Why car dealers need to embrace Social Media

I recently posted an article – 10 ways for dealers to make the most of Google+. Since posting that article, I have noticed that dealers in the UK are falling way behind our American cousins in how they market their business using social media.

In the UK, and certainly in the motoring industry, Google is still king. Google SERPS and Google AdWords probably provide around 95% of traffic and enquiries to dealers websites. That’s driven by what our audience do and in the UK people ‘Google’ what they want.

The reason that dealers in the US must make the most of social media comes down to two major issues that don’t affect the UK motoring industry yet – localised listings and reviews.

Most UK dealers and groups with active social media platforms tend to only publicise news and their stock and consider this enough. There is little interaction (this is how you build your social followers), and there is a huge reliance on employees, staff and third parties to ‘spread the word’ for them.

In short, even dealers and groups with thousands of followers don’t actually have much reach (people talking about them). They send a few tweets and post a few cars on Facebook, but they don’t engage with the audience, and so don’t have lots of people talking about what a great dealership they are!

What we miss (and what will change over the next 12-24 months), is the fact that where social media really comes into it’s own is when people are talking about you.

So if we go back to reviews – this is huge in America – it’s important to interact with users that have both positive and negative reviews. Let’s face it, however well a site ranks on Google, if your best friend had a bad experience in a shop and they tell you, you are not going to buy something from that shop. However, if your friend had a bad experience at that shop and they rectified it (and made sure they learned from what happened) then you would be more likely to buy from them and encourage your friends to.

Willis Honda - a fine example of a dealer using all aspects of social media to reach and engage with customers Willis Honda – a fine example of a dealer using all aspects of social media to reach and engage with customers

This sums up how social localisation works – networks of friends (and friends of friends) will rely on the experience of their peers. Google is moving more and more towards a localised model in the UK – displaying local results within a set of national results. For example, if you search for ‘used cars’ in Google, it will display a selection of dealers that are closest to that user, and within that set of results they display reviews (see the match).

Now it is widely agreed that current Google results are not exactly the best they can be. To put it mildly, they still favour some very spammy sites they haven’t yet removed and big, well known sites, which leaves little room on the valuable first page open for local competition. This forces users to start looking towards social media to see what their friends recommend locally.

Localisation via Google isn’t working well in lots of areas in America, and Facebook is actually providing some smaller dealers with better quality traffic than Google. Being able to see what our friends like and ask them personally about their experience is a much more trustworthy source. Think of it like when you need a plumber at home. Do you ring the first number you see in the Yellow Pages or on a Google search? 9 people out of 10 ask their friends if they can recommend someone.

Social media is the quickest way to do this. A quick fire tweet or Facebook message will be answered in minutes, and you trust the information you receive. And that’s why dealers need to make the most of their social media profile. Because in reality, if you don’t provide a good service then you are already on your way out of business. If you provide a good service then make sure you are the site that people are recommending. If someone has a bad experience then make sure you take on board what is said and do your best to rectify this mistake.

This Mumsnet post – http://tinyurl.com/cpfyxq8– is a perfect example of how social media can spread recommendations and complaints from customers. Posted just two days ago, it has already received considerable attention and thousands of views. You will be reading this in the national newspapers tomorrow. Lots and lots of people will be boycotting Asda based on this post and someone will probably lose their job over it. This is social pressure, nothing to do with Google results. The hashtag #asdaruinedmyday on Twitter will show you how many people are talking about the subject. A simple post about bad customer service being shared, tweeted and retweeted, has led to tens of thousands of people reading it – this is the power of social media.

So what can car dealers take from this? Make the most of your social profile. Make sure users know about your Facebook page, Twitter account, Google+ profile and the like. Search for what people are saying about you and engage with them. Don’t just post pictures of cars for sale. Encourage people to say positive things about you on Twitter and to like your Facebook page. Learn from what’s being said – always remember that you want it to be YOU that people recommend to their peers.


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