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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Four Big Social Media ROI Mistakes Dealers Should Avoid

Any automotive marketer that has dipped a toe in the social media waters in the past few years has heard the word "engagement" a million times -- and for good reason. Engagement is a key element in driving word-of-mouth and what becomes a car dealer's reputation. However, engagement and reputation building via word-of-mouth are really only important to a dealership when they are leveraged to enhance the ultimate goal of driving more sales and service business.

The problem for many car dealers is that most social engagement strategies they implement are not directly connected to measurably increasing sales and service business. Automotive marketers should Factor in the results of Forrester's recent State of Online Retail study (SORO), which shows that 62% of retailers say ROI from their social-marketing strategies is still unclear.  Does that fact that well over half of all dealers operate blind in the social media space make it any more acceptable?

As car dealers and automotive marketers look beyond engagement to get something more measurable, or what many dealers call 'hard ROI' from their social media marketing investments in 2012 and beyond, here are the most common mistakes for them to avoid.

Excessive Reliance on Facebook Fan Pages to Drive Sales and Service Business. 
In the race to get social, automotive marketers have invested a lot of money and time into Facebook Fan Pages, using a Fan Acquisition Strategy to build a large fan base so they can "activate" them with daily, weekly and monthly posts and promotions. These efforts are inherently not very social, but just a form of old fashioned dealer-to-consumer "push marketing."

The socially empowered automotive consumer is now expecting and demanding input and advice from their peers, not from manufacturers or car dealers. So it should be no surprise that traffic from Facebook Fan page marketing is not driving sales... Even for car dealers with THOUSANDS of Fans!

Recommendation: Capitalize on other dealer owned media and your existing dealership eCommerce investments by engaging the thousands of visitors to your Web site with social features that cause consumer-to-consumer sharing. Unlike posts to fan pages, 100% of friends' messages get into their friends' newsfeeds. They cause click-backs to your dealership's eCommerce site, where you are best equipped to convert them into sales and service business.  

Beware of Relying on the Like Button to Drive Sharing.  
Early attempts to drive consumer-to-consumer sharing on dealership eCommerce sites have centered on Facebook Like or Share buttons. The click-through rates on both have been extremely low, as there is no clear reason or benefit for automotive consumers to "Like" a dealership's products or services while navigating the that dealer's eCommerce site.

Recommendation:  Provide engaging social experiences tailored to your target automotive consumers that present compelling reasons for them to share with their friends. Prioritize solutions that leverage user site interaction data as well as full social graph data about the user and their friends on Facebook.  

Car Dealers that are Waiting for a Well-Formulated Social Road Map Before they are Willing to Get Started.  
This is the type of strategic blunder that may cause some dealers to lose a big chink of their market share. While the potential sales and service revenue that on-site social applications can generate is huge, waiting to create the ideal social road map may actually reduce your dealership's chance of success. The social web is still a nascent space, and it's hard to predict what will work best with your dealership's customers and within your franchise's categories. And while you are losing valuable time discussing, planning, getting feedback, listening to vendor presentations and building consensus across the dealership or auto group, your competitors may dive in and start getting real customer feedback, such as reviews and ratings to know what really works.  

Recommendation:  If you don't already have Facebook-trained digital marketing managers on staff, you may need to partner with an automotive social media marketing vendor that is a Facebook Preferred Development Consultant (PDC). Regardless of your plan, picking the right partner can give you those necessary skills, and allow your dealership to easily try, test and improve upon different social experiences across your dealership's blogs, User Generated Content accounts, profiles and your eCommerce dealership website.  

Stop Looking for the "Silver Bullet" in Automotive Social Media Marketing!  
Social Marketing technologies are evolving at warp speed, as is automotive consumer social behavior. Forrester's recent SORO study shows there is no proven solution in social marketing, although efforts to integrate social features into dealership owned sites and their primary eCommerce sites have been proven to work the best for growing sales.

Recommendation:  Look for social media solutions that provide a wide range of portable on-site social experiences -- explicitly aimed at increasing the metrics that matter most: referral traffic and site-wide conversions. Automotive Social Media Advertising Solutions with built-in A-B testing capabilities ensure the greatest opportunity to know what works and doesn't work for generating dealership sales and service business opportunities, allowing you to optimize for the greatest user participation and overall lift in sales and service business. 

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