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Auto Dealers Meet Facebook. Facebook Wins.
This article is interesting and a little funny. It is amusing to see these
practical no nonsense types trying to grapple with social media. It also
gives you an idea what you might face trying to get dealers to buy your
social media services
The full article is here
The Gap Between Auto Dealers and Social Media
Matt Howell, the general manager of a Hyundai dealership in Huntsville, Tex., has been in the auto business for 18 years. In all that time, he said, “I can think of one deal that originated on Facebook.”
In January, marketing managers at Hyundai’s American headquarters in Southern California persuaded Mr. Howell to give social media a more serious try. They asked him to use new software to post videos, photos and text updates suggested by the company on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
Two months into his social media experiment, the efforts had drawn such little reaction that Mr. Howell, 42, decided to drop out of the program.
Although he plans to keep posting photos of happy buyers on Facebook and encouraging them to write reviews, he does not have much use for the rest of it — especially since Hyundai began charging $275 a month for the service.
To Mr. Howell, selling a car boils down to one basic principle: Treat your customers well, and they will sing your praises to friends and family. “Those personal relationships are more important,” he said
Hyundai of Huntsville’s experience illustrates how far social media still has to go to serve small, locally focused businesses. While large companies have learned how to stand out on social networks and get lots of hand-holding from sites like Facebook and Twitter, most local business owners are left on their own and remain stumped by social marketing.
Nowhere is that gulf more apparent than in the auto industry. Car manufacturers including Hyundai and Ford Motor have embraced social media and spend tens of millions of dollars on sophisticated marketing campaigns. Yet many of their local dealers barely maintain a Facebook page.
Some experts question whether local businesses even need to be active on social media.
“It’s like the old days: You need to be in the Yellow Pages. But is it going to meaningfully drive your business? Probably not,” said Chris Luo, who headed Facebook’s efforts to woo small and medium-size advertisers until 2012 and now works for FiveStars, a start-up that helps small businesses keep up with loyal customers
Still, if a business does plunge into social media, Facebook and outside experts said, the most reliable route to success is to pay to promote posts as ads — something that Hyundai is not yet teaching its dealers.
“If you want predictable results for your business, ads are a cost-effective way to get them,” said Dan Levy, Facebook’s global director of small business.
Hyundai said it knows social media advertising is important, but it noted that dealers need to learn the basics of creating good content first. “If you hit anyone with it all at once, it would be very overwhelming,” said Jon Budd, who oversees new media at Hyundai Motor America.
He said that the three-year program had just begun and that it was too soon to judge the results.
Many local dealers worry that they need to be on Facebook, Twitter and whatever comes next, even as they struggle to understand how the services can help sell captures the predicaent. The survey of more than 10,000 active car buyers found that social media ranked far below dealer websites, web searching and the automotive news media as a source of information for buyers. But most respondents also said they used social media to research cars, planned to post something about their buying experience and expected dealers to have an active social media presence.
“It’s easier to measure return on investment against other media types, like print or TV,” said Nick Gill, the study’s primary author. However, with the average American spending 40 minutes a day on Facebook alone, ignoring social media is also perilous because “it de facto becomes part of the buying decision,” Mr. Gill said.
While other automakers like Lexus are also helping their dealers become more socially savvy, Hyundai is going further than most. Last fall, it brought in Spredfast, an Austin, Tex., maker of social media tools, to devise customized software and a training program to offer its 800 dealers, which are independently owned franchises.
Using the Houston area as a test market, Spredfast and Hyundai began offering dealers a digital dashboard that lets them post and manage content on all of the major social networks.
Six months in, the effort has not exactly transformed the dealers into masters of the medium.
They complain that they have received little guidance on how to use the tools effectively and no training on social advertising. The $275 monthly fee, which Hyundai said was less than what many dealers already spend on social marketing, has put off some. Complicating the rollout, the automaker did not hire anyone to focus on the project until last week.
Brooke Todd, digital marketing manager of Ron Carter Hyundai and its sister Cadillac dealership in Friendswood, just southeast of Houston, is enthusiastic about the potential — if not about the canned copy and bland photos of new models that Hyundai suggested he post.
“The general public feels that by liking the Facebook page of a business, they’re going to be inundated by selling,” Mr. Todd said.
He has gotten far more engagement from original items, like a nine-second iPhone video he shot inviting people to come play the dealership’s Pac-Man arcade games, and links to news articles about the local economy and coming vehicles.
Mr. Todd also tends the dealership’s presence on Google Plus, which he believes helps improve its ranking in Google searches. He does not bother much with Twitter, where his posts elicit no response. (Twitter declined to comment on how auto dealers use its service.)
So far, Mr. Todd has not been able to trace any deals directly to his social efforts, but overall sales are up almost 50 percent over the past year, which he attributed partly to new digital marketing efforts.
Joe Castle, who runs one GMC and two Chevrolet dealerships in the Chicago area and founded a company, SocialDealer, to help other dealers manage their online presence, said that neglecting advertising is a big mistake
“I don’t even bother wasting my people’s time posting all day,” he said. By focusing on ads, including ones that target car buyers when they are near rival dealers, he said, he increased sales and cut marketing expenses per car sold to $90 from $500.
Carolyn Pawelek, the Spredfast vice president overseeing the Hyundai project, said dealers needed to learn how to create engaging posts before wasting money promoting them. “Most dealers in our system are not ready to place ads,” she said.
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