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The Therefore and Wherefore of Twitter: A Car Dealer’s Bridge

With over 240 million users and 500 million tweets sent per day, Twitter is as ubiquitous as it gets in terms of social media. With all that use comes a variety of opportunities as well as opinions about what to do and what not to do. There’s nothing static about best practices on social networks and Twitter is no different.

Of course some things stay the same. In 2009 a study was done of Twitter content and 40% was deemed “pointless babble“. I suspect many Twitter users would agree that a certain portion of today’s tweets fall in that same category. This got me thinking about what it is that annoys people about Twitter? If we discover the things people don’t like, perhaps the opposite or removal of those behaviors can point us in the right direction.twitter-bird

I think it goes without saying in automotive that social media is certainly a growing part of the internet, and is something that every dealer needs to be aware of, even if at this moment their not quite ready to embrace it. The fact is social media creates an opportunity to connect with your customers like none other. A great many people who are visiting websites based on the recommendations of their peers, buying or avoiding internet sellers and brick and mortar stores based on what their peers are saying, and being told what to think by people like them, rather than big media. However, there is so much more to social media than just a source of new visitors to your dealership. Social media is also an opportunity to keep the people who have already bought from you to come back. By levering social media dealers can turn more of their one-time customers into repeat buyers. And don’t forget the “just looking” crowd. Get them to follow you and just maybe they’ll come back to the store when they’re more serious about purchasing, ultimately creating a customer for life.

Social media certainly has its benefits but the real question that comes up so often from dealers is what is the rule of thumb or best practice that my team should keep in mind and execute when using social sites like Twitter? So I’ve decided to compile a list of what to do and what not to do based off my research and experience working with dealers that execute a superb digital strategy.

The first thing to remember to do is be honest. There is nothing more important to consumers than honesty. A car is a big purchase and they don’t want to be duped.Don’t use deceptive practices. Don’t use Twitter or any social media platform for any unethical practices. The next big thing is to listen to your customers. Don’t think of Twitter as a way to spread your word. Think of it as a way to hear what your customers are thinking. What they want and how they want it. Then you provide it for them. Successful Twitter practices should also include a strategy to connect with existing customers and finding new ones. Don’t spam. Post information links and questions. Network by engaging both existing and potential customers in conversation. Ask interesting questions and you will get back interesting answers.

Now the big Twitter no no that some dealerships fall into is tweeting about their inventory. When a dealer can’t think of something to say to their community they go to the backup plan and that’s to tweet information on one of their cars. Don’t do this. Instead, a better strategy for tweeting inventory is to create a specific Twitter account for your brand that focuses strictly on inventory deals and specials. Followers of that account will not feel spammed because they’re following you

and your inventory by choice. Another Twitter tip is to only comment on trending topics if you have something to say about the topic. People sometimes use the hastag (#) with a trending topic to advertise a product totally unrelated to them or send out a tweet with all of the trending topics in it. They hope they will get noticed and maybe someone will click on their account. It looks desperate. Everyone who is on your Twitter account will notice this and it doesn’t look good for your dealers.

Some of the information I provided is perfect for dealerships and some of it isn’t. There still are other variables to consider especially if you don’t have the right team in place to execute an effective social strategy. Dealers must be able to determine which avenue is best for their business. The bottom-line is that social media works and when you figure that out, embrace it. If you’re still a little skeptical about social media you need to remember one important thing: you’re competitors aren’t. Does your dealership want to be left behind?

– Christopher L. Robinson

To Be or Not To Be Social? An Auto Industry Question.

As the marketing power of social media grows, it no longer makes sense to treat it as an experiment. Leaders in the automotive industry should not only harness social media to shape consumer decision making in predictable ways but they should better understand its power. Executives certainly know what social media is. After all, if Facebook users constituted a country, it would be the world’s third largest, behind China and India. Executives can even claim to know what makes social media so potent: its ability to amplify word-of-mouth effects. Yet the vast majority of executives have no idea how to harness social media’s power. Companies diligently establish Twitter feeds and branded Facebook pages, but few have a deep understanding of exactly how social media interacts with consumers to expand product and brand recognition, drive sales and profitability, and engender loyalty.

A few weeks back I wrote about why General Motors social media strategy is so powerful, which I took a look at this legendary car manufacturer and how they’ve managed to transform its digital presence through expertly tailoring its content and connecting to each social channel’s audience with authentic engagement and a suitable tone of voice. Did General Motors just launch out into the deep with it’s social strategy net and hope to come up big or did they in fact see the movement of the consumer shopping journey and proactively make themselves relevant in the social space?

sm-questionmark-237x300Automotive companies have quickly learned that social media works but yet there are still many OEM brands who are only scratching the surface of its potential. One reason I believe is that they really don’t understand their customers as well as they think they do. The reason I say this and if you research most automotive brand social sites, you’ll find they’re still talking to customers and not with customers. Manufactures are so monolog driven and despite response models and community managers, they are still talking to customers and not with customers. I believe if we want to get the amplification we desire from social, we must start communicating with our fans. It isn’t a simple poll or question post. That doesn’t do it! We need to invite them in with our content. We need to create new ways for people to interact with the brand. Remember, a huge percentage of people on Facebook are lurkers.

The other thing is that brands are not connecting to their customers. Social media should evoke emotions. The stories that generate the most interest are either emotionally powerful or really funny and it’s sad to see so many car manufacturers’ that are not effectively doing either of these things. We do not make them laugh or emotionally connect with them because we are so busy selling. Because we lack this resonance, they are not reading our content and skipping over us. Certainly, being ignored is a marketer’s worst nightmare. So, stop selling and start seeking smart ways to infuse personality, emotion, or humor into your brand. Key word there: “smart”. Make sure it fits the brand.

Just my thoughts, feel free to share your comments.

– Christopher L. Robinson

Mobile Applications Find A New Home Within Automotive

In todays economy the advancement of network technologies, restructuring of revenue-sharing pattern, lowering of mobile data usage cost, growing adoption of smartphones, and increase in application usability have contributed to the growth of mobile application adoption globally. Apart from this, the mobile application advertising opportunity has allowed publishers to either partly or fully subsidize applications. This developing trend has certainly helped increase the adoption of mobile applications in both foreign and domestic markets. But, here recently I’ve discovered that there is one industry in particular that continues to seek out and leverage the increase in mobile application development like none other industry and that industry is automotive manufacturing.

Mobile applications “apps” are as valuable to automotive manufactures as websites are to dealers. And what automotive manufactures have discovered is that mobile applications are far more than a conduit; from which dealer websites receive traffic. Certainly, mobile apps help to convert dealership websites into social media powerhouses but one trend that will continue to increase in automotive is the utilization of mobile applications to more effectively manage the manufacturing process.

One of the key characteristics of the manufacturing industry is the constant movement of materials and focus on numerous metrics. Auto manufacturers have to continually address various business issues like globalization, heightened competition, faster product lifecycles, economic challenges, etc. To survive and succeed, auto manufacturers must find ways to cut costs without impacting quality, customer service, or product availability. To help improve manufacturing processes and develop lean initiatives; automotive manufactures have turned to mobile applications to improve their business.

Managing business operations the mobile way’ is not only the new trend but one that manufactures see as the best solution for their business. The convenience of managing business operations with smart mobiles and tablet PCs is driving more and more businesses to turn to mobility and adapt to this changing landscape. The dynamics of the manufacturing industry makes it the right fit for adopting mobile technology. Manufacturers are not only realize their lean initiatives by using several role-based mobile applications in the form of simple mobile applications built specifically for each type of role instead of a single, complex mobile application for managing the entire manufacturing process but these mobile applications also help to maximize efficiency and offer the benefit of easy user adoption. Typically, these applications require minimal user training and are able to confer benefits at all levels, and enable manufacturers to realize their lean initiatives.

HTC is one example of a company who has invested heavily in the development and launch of custom mobility solutions for automotive manufacturers. HTC’s solution helps OEM’s manage everything from inventory to quality, product line optimization, plant performance and even equipment and maintenance. Automotive manufactures agree that its technology like this that helps them realize their lean initiatives throughout their manufacturing operations and achieve business benefits by providing streamlined operations, better resource management, improved productivity, and faster decision making. The application of mobility in the automotive and manufacturing industry is increasing significantly and I just wonder within the next few years how much of the manufacturing process will be completely managed and ran by mobile applications. My question is, “Will technology like this result in many American’s losing or gaining jobs?” What are your thoughts?

– Christopher L. Robinson

Social Media and Automotive: The Perfect Marriage!

It seems that every industry these days are trying to figure out how to employ social media. One industry in particular that has certainly been faced with a scrutiny of   challenges is the automotive industry. The automotive industry for a long time has been know for its glitzy TV ads, billboards, and radio spots that offer the experience of a lifetime. Only here recently has the auto industry somewhat turned the tide and begun to embraced the opportunities that social media can provide like brand awareness, increased site traffic, customer loyalty, and revenue growth. But when you look at social media and the automotive industry, on the surface, it appears they have a relationship better than Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. I’m sure we’ve all seen the great success stories of companies like Ford with the launch of their Fiesta campaign and the YouTube sensation of VW or the QR code campaign that Cadillac ran where they were giving away a gorgeous new ATS. All of these stories demonstrate the power of social media and telling a compelling story in the automotive industry.

Cadillac QR Code

Brand storytelling is just one part of the picture. It’s a piece of the overarching social media puzzle that drives true success for organizations. Brands like VW, Ford, Cadillac, and Mini Cooper have consistently excelled at telling their story on social media. That said, telling a compelling story isn’t the only piece of the puzzle that is important for brands trying to be leaders online. At the end of the day, business is about selling a product.

Studies show that while selling is one of the most important pieces of the business, it’s still one that many automotive brands are struggling with on social media. The challenge with selling on social media is the fact that brands are being forced to approach their customers in a different way. Instead of using traditional sales tactics, automotive brands are required to nurture their leads and build real, meaningful relationships to close a deal.

For most dealerships, selling is their specialty. Though there are many factors that influence how and what vehicle a person buys, the best sales people at a dealership know all the tricks in the book. However, a great deal of decision-making and research is happening before consumer’s even land at the dealership. When dealerships and automotive brands think about sales and how they can increase conversion rates in person, they need to start thinking about all the various touch points in which their customers are doing research and asking questions. Whether it’s on an automotive site or using social media, there is most certainly a shift in the buying process and dealerships need to connect with customers where there are.

In my professional opinion I find that most dealerships are not social marketing gurus nor do they have the time to manage this aspect of their business. But I do find that dealerships that are having the most success are connecting with outside marketing firms such as Digital Air Strike, CDK Global, & Dealer.com to help them develop and mange the right social strategy.

Jumping into the fast-moving river that social media marketing has become can be challenging for most automotive dealers. In addition to the fact they are trying to understand exactly what tangible objectives social media can help them achieve. My advice for dealers is to reach out to a firm that specializes in this area and allow them to fill in the gap. Just my thought… Would love to hear yours?

– Christopher L. Robinson

Social Media Tools for Social Learning

In todays demanding world it seems that everyone is seeking ways to get more things done but keeping their efficiency and production at a very high level. Finding ways to enhance collaboration and networking are more critical than every before to driving both success and retention in both personal and profession arenas. To accomplish this goal many individuals and business have turned to social learning tools to fill in the gap. By applying intuitive, engaging technologies that emulate popular mobile and social apps, individuals and business can enjoy rich, real-time interaction and collaboration with the new social learning tools that are available in today’s market.

One of the more popular social learning tools that are used widely by many colleges and universities is Blackboard Learn. Blackboard Learn, allows both student and faculty to discover, connect, and collaborate with others from their school as well as other Blackboard Learn schools. There is even a Blackboard Learn global solution that has been created that allows the user to network and learn from each other through social, informal means all while complementing the more formal classroom and online course experiences. With Blackboard’s social learning tools you can have an enhanced profile where you create your online academic identity and share only what you want to share. Profiles include a profile wall for communication and the ability to message and follow other users to make connections and build your learning network. You can also use a tool called “The People Tool” to find your peers and other faculty, at your school or at another school with Blackboard Learn, and build a global learning network. Blackboard Learn also gives you the ability to message anyone within the global learning network.

Another social learning tool that has changed how businesses communicate is GoToMeeting. GoToMeeting has proven to be an excellent solution for collaborating, discussing, and teaching. This tool provides an easy way to initiate face-to-face collaboration through audio, screen sharing, and now high-definition video conferencing. The meeting is generally started by a host who sends out a link in an email or chat. For new users the setup process typically takes about two minutes and then they can begin communicating. This flexibility and ease of use could encourage impromptu learning events and meetings that can be set up in a moments notice, increasing the informal learning opportunities within and outside an organization. Users can share voice and video, display online PowerPoint presentations, documents, share the screen and show web pages, making annotations with drawing tools along the way. This collaborative feature lets participants get in the act by sharing keyboard and mouse control. You can also save and replay a meeting so others can learn from your meeting.

Both Blackboard Learn and GoToMeeting provide wonderful solutions to improve the way we learn. Blackboard Learn is currently only offered for K-12, Higher Education, Government, and Business. GoToMeeting on the other hand can be purchased as solution by anyone looking to enhance the way they communicate and learn. They also offer products such as GoToTraing, GoToWebinar, and OpenVoice. Certainly, these new technologies allow us to expand the course of learning in many ways. The process of acquiring knowledge and skills no longer needs to take place during the school or works hours but with these advancements in technology we can all learn 24 hours a day without sitting in a classroom due to the fact that digital learning has brought us new possibilities and methods for expanding our knowledge bank. Just my thoughts would love to hear yours.

– Christopher L. Robinson

Hello to the world of Social Media Marketing

As a professional marketer I can’t count the number of questions I receive in regards to social media marketing. As a general rule of thumb and only speaking from a very high level, I believe businesses should always go deep, not broad. It’s better to become a master of one or two channels than flounder in many. When you look at social media channels, a good model is to break them into social platforms vs. social networking sites. Social platforms are like soapboxes; they allow you to establish your expertise and credibility, but provide a method for feedback and discussion. Examples include blogging, YouTube podcasting and Slideshare. Social networks are more like real-world networking events. Think about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and possibly Pinterest.

Whether your business is B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer), it’s beneficial to choose one platform and one network to focus on initially, and really develop a deep engagement level with your ideal customers there. As you master those channels, you can then start to expand into other realms.

Happy blogging!

Christopher Robinson

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