By Todd Smith, Lear LLC

Most dealerships use a CRM application in one form or another (some better than others). Everyone is trying to track their prospects and customers a little more closely because honestly, there are currently fewer of them. I think most dealerships are now looking into their DMS to mine previous shoppers in hopes of future business. This is a good thing, and I can say without a doubt that the last 14 months have been the most gut wrenching I have experienced in the last 18 years in the automotive industry. But I know that the dealerships that are left standing will be stronger, smarter and more equipped to deal with a marketplace that hasn’t yet been fully defined.

Today, I want to focus on an emerging marketplace that I believe dealerships can leverage to gain a stronger local consumer influence, and secure their future in the automotive franchise business. The marketplace that I am referring to is social media. This dynamic and fluid channel is where over 250 million people are on Facebook alone, gathering and sharing ideas, pictures, likes and dislikes. Then there is Twitter, the fastest growing social media platform on the planet. While I want to focus on these two platforms, remember the universe is large – and so is the social media landscape.

So the question becomes: How do a dealers harness the power of these platforms to create a social CRM program and build their own online community? Here are the steps I think are necessary to be successful on the social wide web. First, here are some dos and don’ts.

Dos

  • Do establish a presence on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Do create and maintain your own dealership blog.
  • Do join other people’s conversations by adding input and ideas. This takes time but is well worth it.
  • Do join groups and become fans of things you like on Facebook.
  • Do read Twitter posts and join in on the conversations if you have something of value to say.
  • Do review Facebook friends’ profiles, looking to establish connections. Invite people to be friends when you share common interests like a group or fan page.
  • Do build trust and rapport by getting to know your Facebook friends.
  • Do ask all your prospect and customers to connect with you online socially to share information.

Don’ts

  • Don’t tweet that you had eggs for breakfast and have a Kia for sale for $9,995 today only. People don’t want disruptive marketing messages. They want a conversation.
  • Don’t try to sell. Instead, become an expert that people will use as a resource when they have questions.
  • Don’t Facebook friend request everyone in sight. Go slow and through time develop a network of people that you have rapport with.
  • Don’t take your dealership social unless you are committed to a long-term, roll-up-your-sleeves-type relationship.
  • Don’t think you will begin selling vehicles overnight. It might be months; it might be never.
  • Don’t use social media as a marketing platform. Instead think of it as an open line of communication with your entire prospect and customer database. Respect it or lose it.
  • Don’t set up Facebook and Twitter thinking networks build themselves. You are better off not to have an account if you don’t use it actively.

Believe it or not, a lot of what you will have to do with social media is similar to successfully managing your dealership’s prospect and customer database in your CRM. Except, social media is much more transparent and it moves quickly. The good part is that staying connected and engaged can help you grow an active database of people, much larger than a typical CRM, with just as much power– if not more. This new frontier of social media can be one of the most profitable investments you make in your business over the next couple of years. The best part is that it doesn’t require the marketing budgets we are use to in the automotive industry. It takes time, persistence and a desire to connect, but not much money.

Are you ready, or you are still dipping your toe in the pool? We are at the precipice of the greatest customer land grab in history. This is the time to put your stake in the ground and claim your spot for your dealership’s future.

This article reprinted with permission from Todd Smith.