Social Networking – The Web 2.0 Dealership

Web 2.0 by definition refers to the web development and web design that facilitates interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration on the World Wide Web (Source: Wikipedia). In laymen’s terms, a Web 2.0 site allows its users to interact with other users or to change website content, in contrast to non-interactive websites where users are limited to the passive viewing of information that is presented to them.

Social Networking Overlap

There are fundamental differences between how a dealership works and the basic principles of Web 2.0 in relation to Social Media. In the Dealership, there is a clear chain of command. Setting goals and responsibility allocation is normally tiered from the top-down in a dealership setting.

Social Networking, as it pertains to Web 2.0, removes all of those fundamentals and throws them out, as Social Networking is supposed to happen in a voluntary, self-organizing manner.

This doesn’t mean we throw out the dealership fundamentals for the sake of Social Networking, but we do need to adapt to the ever-changing and evolving consumer. In today’s market, that means getting in front of them in the space that they are most comfortable.

Social Connection and Engagement plays a key role for today’s consumer. We can help dealers do this by including “share” links to Social Networking sites like Facebook and Twitter within each of the dealership’s inventory pages. A “share” link allows the consumer to share the specific vehicle details and pictures on the consumer’s personal Facebook site and add a note about the vehicle.

Social Networking Overlap

Social Networking Overlap

As consumers share information from a dealership website to a Facebook or Twitter page, important in-bound links to the dealership website are formed. This also allows the consumers Facebook friends to visit the dealership website that may not have originally been the target of that dealerships advertisement.

Additionally, we help dealers link directly to their Fan or Twitter Page from their dealership website. It’s important to be careful not to drive traffic away from your dealership website. When adding these links, set the link to open in a new browser window so that your dealership website is still up in the background.

So many companies have established Facebook or Twitter accounts, but then fail to “work” the services. When I say “work” I mean update regularly, respond to messages, and become engaged with people using the services. A telling attribute of whether Social Networking will have benefit for you and your dealership is how you handle phone and email leads.

There are two basic items you want to define before you consider using Social Networking for your dealership:

1. What are your goals? Are you distributing news about your dealership, pitching the vehicles you sell, looking for feedback on the services you provide, all of the above, or something else? A word of advice here: If you look at Social Networking as purely an advertising channel, it is most likely not going to work well. Advertising is primarily outbound and you’re trying to engage those people who are interested in your dealership or brand – simply selling them won’t cut it.

2. Who will be in charge? Going back to my note from above, some companies hand over their social sites to their marketing firms. This is a bad idea. It is very hard for anyone not directly in your dealership to be timely, natural, and effective in interactions. How about junior employees? That’s usually a bad idea as well. Typically, these employees haven’t absorbed enough of your dealerships processes so they will probably lack the context in which an effective dialog occurs.

The networking face of the organization has to be engaged and stay on-message, so the pointy end of your Social Networking efforts should be driven by one or more people who are engaged with the bigger picture of what you want to do. Social Networking is still very new territory and to not experiment and look for opportunity is a big mistake, but an even bigger one is to experiment naively and without commitment.

In summary, the social media landscape and consumer habits are constantly evolving. Opening up these new communication lines allows dealers to attract more customers, improve SEO, and increase their branding across more and more advertising mediums when managed with a proper process and goal in mind.