The automotive industry is not only a key sector for our business but also a personal passion of mine. Over the last six months, I have seen a few changes and many developments on how dealer groups use social media to engage with their customers and community. Here are some of these gathered insights and some personal predictions on how 2012 will turn out for automotive dealerships.
Back in early 2011, when I first started speaking to automotive dealers, I discovered that most of them had just one main Facebook page and/or one Twitter account for the entire dealer group. As a consumer myself, this approach struck me as fairly useless for both dealerships and clients. Why would you want to be a fan or follower of the main dealer group, when the local dealer is where you actually buy the car, get services done, go for MOT’s or repairs?
Months later, getting back to the same dealers, it became clear that some dealer principles and staff were catching on fast on their customers’ social media needs; they were setting up local pages for the individual dealer and engaging at will on any topic with their core local customers. These local dealer pages were getting a lot more fans than the main dealer group pages.
Instead of dealer groups managing this and rolling it out in a controlled way, they now had accounts set up representing their brand that they had no control over or even access to. If an employee was to leave or move on, they were in danger of losing that connection and ability to engage with their own customers. This has been the case for various other businesses, ensuing in tedious lawsuits and countless headaches.
This is where the industry started getting exciting for us at CrowdControlHQ. Using our tool dealer groups can be in control. They can claim their social media assets whilst still allowing staff and dealer principles to have access and engage on a daily basis.
One thing which I didn't see coming but turned out to be a nice surprise towards the end of 2011 was how some dealer groups started promoting their individual brands on Twitter. Twitter is great for identifying sales opportunities by searching and listening to who is talking about a brand in your area, then engaging them and driving footfall to the local dealer or sign posting them to the website.
Finally, a last evolution still in its early days is the emergence of automotive manufacturers taking control of their social media pages at a local dealer level. Few far-sighted groups started using guidelines and policies for their local dealers to adhere to on how to deal with complaints or brand / model questions on social media in the most effective way. Some dealer groups are rolling out their social media strategy even further. They are organising and developing social media accounts for each brand and the local dealership level.
This will change the game in 2012, as it will allow car manufacturers to have a top level overview and make sure that dealers are doing their brand justice and enable them to push out messages and national campaigns from the central teams. In the same time, through this social media strategy, car dealerships will be offering customers targeted local campaigns and customer service, which will have a direct effect on the bottom-line sales.
As a follow-up to this article, we will shortly publish a review on how the top ten automotive dealerships in the UK are handling their social media.
Adam Desmond, @CCHQauto