What are the Next Steps for Automakers and Social Media?

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Editor’s note: This is a guest piece by By Marc Fischman, CEO of Hyperactivate, a digital marketing company that specializes in social media.

The views and opinions expressed here by Marc Fischman do not not necessarily reflect that of the CarNewsCafe.com editorial team, it’s contributors, partners, or advertisers.  We have posted this article as it benefits our readers to see a wide range of thoughts about automotive marketing and social media efforts by automakers.


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The good news? Car manufacturers don’t need a sales pitch on the usefulness of social media. They’ve got that down pat. Their ubiquitous presence on the main social sites including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter combined with healthy plays in second tier outlets such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr indicate they understand the efficacy of a strong social media strategy. That’s important, now that they’re targeting a consumer base that spends some 73% of their time doing brand comparison research online – long before stepping into the local dealership showroom. Colorful product brochures, free doughnuts and even test drives have given up significant ground to YouTube videos and photo galleries on Instagram as favorite methods for learning about features.

Up to this point, it’s worked out reasonably well for the auto brands. They’ve embraced digital marketing and are successfully adapting to the changes taking place there. When, for instance, they learned half of their shoppers spend 30 minutes or more watching car-related videos, videos became the storytelling tool of choice. When shoppers went mobile, brands responded by formatting their sites for easy interactive display on smart phones… and now tablets, the latest platform of choice.

Despite this strong showing – in many ways doing better than average when compared to other retail verticals – there are several critical areas where the auto brands still fail to leverage to the fullest the very social platforms they’ve established so commendably. It comes down to the fact that they slow down or even stop their social efforts once they’ve secured that Facebook like or that mention on Twitter… failing to see that when you’ve got a customer interested in your brand is actually the best time to ramp up the social relationship and identify which of these “fans” can be used to influence additional interest and sales.

Social Media Next Steps for Auto Brands

Below is my take on the steps auto brands should be taking to better leverage their social media platforms. For me as a digital marketer, it’s all about getting past the initial attraction, forging a strong relationship and then using the information you’ve received from the process to bring about more successes.

Listen Up

Every car salesman knows that the best way to close a deal is to listen and address the needs of the customer. Social media gives auto makers the ability to this at scale. Get started by monitoring how your brand’s being talked about on the Web. When you listen, follow topics related to your brand, your competitors’ brands, and the industry as a whole. Next, engage with this online community you’ve been listening to, by answering questions and contributing useful information to discussions. Become a trusted source and opinion maker, a thought leader. By doing so, you’ll enable your brand to engage consumers in a way that demonstrates you actively contribute to the group conversation and dynamic – rather than simply shouting marketing pitches at them through social media. Third, through your listening efforts and community participation, begin to gather the information you’ll need to help move users towards a path to purchase.

Show them the Way

Publish to your social media channels strategically and with clear purpose. Your content should address the needs of your customers – using topics you identified by listening to them on message boards and other social outlets. Then, most importantly, move them to take action. Taking action means: finding a dealer, building a car based on their options, scheduling a test drive, or even something as simple as sharing additional thoughts on a topic relevant to the community. The key is to provide them clear means to react to the content you’ve provided them in your social media posts. Don’t just post an item and think you’re done. Post with purpose and provide them ways to act on that post if it has intrigued them in some manner.

Create Relationships with Your Dealers

A recent study by think tank L2 indicates that only about a third of auto brands support their dealers via their digital infrastructures. On top of that, most auto brands fail to make the customer handoff from the brand site to the local dealer either seamless or easy. The brand is creating the marketing strategy, and the dealers are your most powerful channel for spreading that message. As the automotive brand, you should be the leader of your community of dealers. Work with them. The brand should track their conversations with each dealer, start conversations with your dealers about meeting the needs of its consumers, and then be available to help address consumer needs for your dealer. Help your dealers help you, and your social media will be a powerful, system-wide, marketing channel for your brand.

Track the success of your Social Media Interactions

Once you mastered the art of listening to customers on you social channels, incorporated their concerns in the social content you post, and then integrated it all with your network of dealers, it’s time to start making sense of it all. This is the next frontier. The object is to take all the information you get from your fans/customers… the conversations, the feedback, the results… and start coming up with data that can be used to produce buyer profiles and script selling strategies moving forward, all tailored to their uniquely distinct social behaviors. It’s big data, being fed by successes (and failures) in social media outlets and the showroom floor.

Identify Your Brand Ambassadors

One of the key benefits of tracking your social media interactions is identifying resources within your social community who are equipped, and best of all, willing, to do a lot of your marketing tasks for you. In executing the first two steps: listening and contributing to the online community, you’ll be able to recognize these influencers. By supplying them with some perks… access to exclusive new information in most cases… they’ll become a mighty word of mouth advocate for your brand that will really move the needle on sales.