Let’s face it—just about everyone is on Facebook. In just one decade, Facebook transformed itself from an online college directory into a major content and advertising platform that spans the world. It has also transformed how businesses, including automotive dealerships, communicate with their customers.
But recent data suggests that users want more from their social networks—more privacy, more relevant content, and more control—and they’re willing to look outside of Facebook to find it. To no one’s surprise, a number of other social networks have sprung up to give those users what they seek.
More social networks means there are more ways for customers to share, with or without your knowledge. When customers want to share their experience at your dealership, they probably won’t do so on your Facebook page. They’ll likely do it on the automotive review site they consulted before choosing your store in the first place. On average, automobile shoppers visit only 1.4 dealerships prior to purchase, and more than a third of all shoppers used social media to choose the dealer.
What this means for you: You need to effectively monitor your customers and prospects on the social networks and review sites they use.
Why Social Media is Different Now
A recent Pew Research Center study highlighted that nearly half of surveyed Facebook users said they’d previously considered quitting the site, and another 61% said they’ve taken several weeks or longer away from Facebook.
This exodus might be attributed to two things: a recent turn toward customers’ desire for more privacy and the rise of mobile. Also, with recent embarrassments involving selling customer information, aggravating users by (temporarily) requiring the use of customers’ legal names, and running behind-the-scenes testing on users without their consent, concerns about Facebook’s are at an all-time high.
What else is changing? Consider the following:
User privacy concerns: Only 11% of surveyed consumers said they trust Facebook “a lot.” On the flip side, 79% say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 90% say that their buying decisions are influenced by positive reviews. But consumers are reading fewer reviews—i.e., only the most recent ones prior to deciding which businesses to patronize—so responding quickly to the latest reviews should be a priority of your social strategy.
Organic reach is waning: Average Facebook organic reach went from 16% in February 2012 to 6.5% in March 2014. To stay in front of customers, brands are forced to serve more ads, which means more spend for businesses and more ad-centric experiences for consumers on Facebook.
Content is king: Other networks assist users in curating and browsing content feeds that are highly relevant to their interests; Facebook does not. By joining LinkedIn groups, creating Pinterest boards, and following lifestyle Instagrammers, consumers can ensure that they control the content, rather being at the mercy of an ad-targeting algorithm.
Diversifying Your Social Strategy
Focusing solely on Facebook may jeopardize your ability to connect with customers both now and down the road, especially among young and future drivers. These individuals may not yet be your customers, but establishing brand presence and awareness among them can generate engagement now and sales for your dealership later. It’s critical to remember that social networks have the ability to dramatically influence a shopper’s decision to visit your dealership. Ignoring online reviews can also jeopardize your ability to connect with existing customers.
With word of mouth now online, customers can easily share negative experiences across a variety of rating sites that could cause others to turn away from your dealership. While you may continue to post on Facebook, remember that due to its loss of organic reach, your customers may not be seeing your messages as frequently as they did in the past.
To create an effective social media marketing strategy, your dealership needs to diversify its social media portfolio by developing a content and engagement strategy for a variety of social networks—sites like Twitter, Cars.com, DealerRater, Instagram, Yelp, and YouTube.
The good news is that you don’t have to do it all alone—with one of the automotive-tailored software solutions that support multi-social network and reputation management, you can spend your time focusing on with your customers rather than the mechanics of gathering, authoring, posting, and monitoring. These software tools make it easy for you to gather and distribute content, quickly respond to reviews, measure results, and seamlessly test new concepts.
Dan Smith, CMO of Outsell LLC (www.outsell.com) is an innovative software marketing executive with over 20 years of experience in the enterprise software industry and extensive expertise in direct and interactive marketing, behavior monitoring, enterprise application integration, and CRM. Outsell continues to lead the market with its award-winning Outsell Fuel customer-engagement platform, and driving the ongoing evolution of its cross-channel marketing tools, turnkey programs, and analytic insights for leading automotive brands and their dealers.0
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