We recently hosted a gathering of over 30 marketing professionals from across the automotive sector to explore the current and future approach to the management of social media. Those present were surveyed to gain some key insights on the trends arising across the sector. Whilst the sample was heavily dominated by automotive dealerships, there were also some professional service support and marketing agencies present to give a greater understanding of working practices across the myriad of marketing activities undertaken. We take a look at some of the key trends arising below:
The sector is getting strategic
The first insight was that the marketing and communications team responsible for social media are really ‘upping their game’ when it comes to strategic planning. Of those surveyed, 67% had a strategic social media plan in operation, meaning that they had started to create a genuine understanding of their audience habits, content demands and influencers, alongside a detailed awareness of what competitors and collaborators in the social media sphere were doing. This indicated that confidence in managing the channel effectively was increasing and that progress was being made in applying strong communication principles to it.
Progress on Social Media Policy
Of those surveyed, 73% of organisations stated that they had a social media policy within the organisation. This means that 27% were operating without a policy, leaving themselves open to a wide range of risks from dispute over ownership of assets to how their brand is portrayed by their employees across their business and personal social media accounts.
Policies are vital to implementing enterprise social media, and according to leading UK lawyer Steve Kuncewicz, should be updated every six months. A holistic policy should be created for both corporate and personal social media use, clearly covering the business for misdemeanours across the digital space. Not only will this provide clear processes for any HR issues that may arise, but also it’s an important facet of managing brand reputation.
Interestingly, 70% reported that they felt they needed to improve on listening to customers, with a bias still towards outbound push style content. Today, social media provides a wealth of information and shapes research and development like never before, but it appears that the automotive sector has been slow to capitalise on the full power of its potential. With 76% of automotive purchasers admitting that they take at least one digital step in the purchase journey, it is also a missed sales opportunity and surprising that listening is not more widely used across the industry.
Some indicated that this trend is linked to a tight control by the ‘head office’ team, making it more problematic (in their view) for them to listen locally and engage. In fact, one dealer group shared its plans to devolve social media to a local level entirely, in the hope this would allow the business to dramatically improve the customer journey. Ensuring that a customer is listened to and engaged with in the digital landscape, before meeting the same local employee face-to-face at the dealership means the customer will feel valued throughout their purchasing journey.
Still nervousness about multi-location
With devolution starting to emerge to local teams it was interesting to note that only 39% of dealer groups have currently achieved a multi-location social media strategy, with concern over reputation risks highlighted as a leading reason for avoiding it at this stage. Early in 2015 we spoke at the AM Auto Digi Conference, where organisations were starting to prepare for devolution, with local social media strategies blended with national activity. In our experience those who have taken the plunge are benefiting from improved customer engagement, but it is essential that the safety net of a robust strategy and social media policy are in place to support.
FCA guidelines are being breached
Perhaps one of the greatest surprises from our research was that despite the heightened awareness of the risks of social media management and the need to adopt a FCA compliant approach, that 64% of the organisations admitted that their current working practices would breach FCA guidelines.
In particular, people admitted falling foul on two key areas of the FCA's social media guidelines. Firstly, the ‘two sets of eyes’ sign-off policy on content [1.24 of FG15/4], and secondly, the archiving of social media interactions outside of the native social networks [1.25 of FG15/4].
People shared that there had been considerable internal focus on how to create and what constituted ‘fair and not misleading’ content. Putting themselves in the mindset of customers from multiple demographics; ensuring all content, offers and deals sent out applied equally to each demographic, or have thorough terms and conditions attached. Whilst they didn’t believe they had conquered this completely, the audience felt that content was more of a strength than the overall management of social media.
Confidence is growing in evaluation
On discussion of success and its measurement, it was apparent that there a variety of factors considered across the industry. Quantifiable metrics, such as follower numbers, engagement and reach, which can all be measured within CrowdControlHQ were prioritised. However, there was acknowledgement that ‘quality’ of fans and engagement plays a large part in resulting new business interactions, bottom line improvement and evidencing ROI. Furthermore, the idea of customer and employee brand advocacy was viewed as key to spreading organisational values, which then leads to increased brand awareness and quality of relationship.
Senior Managers still aren’t on the page
Automotive is no different from any other sector in its constant battle to secure senior management buy-in for social media projects. The development of business cases is something we are regularly involved with, supporting operational management teams. An important element of overcoming this challenge is to highlight important functions that can harm the businesses reputation if not handled correctly and the considerable ROI to be achieved from social media across brand, marketing and customer service.
The demands of 24/7
Regular reference was made throughout the workshops to a requirement for 24/7 social media customer service, which is an issue CrowdControlHQ has met head-on with it's customer service suite. Effective social media customer service can be delivered with the appropriate workflows, key word alerts and push notifications in place.
There is no doubt that the Automotive Sector is learning fast when it comes to the delivery of social media. CrowdControlHQ is proud to be at the forefront of the delivery of many automotive businesses, supporting teams to address the demands of customer service, compliance and customer acquisition. CrowdControlHQ is the UK’s leading risk management and compliance platform built for enterprise.
Greg Freeman, Enterprise Social Media Specialist