so-cial (soh-shuhl)

Seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; interacting with others

net-work (net-wurk)

An association of individuals having shared, common interests, formed to provide mutual assistance, exchange information and share resources.

As you can see from the Websters definitions I included above, social networks bring together communities of people that share common interests. The purpose of your dealership utilizing social media is to build relationships with customers and prospects through communication exchange. Successfully done, the end result will drive more traffic, increase your sales, build a strong brand image and generate a community for your dealership. So, if it is human nature to want to interact with people, doesn’t facilitating that process just make plain good business sense?

Social media is an invaluable marketing tool for your dealership, however, it is not a static tool such as an advertisement. This tool requires regular participation. Now stop your grumbling, this isn’t a difficult task! Fill these social spaces with creative, compelling content, interesting images and informative links – and quickly respond to any posts. You must have patience and perseverance while building a social media presence, it doesn’t happen over night. It takes time to foster meaningful and rewarding relationships and turn casual participants into loyal followers and friends. Remember, like the turtle, slow and steady wins the race!

Thanks to the Internet, we have been given tremendous efficiency, however, this gift has come at a cost. Sadly, the cost is the loss of the human connection. Being a consumer myself, I know that customers want to be dealt with on a personal level. We want to feel that we are special and that we are valued and appreciated by your company. Fortunately, social networks have brought back interpersonal communication, regaining that much needed human connection without losing any of our prized efficiency.

We have all heard the phrase, “the customer is always right”, and it applies in social media too. Relationships are the fuel that drive social media, relationships with those customers that are always right! Engage this audience in honest discussion and then listen to them. Learn from their posts to develop a clearer understanding of what they are interested in, what makes them happy, what is relevant to them, what motivates them to gravitate towards particular products and services. You must not only engage your audience, but actively listen to them to earn trust, achieve credibility and grow a community.

If engagement is the foundation for building relationships, then involvement is the key that opens the door. Get your audience involved! Request that people post a story about their first automobile, their first traffic ticket or their thoughts on cell phone use and texting while driving. Run a contest with questions about “famous cars” from TV or the movies, solicit donations for a community cause, or ask for submission of an online video showcasing the importance of hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles. You get the idea! Get people involved with your dealership events, causes and products through social media, make them feel like they are a part of something “real”.

Keep in mind, as important as it is to talk about your dealership, it is even more important for others to talk about your dealership. I ask you, would you be more inclined to purchase a product based on an advertisement, or based on a recommendation from a friend or acquaintance? Consumers trust referrals from other consumers, so make certain that your sales, service, parts and finance departments are encouraging happy customers to become your friend on facebook. Suggest that they post something about their recent car buying experience, how quickly their vehicle was serviced or a picture of their shiny new car. As a very satisfied car buyer myself, I recently posted something on my Ford dealership’s facebook page about taking a family vacation in my wonderful F-150!

It really isn’t that difficult to cultivate a social online presence, is it? If you haven’t figured it out yet, refer to the definitions at the top of this blog and you will see that you will be communicating with your community and your peers and sharing your common interests with them – I have a feeling that you might enjoy the process!