At the time, I felt that dealers and manufacturers alike had everything to lose by not having a formulated social strategy. The low-cost, high-reach platforms seemed to me to offer everything traditional media did not.
Specific customer targeting, PR benefits and CRM through a continual human-managed presence made me an evangelist. Twitter had even paved the way for me to be involved with Car Dealer in the first place.
In 2015, I have somewhat lost my faith.
Social media in 2011 was just that, social. Follow Friday on Twitter introduced me to a load of lovely people I would have otherwise never met. My Facebook was full of old school friends not spoken to for years. However, Twitter trolls and malicious Facebook groups have almost created a kind of anti-social media and businesses are all too aware of this.
Social media today is for the narcissist. Look what I am doing, listen to what I say. And in most cases, the reader or listener is judging the content by asking, ‘what does this mean to me?’ I am bored of Twitter feeds populated by dealers tweeting out pictures of happy customers. Who cares, apart from that customer and that dealer? I think the social media audience is too cynical to imagine this is every experience. Or is it me?
Look through the Twitter feed of Car Dealer social media award winner Perrys Motor Group and you will find a mix of polite customer interactions, retweeted content from motoring media and some fairly bland tweets about nothing in particular. All guaranteed not to offend or effect some PR backlash and I totally get it.
There are exceptions to the rule. Check out the Lings Cars Twitter feed and you will find Ling interacting with customers and quoting negative tweets about her zany website. I totally get this approach too. What better way to create social media noise than scream as loud as you can?
The point is, whatever method you employ, it simply does not make a difference in our industry. Good product delivered by good customer service will see you through this social media age, as it did the television age and print media age before that.
Marketing and digital consultant Kate Hamer’s response…
Don’t give up on social media just yet James! There are loads of ways that you can still use it for your business. The key is to shift your thinking in terms of how you use it.
I can absolutely see your point if you are thinking about creating a calendar of content for your followers, but the fact is that social is not about followers anymore. For a start the algorithms used by the platforms, especially Facebook, mean that only a single digit percentage of your followers will see any organic posts that you put up.
And then of course there is the argument that, in your industry, people are only going to be looking for a car at a particular time and so why would they want to follow your business post purchase? No, these days you need to focus on reach and engagement and both of these rely on posting relevant, useful or entertaining content.
You need to be on Facebook and Twitter so that you can be found by potential customers, just like you need a website, but then you can use your pages as a repository for great content to be discovered and you can use advertising to amplify them to the right target audience. The detailed level to which you can target your ads (location, gender, interests), especially on Facebook, means that there is far less wasteage of spend than there is when you advertise with display banners or in the local paper even.
So what is great content? With every post that you write, ask yourself if you would share it. Think about the content topics you can legitimately talk about, they don’t all need to be about the latest car you have on the forecourt. What about driving events? Get involved in the hashtags for F1 on a Sunday for example. Day trips and the best routes to get places, keeping kids entertained on a car journey, how to wash your car and not get streaks, life hacks for keeping your windscreen washer topped up etc etc.
There is a whole range of things you can talk about with authority as a car dealer and it doesn’t matter if the people who see those posts follow you or not. The key thing is that you have made them aware of your brand in a positive way, so that they may well remember you when the time comes to look for a car. Then, as you say James, it’s down to the great customer service that you offer in your branch.