Reputation Management using Social Media

Social media just seems to keep growing and growing in popularity.  Websites like Twitter and Facebook are continuing to see an increase in both users and businesses that use these websites to market their business.  Unfortunately, with this increase in marketing use comes an increase in imposters.  More and more user accounts are being set up claiming to be the “official” Facebook pages or Twitter accounts; it’s difficult sometimes to establish which one is actually the real one.

So how can your dealership combat this trend in social media?  Search Engine Land suggests three steps to take in order to keep a handle on your dealership’s online presence.

First, you must create, maintain, and monitor your brand online.  Your dealership needs to be present in social media.  This is the only way you can monitor your brand name.  Even if you aren’t ready to actually participate, your dealership should have accounts to see what other users are writing about your dealership and the brand(s) that you sell.  In the case of Twitter, your dealership should make sure you grab the usernames that you may want to use in the future.

Monitor these media outlets for any attempts to sabotage your brand and react swiftly.  To demonstrate to other users that your account is the real one (and the others are imposters), you can make special offers to those who are “fans” on Facebook or follow your dealership on Twitter.  If you do find an account that is “impersonating” your dealership, address it in a respectful tone.  If people are following that account, chances are they’d be willing to follow the “real” account, so ask them to.

Finally, push forward with new ideas for your brand.  Continue to innovate your social media efforts online.  Use the online community to gauge new specials (in the service or parts department) or promotional events.  Advertise community sponsorships you’re involved in, and above all, direct traffic back to your dealership website.

Online Automotive Marketing – Patience is a Virtue

As an auto sales person, you want to see the results of your selling efforts as soon as possible.  As a business person, you want to see the financial benefits of any money you spend as soon as you spend it.  Business and sales tend to be focused on the here and now, and rightly so.  Especially during this lull the sales volume of cars, waiting for benefits can be downright painful for your dealership.  But it’s also necessary at times.  In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), your auto dealership might have to wait to see the full results.  Here’s why:

Search Engine Bots Take Time to Crawl: Most search engine bots don’t look for new content every day.  If you’ve done an overhaul of your website and it’s content, it could take 3-4 months for each page to be indexed.

They Want to Make Sure You’re Legit:  Even if your web pages do get noticed and indexed, the search engine algorithms want to make sure your dealer website isn’t manipulating your links.  Over time, they’ve found that these black hat SEO tactics tend to be fleeting, while quality, meaningful links tend to stay on a website.

Gaining Attention Online Takes Time:  A big part of SEO ranking is the quality and quantity of websites that link back to your site.  It can often take a lot of time for a website to earn these inbound links.

This isn’t to say that you should wait indefinitely while your SEO company takes your auto dealership for a ride.  Make sure your dealership has access to the analytics that demonstrate your gradual climb up the page ranks, and when the time comes, that you actually see results.

Automotive Government Rescue

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-on-the-American-Automotive-Industry-3/30/09/

I’m sure a lot of our readers watched, listened to, or have read the speech given by President Obama, especially if you sell GM or Chrysler.

He spoke very strongly about the government’s lack of desire to run an auto company.  The President also made it very clear that “We cannot, and must not, and we will not let our auto industry simply vanish.  This industry is like no other — it’s an emblem of the American spirit; a once and future symbol of America’s success. “

So, what’s the government’s verdict on the viability plans submitted by GM and Chrysler?  Basically, they’re not good enough.  But they think they could be good enough soon.  In more detail:

“As an initial step, GM is announcing today that Rick Wagoner is stepping aside as Chairman and CEO. …it’s a recognition that will take new vision and new direction to create the GM of the future.”

GM will receive “working capital” for 60 days in which they must work with Obama’s team and “ask themselves:  Have they consolidated enough unprofitable brands?  Have they cleaned up their balance sheets, or are they still saddled with so much debt that they can’t make future investments?  Above all, have they created a credible model for how not only to survive, but to succeed in this competitive global market?”

Chrysler, in the words of the President, “is more challenging.”  It’s been decided that “Chrysler needs a partner to remain viable.”  Basically, Chrysler has 30 days to work out a finalized deal with Fiat and agree to pay back “taxpayers for any new investments that are made before Fiat is allowed to take a majority ownership stake in Chrysler.”

“If they {Chrysler and Fiat} are able to come to a sound agreement that protects American taxpayers, we will consider lending up to $6 billion to help their plan succeed.  But if they and their stakeholders are unable to reach such an agreement, and in the absence of any other viable partnership, we will not be able to justify investing additional tax dollars to keep Chrysler in business.”

Bankruptcy was mentioned, and because of the power of that word, President Obama explained that if need be, the US Government would use existing laws to make it easier for the two companies to “quickly clear away old debts” and “restructure quickly and emerge stronger.”

To encourage consumers to buy Chrysler and GM vehicles, Obama announced that the US government will now back up warranties from these two companies.  Also, funds from the Recovery Act designed to increase federal fleet purchases will be released as quickly as possible.  The Treasury Department is working with auto finance companies to make credit more readily available.  Tax breaks are available to “deduct the cost of any sales and excise taxes” for auto purchases made this year.  Congress is also exploring a program that will give “generous credit” to those who trade-in older vehicles for “cleaner cars.”

So, what do you think?  What type of “hard choices” do you expect to be asked to make, by both your OEM and the government?  What has your dealership done already?

Automotive Blogging – How To

I wrote a post last week about the search engine optimization (SEO) stats your dealership needs to track, and wanted to expand a bit.  Your dealership website needs to allow you to track more than just SEO statistics.

The 6 things your dealership website provider needs to measure are:

  • Traffic—this should include all sources like organic, paid (PPC), OEM, referring sites, and direct.  If your website provider isn’t showing you which sources your traffic is using to reach your website, they need to be.
  • Organic Traffic by Keyword—there are three types of keywords: branded, platinum, and long tail.  Branded means someone is using your dealership name as a keyword.  Platinum is typically 2-3 words and includes your city, make you sell, and “dealer” or “dealership.  Long tail keywords are longer and can be specific makes, models, or even vehicle years.  Challenge your website provider to take it a step further and provide you with the actual keywords that are being used to find your dealership online.
  • Changes in Traffic—which months brought the most traffic to your website?  Which years?  If you don’t know, your website provider isn’t doing their job.  Being able to see when traffic is reaching your site, as well as how, will help you determine what accounts for the shifts in numbers.
  • Changes in Lead Volume—knowing when your dealership website has a dip or spike in lead conversion will help you know why these changes happened.  You need to be able to see your leads on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis, and see where they are coming from.
  • Leads by Lead Form—does your website provider show you which lead conversion forms are doing their job?  If not, how can you test which are most effective, which need work, and which can done away with?  Unfortunately, you can’t—but you absolutely need to.
  • Leads by Traffic Source—just as you need to know where your traffic is coming from, it’s equally important to know where your leads are coming from as well.  This will allow you to see which traffic sources are converting at the best rate (organic, PPC, OEM, etc).  Knowing which sources convert the best will also help you determine where you should be spending your online advertising budget.

If your website provider either doesn’t or can’t provide you with these statistics, it’s time to reconsider who you choose to create and manage your online presence.

Customer Satisfaction in a Down Economy

Every dealership is after the (often) illusive repeat customers.  With people buying less often, earning the loyalty of the customers you do sell to can pay off.  Once you’ve earned the business of repeat customers, the next step is to turn them into evangelists—those who recommend your dealership and ultimately send more sales into your showroom.

These types of customers are beneficial because they not only help to create more profit for your dealership, but also to direct those sales away from your competitors.  But have you ever thought about how much people who recommend against buying from your dealership could be costing you?

Found on the Church of the Customer blog, Satmetrix published a study about how much financial harm unsatisfied customers can have on the bottom line of a business.  While the results below are focused on the wireless industry, I think it’s worth looking at:

In this case, a negative word of mouth results in losing $300 per unsatisfied customer.  Can your dealership afford this?

Make sure customer service is consistent throughout your dealership, and that there is a plan in place to try and satisfy unhappy customers BEFORE they start costing your dealership money.  This could include using automatically sent surveys to attempt to find those who are less than content with your dealership, as well as keeping you finger on the online pulse of blogs and other online forums.

Now, more than ever, it’s essential that your dealership keeps your customers happy.  If you don’t, ignoring an unpleasant experience may be costing your dealership more money than you know.