At the recent NADA expo in Las Vegas, I spoke to many dealers who are being bombarded with products to help them engage consumers using Social Media. Many of these dealers are staying on the sidelines, since the additional tasks and process required seems overwhelming. In Joe Webb’s famous video (“The (De?)Evolution of the Internet Sales Manager”), he perfectly portrayed how the automotive Internet Sales Manager’s job responsibility has grown to be more than one can handle on their own. Over a year has passed since Joe produced this video, and the situation has only become more challenging
Today, dealers not only need join the conversations on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, they also need to manage their online reputations, while also considering new emerging sites such as Pinterest. I think the first steps for the dealer is to decide not only what social sites they will initially focus on, but more importantly whether they will do the work themselves or outsource the job. How do you decide which course of action is right for your store?
Perhaps you are just getting started, you have been sitting on the sidelines for a few years, and finally decided you need to jump in. Your most critical question will be, is there someone at the dealership that has the knowledge and capability, and more importantly that you can trust, to post on behalf of your store? I spent many years helping dealerships outsource the work of capturing digital photos of their used and new cars. For many dealers, they didn’t want to be bothered with this work, but honestly it is not overly technical. Now compare that to hourly monitoring of your online reputation, daily posts on Twitter, Facebook, etc. My suspicion is that at least 50% of dealers who commit to Social Media, will decide they want to outsource it.
If you’ve not yet put Social Media to work for your store, you may be best served to start with outsourcing the work. An outsourced firm can help you determine an overall strategy, set initial and longer term goals, the proper benchmarks, and develop an overall plan for success. Once you’ve gotten this infrastructure in place, you could continue using your outsourced firm, or go it alone with some internal resources.
For many folks, they have already experimented a bit with addressing social sites on their own. They may have assigned one of their more technical salespeople the job of maintaining their Facebook account, yet not been happy with the type of postings this person did on behalf of the dealership. I’ve spoken to some dealers who were so outraged by their posts that they fired the salesperson and shut down their Facebook site. Not good. After all, your online social voice needs to truly be the voice of the dealership, expressing the culture and values the dealer/owner holds true. If you’ve been disappointed with your initial results in Social Media, this could be an ideal time to start outsourcing this duty. This can help you learn from the pros, why your initial efforts didn’t pay off, and learn some proven best practices.
Perhaps you’ve recently hired someone to be your social guru. Do you know if they have had the training and mentoring to be successful, or did you hire them because they could throw out the right technical acronyms, knew more than you did, so therefore they were a good fit for the job? Ideally, you want someone who has done this before in a prior role, and has a track record of success that you have verified with a reference. If you’ve recently hired someone without this critical experience, this could also be a good time to outsource to a third party, if only for a short period of time, to help set your internal resource on the right course to make sure your audience is hearing the appropriate messaging. Your internal resource could work hand-in-hand with your outsourced firm, to get a strategy in place, and start executing. Once you get the needed momentum, you could always cancel the outsourcing option, and simply let the internal resources take over.
Regardless of whether you outsource or not, there is much debate on whether dealers should rely on automated Tweets or Facebook posts? The argument for this is that many dealers are looking for content production and distribution systems to automate the basic process of producing a tweet or a post. There is clear evidence that some automation of messaging can produce consistent, although less engaging content for your fans or followers. The side arguing against automation of tweets and posts recommend that no level of automation should exist. They note social engagement as the key measure to success, and say that custom, local, recent, consistent messaging represent higher quality engagement.
Whatever path you choose, I urge you to do something. You can’t sit forever on the sidelines, since your competitor is likely planning and executing as you read this article. Social Media is not going away, it is only getting bigger. Reputation Management alone, if left unattended, can destroy your goodwill and reputation, and lead to future business losses. The best way to get started is to begin educating yourself, talking to some vendors, and learn more about this blossoming new media. As you become more educated and aware, you can decide which pieces make sense for you to do yourself, and which ones you prefer to outsource. Either way, feel free to use me as a resource, send me your questions and comments, I’m glad to help!