It seems that many dealers still don’t fully ‘get’ this social media thing and, perhaps more importantly, how it could benefit their business. Interestingly most car businesses today will be on Facebook and Twitter and will update their sites with classified ads, promotions and special offers but ask them to commit resource to actually using the mechanics of social media to really engage with their existing and potential customers and there is usually complete radio silence.
It isn’t necessarily that heads of business don’t embrace the concept, and perhaps can even see the long term benefits, it’s just that in car dealerships up and down the country in these difficult trading conditions, they have their work cut out just trying to keep hold of what they have without trying to “interact” with their customers via the internet and even then not necessarily sell them anything.
Having a social media “strategy” is not a magic bullet and certainly not a “quick fix” and does, like other more traditional forms of prospecting, require long term thinking and a look at the bigger picture.
Many dealers we have spoken to, without exception, proudly claim to have their business “on” Twitter and Facebook however ask them to explain how having this presence benefits them and their business and they are at a loss to elucidate. In other words they are using social media because they have been told they need to and many really do still see social media as something teenage girls use to talk about makeup, boys and bands. Because most dealers don’t really understand it, they can’t see the benefits and they do not embrace it.
One dealer we spoke to confesses that his “experiment” in trying to engage with his customers in this way ended in, what he called, disaster. Customers who he thought were perfectly happy with the experience at his showroom, used Facebook to complain about the deal they had been offered. Rather than see this as an excellent opportunity he believes that it empowers people to hide behind their keyboards and prevents communicating with them in the traditional way of just picking up the phone. Of course a phone call is just between two people whereas making your displeasure known on Facebook is a form of broadcasting which magnifies everything, good or bad.
There is a reason big companies pay vast sums of money to companies like Viralheat to monitor the World Wide Web for any and all mentions of their brand. There are also plenty of businesses dedicated to setting up and running social media “campaigns” for many different sectors. In the automotive sector companies like GForces offer a one-stop shop for car dealerships internet “presence”. These companies still require a committed team in place within the dealership to make the whole enterprise work. In the same way as stock not being updated on a showrooms website on a timely basis a neglected Facebook, Twitter page or blog can be very bad for business.
However many sales managers we spoke to said that they were tired of the sheer volume of e-mails they receive on a daily basis and were suspicious of people who justify their actions by saying “didn’t you know? I sent you an email” even though sometimes it really is quicker and easier to just pick up the phone.
Until dealers see the real benefits in having a social media champion within their business whose actual role is to maintain the presence and communicate the messages it is hard to imagine the social media phenomenon truly “happening” in car showrooms.
Nevertheless with a whole new generation of buyers who use social media in most aspects of their lives, it’s probably best they get cracking now.