Dealers are using social media to build customer relationships and, in turn, improve the bottom line. But you have to do social media right to get the rewards.
With that in mind, here are the elements to include in a dealership social-media initiative.
Many businesses forget the basics. Make sure to list your dealership’s phone number, customer support email address, and even driving directions on your Twitter profile, Facebook page and other social-media accounts, as well as on your website.
Link between your social media channels, as well; your Facebook followers may jump at the chance to follow you on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, and may also wish to read your blog.
Give your followers links to all your social channels. If possible, include a link to Google Maps that shows your location. Make it as easy as possible for customers to find and contact you.
Highlight hours of operation. You don’t want shoppers to drive across town – or farther – only to discover you are closed.
Use your public channels to handle some (or even all) customer-service engagement. Many dealerships are leery of dealing with problems or complaints publicly, but if handled properly, what begins as a negative can ultimately turn into a win for you and your company.
For instance, when an unsatisfied customer inevitably reaches out to you on social media with a complaint, respond quickly, show concern, address the problem and try to come up with a solution that mutually works.
If you show genuine goodwill, the customer should end up at least partially mollified. Others will see you tried your best.
Vehicle Photos and Videos
Include inventory images on Facebook and Twitter. Entice shoppers with quality photos that show your stock to its best advantage.
To do that, make sure photographed vehicles are clean and polished. Use good photo equipment, not cellphone cameras. Schedule morning or late afternoon shoots to gives photos a warmth, not a high-noon glare.
Clear off any accumulated snow or ice. Dry and polish exteriors before taking photos.
Try to include shots of the vehicle’s interior, as well. This might be hard if you are including hundreds of images of different vehicles, but buyers like to see what the interior looks like, especially with pre-owned vehicles.
Do not Photoshop out dings, dents or fabric stains. This can backfire and hurt the dealership’s reputation.
Adding videos to social-media pages can provide more engagement and product detail than photos can alone.
While professional photos are important, video need not be of such high quality. Video shot with a smartphone have a local and authentic feel and are affordable to produce. They let you to shoot lots of them affordably. Shoot where background noise is minimal. Caption and tag your videos when uploading.
Social-media campaigns always should include current promotions and incentives.
Mention it everywhere if you are offering low-interest financing, a price rollback or a deep discount on certain vehicles for a limited time. Social media is an ideal spot for that.
Your followers do not want to be bombarded with constant requests to “buy from us!” However, notifying them of specials is a way to interest them without the hard sales pitch. Simply let them know of opportunities to save money or get a terrific bargain, and leave it at that.
Citing research, Peter Martin at ServiceDriveToday.com, says, “Eighty-three percent of consumers say they search online for vehicle service and repair information, before taking their car in for service.”
So put coupons on social media. But don’t make the mistake of simply uploading website coupons, or worse yet, scanning and uploading print material.
Create any service special or coupon specifically for the medium on which you intend to post it.
An FAQ page gives potential customers the information they want without requiring you to staff phones and answer questions directly.
However, another important aspect of your social strategy should be to have responses ready for other, more complicated questions your audience may have that you don’t have room to answer on the FAQ page.
These types of responses could include comparisons of two or more popular car models, a video showing how different vehicles handle in the snow or a list of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on your lot.
If you create or curate videos, articles or white papers that provide such information, you have a ready response and a link to share when a follower tags you with a question on Twitter or posts an inquiry on your Facebook page.
Your preparedness not only will impress that person, but many others who also see it.
For an account of a car salesperson who’s doing social right, check out tips from Laura Madison, a dealership saleswoman in Bozeman, MT. Her approach offers valuable ideas such as using YouTube and not treating social media as a platform for commercials.
Many dealerships treat their social platforms as purely reactive tools, yet the possibilities for proactive customer outreach are boundless. But don’t confuse broadcasting your message with outreach. Outreach means initiating conversations with prospects or others on networks where that is permissible.
Social-media marketing expert Aseem Badshah says that before social networks, there were three go-to options for outreach: Cold-calling high value prospects, door-to-door sales and networking and brand ambassadors starting conversations at events.
“However, with all these options, you’re not engaging in a conversation your customer is already involved and interested in,” he says. “You’re not able to see what they’ve been talking about in real-time or able to get a comprehensive profile about what they do.”
Social media lets you engage in customer outreach in a way like never before, he explains. For more of his ideas and tips on reaching out to customers today, click here.
You can learn a great deal about your customer before you even begin interacting.
When you do interact, you can do so in many ways, such as Facebook likes, personal messaging, retweeting on Twitter, connecting on LinkedIn and commenting on blog posts. These interactions make you appear like a person, not a company.
“These are all targeted, one-on-one interactions that are distinctive to social media,” Badshah says, adding that it leads to higher conversion rates and “beats going around and knocking on doors.”
Ayrald Hubert is a senior analyst at Clutch, an IT research firm that works with mobile app developers, web design agencies, web development firms and social-media marketing agencies. He holds a degree from Georgetown University.