively impacts their opinion of the dealership.” Dealers may have social media accounts, but most dealer social media efforts could use improvement. OEMs bear some responsibility here, as well. Dealers need to engage effectively, and OEMs need to support dealers in their drive for better engagement.

Dealers: Engage by Creating Original Content

Dealers should be engaging with customers by creating two-way conversations through posts, tweets, and blogs. Only then can dealers begin to establish real relationships with customers. By taking the time to communicate with existing customers, in both positive and negative situations, dealers show their friends and followers the quality of service that can be expected from them. Also, achieving communication and participation from followers will trigger social media filtering algorithms to push your content to their front page, as well as the front pages of others in their networks.

Dealers should focus on developing creative, high quality content that goes beyond traditional marketing materials. Dealers could post photos of service employees with a “fun fact” about them, so when customers come in they may recognize these employees and feel they have a relationship. It may seem like photos of employees or corporate outings have nothing to do with cars – and that’s true. However, putting a human face on the business will help dealers engage.

Dealers should take the time to look at who’s watching their social media accounts. Followers probably live within 50 miles of the dealership, but how many of them have been to the service center recently? Use social media pages to bring these customers in by posting new customer discounts and service coupons that are exclusive to social media. Ask customers to share what they love about their car, or photos of where they have gone in it. Reach out to customers or potential customers, even if they don’t need anything. If they’re used to talking with dealers, customers won’t have to think before selecting a dealer when they ultimately need help.

OEMs: Push Your Dealers to Use Social Media by Offering Tools and Opportunities

OEMs may find it necessary to encourage some dealers to adopt social media. There are countless vendors in the marketplace that make engagement faster and easier. Even if it’s not feasible to purchase these solutions on a large scale in order to make them available to dealers, there are other less expensive options available. Partnerships with vendors to offer discounts to dealers, or subscriptions to social media training classes may help dealers pick up social media at a faster pace. Encouraging dealers to adopt social media raises service retention and ultimately drives purchases and purchase loyalty.

Bottom Line: Dealership customers care about social media. Dealers should too, and OEMs can’t sit back and wait for this to occur on its own. Dealers should focus on engagement immediately, and OEMs need to provide tools and resources in order to ensure that this engagement happens effectively and frequently.

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