Social media has evolved quicker than we ever imagined. Your business depends on your understanding of its impact. It is where consumers share information first, including how they feel about brands and products. Automotive dealers, on the other hand, typically measure CSI by relying heavily on surveys, which is unlikely to change anytime soon. They must be cautious, however, not to upset customers with too many surveys. Consider then that long before a survey reaches a customer, he or she likely has communicated an opinion through social media. When used effectively, social media is an efficient tool for dealers to measure customer sentiment while also marketing with a personal touch.
Think about social media as the giant window of your business. It’s about branding and creating a human connection with consumers who may not otherwise have a way of learning about and identifying with your brand. Automotive consumers want to know the culture of the dealership with which they will do business. Think about it like this: All things being equal (or near equal) with regard to price, inventory, and location, would you choose the dealership with a large social media presence showcasing worthwhile content and interaction? Or, would you choose one that is socially invisible?
Consumers respond positively to dealerships that provide visibility into their consumer experiences. In a 2014 study, 23 percent of car buyers said they used social media to discuss or communicate a recent car purchase and 38 percent of consumers said they will consult social media the next time they purchase a car. If you are not a relevant part of the social media landscape in your market, you are late to the party and missing out on important conversations that could help you strategize effectively to drive traffic and increase CSI.
FACEBOOK, THE MEGALITH, HAS SURPASSED 1.65 BILLION USERS
Facebook was predicted to have one billion users by 2012. That prediction came true and growth has remained steady. So what has changed? According to Social Media Strategist Kirk Stanovich, competition is the main differentiator between 2012 and today. “With over 50 million businesses now using Facebook and new marketing tools within the platform being developed on a regular basis, chances are likely that competing dealers within a PMA and in neighboring PMAs are targeting the same consumers,” said Stanovich. He added, “It’s more important than ever to be personal, relevant, and engaging. It’s also crucial to take advantage of targeting tools with paid advertising on Facebook because it’s not enough anymore to just cross your fingers and hope the algorithm gods get you on the right news feeds.”
To properly use this medium, Matthew Funk, social media expert with TK Carsites, says, “People develop positive feelings with a person, not a page.” Your challenge is to market without attempting to sell or not appear to be selling. “Companies that spend their time focusing on gathering Facebook likes are completely missing the mark,” says Brandon Piersant, Director of Marketing at DealerSocket. “Social media is a place to get to know your customers, not to directly sell to them.” Funk recommends marketers “Write about their local community and events, and try to post items of interest that go beyond their business. A viral video doesn’t make you think, ‘I want to buy a car from the dealership,’; it keeps you in the news feed and reinforces the name.”
SHARE THE LOVE
Facebook is still the largest social media platform, but it’s not the most popular amongst all demographics. It’s becoming increasingly important to diversify your social media efforts as networks such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter continue to grow at a rapid pace, while Facebook growth has begun to plateau.
A few things to consider: millennials are beginning to leave Facebook and turn to Instagram. Could Instagram be a better place to share your brand’s story with this important demographic of car buyers? There are about 400,000 automotive-related tweets sent out every day, many of them related to shopping or buying. Have you considered keyword targeting to reach those in your market with the intent to buy?
SOCIAL MEDIA, CONSUMER SURVEYS, AND CUSTOMER SATISFACTION INDEX (CSI)
Can you keep a secret? Auto dealers want customer feedback to help calculate CSI scores. They want it bad. More than that, OEMs demand it.
The problem is that the majority of consumers do not understand how important the OEM CSI survey is. As a result, many fail to answer it or don’t take it seriously. Even with most dealerships having a step in their delivery process requiring staff to describe the survey process and its importance to the customer, many struggle to obtain the information necessary to ensure accurate, timely, and positive responses to the surveys.
How accurate are CSI scores anyway? Let’s be honest, dealership staff can game the system and customers can leverage the survey to negotiate a better deal. It happens every day. OEM surveys are not going away any time soon, but to be effective, they must be used in a more targeted manner. Maybe it’s time for incentive structures to rely less on survey scores.
It’s time to turn to social media for data. Today’s consumers are more empowered than ever to have their voices heard. Research shows that nearly half of all U.S. consumers use social media to ask questions to, complain about, or praise a company with which they have done business. Dealers need to be equipped to monitor and adequately respond to negative comments and reviews while building a strategy to harness the power of positive ones. Encourage your satisfied customers to share their great experiences across their social media networks, interact when appropriate, and always maintain a consistent strategy. Automotive dealers must be innovative as technology progresses and consumer media consumption rapidly evolves. Speak to your customers where they are already having conversations.