There has been much debate with respect to Social Media and how it should be used by Canadian Automotive Dealers.  Dealerships know they must begin to engage their customers through Social Media networks (such as Facebook/Twitter/Linked In) but most are unsure of  the strategy to implement.  As a result there are companies attempting to capitalize on the hysteria and quickly add a few bucks to their bottom line.  The challenge?  The proposed solutions are often misguided and provide little return on investment.   Sending out “tweets” about what’s new with a respective manufacturer have little use from a retail perspective.  To be honest, if the customer really was interested they would already be following said manufacturer and therefore the “tweet” is redundant.  The fundamentals of Retail Social Media Marketing differ from that of a brand.  When it comes to using Social Media for retail, there are two core questions a business should ask.  They should both b  from the consumer perspective when attempting to position the offer:

1. What’s in it for me?
2.  Is it buzz worthy?

If engagement of the offer results in a net gain for the individual, it is more likely they will participate.  If the individual feels that those within their network could also benefit, its buzz worthy and it will be passed on. Here’s a quick example.  A business has 500 Facebook fans and 250 Twitter followers.  (I would consider this to be very close to the median with respect to Canadian Automotive Dealer’s.)

The dealership has decided they want to promote a sale and they want to use Social Media.   Is the sale buzz worthy?  Perhaps, but with 250 fans and nothing in it for them, the number of engagements would be limited.   That being said, let’s get back to the first questions.  What’s in it for me?  For the Fan to engage the offer, a tangible or interesting offer should be presented.  Think of this offer as your marketing “spend”.  The offer could either be an internal product our service or an external “buzz” worth product. The dealership has brainstormed the offer and a contest will be created.  The dealership has decided to “offer” a giveaway experience of a 4 tickets to the local junior hockey team and dinner at a local popular chain.   To enter the contest, the individual must fill out a form on the dealership website (email), become a “fan” of the site and recommend the offer within their network.  All entrants must attend the event in order to win the draw.  As always, a purchase is not necessary.  All elements can be tracked.  This offer should also be communicated through traditional marketing (radio, print, email) The above fundamental questions have been answered:

1.  What’s in it for me?  (To engage)
a.) The chance to win an experience (think Spa day or great night out with the family!)

2.  Is it buzz worthy?
b.)  Yes, creating an experience may cost a bit of dough but the chance to win has pull, therefore the event becomes buzz worth due to the offer.  The net result can be tracked both through Unique visitors to the website from sources such as Twitter, Facebook and email as well as attendee’s at the sale.  The results of the event can be taped, uploaded to YouTube, tweeted and blogged about.  The content can then be leveraged with your overall online marketing strategy.

Going forward, a proper Social Media strategy is an essential part of a dealerships marketing plan.  It is important that dealerships avoid the pitfalls associated with Social Media Marketing and focus on the core elements of a retail based, Social Media plan.  A promotion tied to a offer with a buzz worthy, consumer focus.