8 Things Auto Dealers Need to Know About Social Media

We work with hundreds of auto dealers to help improve their marketing, and most of the inquiries we’ve received in recent months have had to do with social media, such as:

“How should we respond to online reviews?”

“What kinds of things should we be posting on Facebook?”

“How can we keep up with what customers are saying about us online?”

These are all great questions, ones your dealership may be asking as well. Car buyers are increasingly turning to social media to inform and support their purchase journey, so dealers need to up their game in social media to leverage this reality. In a sense, social media management and reputation management have merged. You can’t have one without the other.

Some interesting data:

  • A recent Cars.com survey found that 76.3% of car buyers are influenced by online reviews.
  • A Dealer.com survey found that 38% of people intending to purchase a new vehicle will use social media for research.
  • In that same survey, 28% of people said they saw a post that caused them to add a dealer to their consideration set.

So to that end, we’ve compiled Eight Things Auto Dealers Need to Know About Social Media.

1. Monitor your online reviews.

Because reviews, both positive and negative, can have a lot of impact, it’s important that you continuously monitor the major sites where you’ll see reviews: Google +, Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp, plus automotive-specific sites such as Dealerrater, Cars.com, and Edmunds. There are tools available that can help, alerting you to new reviews so you don’t have to constantly monitor the native sites.

2. Respond to all reviews.

Respond to all reviews, good or bad, as quickly as possible. Especially the bad. And be as specific as possible; a generic response to a bad review may be more damaging than the actual review!

3. Take the conversation offline.

In the case of a negative review, it’s best not to engage in a “he said/she said” type of response, but rather try to take it offline. You could respond with something like, “I’m very sorry that your car wasn’t ready when promised. I know your time is valuable and I want to make it right. Please call me at your earliest convenience at 555-555-1212 and I’ll do my best to make it up to you. I look forward to speaking with you.” Every dealership gets negative reviews. Yours will too. Whether they affect future buyers’ decisions is entirely based on how you respond.

4. Respond to positive reviews too.

Positive reviews deserve a response as well, and of course this is easier. You can post something like, “I’m so glad you had a great experience. I am very happy to hear Bob was able to quickly resolve your sunroof issue. I will be sure to pass your comments along to him. On behalf of Bob and the entire team, we look forward to serving you again in the future.”

5. Promote your positive reviews.

Make sure you promote those positive reviews on your website and especially your other social media channels.

6. Don’t outsource responding to reviews.

Some dealers choose to outsource the work of responding to reviews. We think that’s a mistake, and here’s why: someone who’s unfamiliar with the situation can only post generic responses such as, “Thanks for the feedback.” It’s better to let the person involved in the situation write the response, or at least inform the response.

7. It’s still all about Facebook.

Facebook should be your primary vehicle for engaging with customers via social media. According to Arbitron, almost 80% of consumers prefer to connect with brands via Facebook (versus other social media sites). If you don’t have a Facebook page already, create one, and post to it regularly. Post special promotions, links to relevant articles (how to pick the right tires, car maintenance tips, etc.). Include vehicle photos and even happy customer photos (with permission, of course). Make sure your timeline isn’t entirely promotional. There are digital marketing solutions available that can automatically update your page with relevant articles and posts, or provide ready-to-post content to an admin at your dealership, who can then post what he/she wants. These tools can make keeping up with social media infinitely easier.

8. Don’t forget about Google+.

Many dealerships ignore Google+. While it’s true that consumer uptake has been less than stellar, ignore Google+ at your peril. That’s because Google+ posts have an important influence on Google search rank, and the reviews will often be included in the search results. You need to stay on top of Google+ content, especially reviews.

We also recommend that dealers survey all customers, preferably prior to the auto brand sending out their factory customer satisfaction survey. Why? That way, if a buyer gives you a negative review, you can respond and fix it before the factory survey goes out—giving you the ability to potentially turn a negative into a positive. And in the survey, be sure to encourage your new buyers to submit reviews to their favorite sites, and provide them with links to Facebook, Google+, Twitter and the others. Also encourage them to share their experience with friends and family. We’ve even seen some dealers run promotions, such as encouraging customers to take photos of themselves in their new car and share them on Twitter with a special hash tag. They’re proud of their new vehicle—give them a forum to share their enthusiasm!

Remember: you want reviews. Reviews are good. Even a bad review can lead to a positive outcome if you respond promptly and effectively.

We’d welcome your feedback and tips on this subject. Send them to dsmith@dealermark.com. Or you can leave them on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Outsell.

Dan Smith is the CMO of Outsell.

Dan Smith

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