Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

Overcoming Dealerships’ Social Media Objections

Nowadays people like to do their homework on the web, and this gives dealerships a good reason to consider adopting a social media marketing strategy. This is why you should use this opportunity to sell social media to dealerships.

Dealerships tend to be part of the late majority in adopting new social media trends. Because the automotive industry is a “need” industry (people can only keep their current vehicles for so long before needing a replacement or additional vehicles), using social media to engage with customers is an extremely viable marketing plan for dealerships. They have mostly relied on direct advertising to convey their messages, but the nature of social media is a little bit different — it focuses on communication and engagement, and these two concepts can make or break social media marketing. By teaching and supporting your clients on what social media is really all about, you can help them avoid the pitfalls of social media that occur when there is no definitive strategy, which results in not properly engaging the audience and often unintentionally harassing instead of informing consumers.

Although social media allows many people from many different places to connect, consumers tend to prefer locally based dealerships. The only difference is that nowadays people like to do their homework on the web, and this gives dealerships a good reason to consider adopting a social media marketing strategy. This is why you should use this opportunity to sell social media to dealerships. Many dealerships in recent years have attempted to mix their traditional advertising with social media: updating Facebook or Twitter with simple inventory lists, one-way dialogue or too much product promotion. This is your chance to change how dealerships view the function of social media; if your client has attempted to launch a social media campaign and failed, this doesn’t mean a strategy won’t work, only that the capabilities of social media weren’t properly harnessed. Use this opportunity to talk to them about what you can really do with social media. By informing your clients about the key aspect of social media (communication), dealerships can use social media to foster a sense of community, engage with consumers, and to be able to reach and be reached.

Here are four tips for your clients:

• Engagement:Creating a Facebook or Twitter account won’t cut it. Dealers must engage with customers, giving them up-to-date news, feedback and insight into their brand. Suggest to your clients that they don’t have to plug their company at every chance, that they can express their feelings, opinions and thoughts about relevant information. For example, local Indiana dealerships can talk about how they feel about the Colts’ new head coach. Remind them that being human is valued more than being corporate.

• Media:People want to be entertained. By posting photos, video and other forms of media, people will be more apt to visit the sites. One example of using media to create customer engagement is having dealerships post instructional videos. These offer a sense of “giving back” to the customers while helping create a social media presence. Programming new features in a new vehicle might be a headache for some consumers, so by offering them a video, dealers are seen as product experts. This helps form a sense of brand loyalty because the dealership has proven that it’s not just about the sale. Another added bonus to supplying information is that it’s considered “authority” — if your site or social media profile is not purely selling something but acts only as information, your SEO will be better.

• Blogs and/or social networks:One of the biggest choices you have when selling social media to dealerships is choosing how to launch their social media presence. This can be done with blogs or social networks, like Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare, but your client’s presence can also be a combination of these. Encourage whatever strategy seems most appropriate for the dealership, but it primarily needs to be personal and custom. Definitely consider launching a Facebook Fan Page, as this can function as a homepage of sorts, but don’t suggest launching all possible social media platforms at once. Research other local businesses to see what the competition is doing with social media.

• Connecting to consumers: Potential customers are everywhere on the web. They are updating their statuses about their broken-down car and tweeting about how they’re going car shopping next week. Facebook and Twitter both offer ways to connect to local consumers. Simple searches, as well as other demographic-specific search tools, allow dealerships to find local people. Suggest to them that they begin their social media presence by following or “friending” other local businesses and individuals. Get them to connect with their area, their community and their customers. Consider this — if you’re eating at a restaurant and the owner comes to chat, you feel more welcomed.Embrace this with social media;customers are more likely to support your business if you’re friendly and welcoming.

Communicating is different with social media, and so is advertising. Dealerships should use social media in a combination of methods: marketing, customer service, public relations and brand/product knowledge. Dealers should be personal and enthusiastic — by having a personal tone within social media, this helps dealers to break into the online community. It allows them to become perceived as brand experts and have personal influence on customers.

Here are a couple of things to think about when selling social media to dealerships: who is their target audience and how do you reach them? What tools can dealers implement into their social media presence to help customers make their decision (through consideration, evaluation and purchase)? Discover what ways work best for building your clients’ brand awareness, and think about the ways to turn prospects into buyers. Using social media to engage is more than traditional marketing; it’s about listening and responding to customers, being human and tackling what matters. This is why customer service is a popular method of using social media; dealerships can respond directly to consumers and develop longstanding relationships with them. Remember, stress to your clients that if they want to launch a social media presence, they must be perceived as personable and they must humanize their business.