Automotive dealerships know the fierce competitive landscape they face in today’s market. In order to be successful and separate yourself, it is important to remember that as an owner, your dealership’s brand reflects heavily upon the strength of your reputation. Key factors in building your brand include effectively managing your digital reputation and leveraging industry best practices when using social media.
Consumers rely on social media, including online review sites, to select the dealership they do business with. In fact, according to our Sixth Annual Automotive Social Media Trends Study of 4,000 car buyers and service customers, close to 90 percent say online review sites helped them select a dealership.
A social following and positive online reputation can make or break relationships with potential new customers. In the automotive market many customers fear the process and the large purchase they are about to make. Car buying is second only to buying a home for most people. Good reviews by dealership’s customers can influence even a competitor’s customers to do business with you as 72 percent of car buyers say they would drive up to 60 miles to do business with a dealership with a positive reputation.
Powerful brands in social media are built through three main factors: building a following, maintaining a strong reputation and correctly managing conflict. The following tips will help get you on the right track to social media success:
Building a following:
- Allocate time and resources – This seems simple, but many dealerships are not monitoring their social media platforms. Active social media users will grow their following, while a stagnant profile is more harmful than not having the account at all.
- Utilize Facebook ads – Facebook ads are cost effective and allow for highly specific audience targeting including location, age, economic range and vehicle buying history.
- Don’t ignore review sites – Consumers trust reviews from customers more than they trust any advertisement. Most dealerships work with top automotive review sites like Cars.com, but don’t forget that Facebook is also a review site and don’t ignore Yelp. Maps on iPhones showcases Yelp reviews and anytime someone is trying to find you, your star rating will appear underneath your dealership’s name. This is important because even if a potential buyer neglected to research your reviews prior to going to your dealership, he or she will still see your Yelp rating when entering the address into their iPhone and the Apple Maps app.
- Pay attention to Google According to our Study, 74 percent of service customers and 79 percent of sales customers use Google as their main search engine, meaning that more people see your reviews there before any other site. Google also showcases star ratings from other review sites on the first page of its search results.
Maintaining a strong reputation:
- Respond to all question and comments – Potential clients want to work with a responsive dealership who is easy to access. Show them you are available by responding to all positive and negative reviews and comments, answering questions and congratulating new car buyers via social networks. Our Study shows that 37 percent of sales and service customers rank dealerships who respond and comment to customers on reviews sites like Yelp, Facebook and Cars.com as the most important thing they look for in their review site research.
- Post about your inventory – Be balanced. Yes, be interesting and personable but also use the social sites to sell! Make sure you are linking back to your website and keep track of who comments on the posts. They may not buy the car you are showcasing, but they may be in the market for another vehicle or service offer.
- Engage with the community – When you post on social media, make sure you include a local angle to some of your content and always share any local charity or volunteer work you are involved in. Consumers want to work with businesses that are friendly and care about the community. Engaging with the community is a great way to build your reputation as a trustworthy local business.
- Ask for reviews – You can increase the number of reviews you get by asking for immediate feedback from satisfied car buyers or service customers, including via text. Make it is easy for happy customers to share their positive feedback on top review sites. Keep an eye on your competitor’s reviews as well; see what sites they are performing well on and where they could use help.
Correctly managing conflict:
- Once again, always respond – Responsiveness is even more important in situations involving unhappy clients. This will show customers that you care and are willing to address concerns when something goes wrong. Studies show brands that respond to both positive and negative reviews or comments have an 86 percent higher rating compared to those that ignore them.
- Take negative conversations offline – Respond to negative reviews politely and professionally. Don’t get into an argument online and don’t make offers of restitution or discounts online. Take the conversation offline immediately by providing the phone number of a high-level contact at your dealership.
- Ask customers who have had their issues resolved to remove a bad review – Once the issue is resolved and the customer feels that he/she has been treated with respect, it is appropriate to ask the customer to remove the negative review or qualify the review and share that the issue has been resolved. Most importantly, don’t get into an argument online with a reviewer. It will make you look defensive and unprofessional. When handled properly, many unhappy customers will end up being fans of your dealership and will update their review to let the public know you addressed their concerns.
There are undeniable benefits of social media and review management for auto dealerships. Gone are the days of sitting by the phone or waiting for customers to walk in. Consumers are starting their search online long before visiting a dealership. That’s why managing your dealership’s online reputation is essential to you and your business.
Alexi Venneri is the co-founder and CEO of Digital Air Strike, a leading social media and digital engagement company. Alexi has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and is a pioneer in digital response, social marketing and online reputation management.