As more and more consumers begin their auto shopping experience online, you have the opportunity to leverage your online presence to expand your visibility with potential customers. Social media provides a great avenue to keep your dealership top—of—mind with customers for maintenance and repeat business, but also invites customers into a two—way conversation that allows you to connect with them on a deeper level. Networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ allow you to build a more consistent, rhythmic relationship with your customers.
But simply owning a page or creating a profile is not enough. Dealers need to keep in mind five tips when managing their social media profiles:
Content is king—
By posting smart and compelling social media content, you differentiate yourself from other local businesses that sell the same car lines or offer the same maintenance services. When you post more than standard, cookie—cutter business updates and opt for more open—ended questions, you establish and grow a strong online presence where customers can turn to you for information and automotive insights.
Be proactive in asking customers to share their experience with others. Take advantage of social media’s ability to open the lines of communication by being responsive and interactive. Keep conversations flowing by doing more than posting content on deals, new vehicles and company news. Ask fun or topical questions that humanize your dealership brand and encourage followers to respond. You can also use this as an opportunity to gather valuable information for your business. By posing questions such as, “What do you look for in a service center or body shop?” you can uncover insights and improve the customer experience.
Information, information, information—
Although it may seem simple, by posting and updating your information on offers, contact information, hours of operation and location(s), you build confidence with your customers. Customers have a higher emotional financial interest when purchasing a vehicle that can manifest through them leaning on their social networks for recommendations, conducting intense online research and using online channels as a sounding board for their experiences. By positioning yourself where they can easily find you, you set yourself up to be their ultimate resource and trusted advisor.
Manage your online reputation—
Social media is a great way to interact with customers online, and one of the most important best practices of online reputation is to monitor what is being said and respond as soon as possible, especially to negative comments. Negative comments have a way of snowballing if no one is available to comment. By responding quickly, dealers reduce the chance for additional negative comments.
Treat ‘em special – offers and coupons—
Rewarding customers who have found you online and who follow you on social networks, is a great way to build a positive brand reputation and encourage followers to pay attention to future posts. Provide followers with exclusive online only deals, such as a discount on an oil change or other service coupon that can drive repeat business and bring in new customers. Consider holding an online contest to engage with customers while receiving feedback on ways to improve your business. Finally, keep in mind that everyone likes to feel special. Recognize new followers or those who post something positive about your dealership/brand.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by managing multiple channels and deciding upon which ones are the most important to your business. When creating your profiles, keep in mind which channels truly enhance your brand without diluting your core message. The most important thing you can do is focus on your current social channels and invest in the value of each by generating real content and engaging with the customer.
John Gottschalk is the vice president of business development and strategy for FordDirect.0