Social Media Considerations

It has been said that cars are one of the very few personal possessions that arouses such extreme consumer passion and fanaticism. People talk about their cars, whether they are bragging or complaining, to their friends, family members and coworkers. And in today’s technologically advanced world, they are conveying their opinions, thoughts and feelings (both positive and negative) to an infinite number of strangers online – through blogs, forums, review sites and social media communities. While a certain percentage of individuals actively voice their opinions online, there is an even larger number of individuals who use the internet to research products, services and companies as part of their buying process.

Conversations are taking place…everywhere, 24/7! Conversations are happening on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and so on – they are about car companies, various models of cars and car dealerships. More and more, in today’s world, customers are consuming and reacting to user-driven content than to corporate advertising. Therefore it is vital for those in the automotive industry to know about these conversations, where they are happening, what is being said, how to handle the comments being made (if negative, how to turn a detractor into an advocate or, if positive, how to empower your brand advocates) and, last but certainly not least, how to become a part of the conversation. In general, key benefits of social media are the ability to engage with consumers and monitor relevant conversations.

To accomplish the objectives, companies participate in social media in various ways, such as:

• Creating a
blog for consumers, customers and prospects – blogs are useful for disseminating real-time company news, discussing current models, and revealing upcoming models and publishing relevant industry expertise. They can also be positioned as an opportunity to show the human side of a company and converse more casually with the general public. Conversational tones, stories, useful tips, as well as the ability for readers to comment and share information are generally well received by consumers.

• Employing
Facebook Fan Pages and Twitter Accounts – These interactional sites allow you to publish company news, drive traffic to company branded websites, and provide updates on products. They also allow for you to communicate one-to-one with consumers. This two-way conversation with consumers enables you to show your personality, more so today than ever, people want to see “the man behind the curtain”…not the corporate image. People are looking for connections, not content and therefore companies can build mutually beneficial relationships with the public by engaging in conversations online. You can also use Facebook and Twitter to address customer service issues, acknowledge and reward your biggest advocates and invite feedback on vehicles, services and marketing campaigns…ensuring that future products and efforts are more meaningful for the customers.

• Uploading videos on
YouTube – Video libraries are an opportunity to provide valuable, relevant and useful information to customers and prospects, as well as insights into the corporate personality. In addition to commercials, you can publish videos about your models (specifics about engines, performance, etc) that true car fanatics will enjoy. You should also consider uploading videos about general knowledge bases that even the most novice drive can appreciate. YouTube is a fantastic site to publish employee spotlight videos, which can also humanize your company. Lastly, several companies encourage fan created content via contests on YouTube.

Word of Mouth – Recommendations are one of the strongest influencers in the buying process. According to Forrester Research, 94% of consumers say that a word of mouth recommendation is the number one influence of their purchase decisions. In other words, consumers trust one another’s opinions and experiences. Given this knowledge, you may want to consider the following:

  1. Monitoring social media websites to listen to consumers and identify your most satisfied customers (commonly referred to as “Brand Advocates”). Additionally, by inviting them to follow you on Twitter or to become a fan on Facebook, you may identify potential advocates.
  2. Give your Brand Advocates the chance to create, share and publish content online! For example, much like what you see on Amazon, you can provide a Ratings/Review Tool on websites, allowing customers to relate their own experiences with your products. Naturally Brand Advocates are going to share their opinions with others so it is recommended companies embrace Word of Mouth by providing tools, such as surveys, widgets or badges, allowing consumers to effortlessly relay such information.
  3. Additionally, you can offer customized and personalized e-cards, coupons and other promotional offers that your Brand Advocates can easily forward to friends, family and coworkers to take advantage of.

• Running Social Media only
Promotions and span>Contests – More and more companies, from Dell to Southwest to Qwest to Nissan to TurboTax, are implementing promotions, discounts and contests only available to their followers and fans online in an effort to create a significant buzz about their products. Much like the traditional communication channels of direct mail, phone, email and text, online promotions and contests employed on social media sites can also drive traffic and sales.

• Creating your
own online community – A number of companies (Starbucks and Saturn for example) have created their own online community to interact with consumers. Though establishing your own branded community requires a great deal of time and resources, it can be a great platform to announce new products, build brand awareness and identify your Brand Advocates in a more “controlled atmosphere”.

Monitoring Conversations – Online conversations, whether on blogs, Twitter, Facebook and so on, can be monitored by following key words or combinations of words. Once made aware of such conversations you can appropriately respond to and/or engage in the conversation. Not only does this practice increase and assist in brand management (for instance providing a coupon to a once disgruntled customer), but the conversation provides you with the opportunity to create a sales lead in the future. Monitoring conversations not only allows you to identify and reward Brand Advocates, but it also provides you the opportunity to turn a brand detractor into a happy customer who will return in the future.

The considerations presented above are just a brief outline of tactics currently employed in social media on behalf of the corporate world. Social media is fairly unchartered waters for many companies and the amount of information available on social media is plentiful. Regardless of what a company chooses to use, it’s important to remember this: social media won’t close the deal, but it can certainly create a buzz about your company, products and services, drive traffic to your website and, if done with the objective of consumer engagement, it can improve your brand positioning.
~ Missy Jensen
Social Media Manager, DMEautomotive

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