BACK in 1999 I was a user/chooser company car driver, and I was ready for a new car.
My choice was quite wide, and with prestige manufacturers. In today’s terms, I was spending just over £30k of somebody else’s money.
One particular dealer let me down very badly. After waiting close to an hour to meet the brand specialist, and despite a pre-booked appointment, it turned out that the dealer principal’s wife had taken the car in question home and so I wasn’t even able to look at it, let alone drive it.
There followed a complete farce while I tried to ascertain a final price with the options I wanted, and to add insult to injury, I couldn’t have a brochure as they’d run out. They couldn’t give me a clue about likely deliver time as the computer was down.
But that’s not the point of the story. What happened afterwards is.
You see, I told everyone I knew over the next few days all about it. I told them not to consider the brand, and I told them they shouldn’t even think about doing business with the dealer. At a guess, I’d say mentioned it to around 40 people before my temper had cooled sufficiently for me to move on. Let’s be generous and say they each mentioned it to three others.
That was the extent of my power as a consumer in 1999. I was able to get a message out to something over 100 people.
So what could happen now?
I could instantly send a message out on Twitter, to over 10,000 people who follow me. I could put a message on Facebook – there’s another thousand. I could write about it on my blogs – over 5,000 people a day read those. I could video the experience for YouTube, and if I was really clever, it could go viral and millions would see it!
The point is, my power as a consumer has been magnified hugely by social media. It’s not just the 30,000 people I can talk to directly either. Thanks to search, everything above is instantly indexed by Google and stays online forever. People could be finding my stories in 20 years simply by searching for the name of the dealer.
People are talking about your brand and your business on social media right now.
The first step in getting some benefit for your business from social media is to start listening to the conversation. And here’s where search is your friend. You can set up systems that will continually search Twitter, Facebook and the web generally, looking for keywords you predetermine.
The obvious one is the name of your business. Couple that with the brand you represent, and a few key terms about your area, and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll see being said.
Yes, you’ll find the problems, but at least you can act on them and begin to deal with them. You’ll also find plenty of opportunities to do business. People asking for advice on cars, people looking for specific used cars, some looking for parts or for good service recommendations.
Which brings me on to the next step:
Connect with people
You can’t just dive in to social media every time you see an opportunity. The clever businesses are investing time in social media, reaching out to people with help, general advice and being seen as the experts in their fields.
If you see someone who needs advice about moving to your area, jump in and help them! They’ll realise you’re representing a dealership from your profile, and they will remember you when they need a new car or to have their own serviced.
Social media gives you the opportunity to connect with potential clients way ahead of the normal point of contact – months, or even years before they need you. Stay in touch, and stay friendly and you’re much more likely than your competitors to get the sale when it’s due.
Are you listening?
by Mike Cliffe-Jones
Mike Cliffe-Jones worked for Toyota GB, Ford Motor Co and Volkswagen UK in sales and marketing before emigrating to Lanzarote 10 years ago. He now runs Camel Media Group, a company specialising in offering advice about social media to businesses throughout Europe. He is also the author of ‘Beyond Blogging.’