Social media is a âhuge phenomenon that is not going away â itâs here to stay,â says John Holt, CEO of the Cobalt Group Inc., a digital automotive marketing firm.
Accordingly, dealers shouldnât sit on the sidelines while the rest of the world plays the social-media game, he says. âThe question is: Whatâs the right way for dealers to use it.â
Itâs inexpensive for a dealer to maintain the likes of a Facebook page, Holt says. But he doesnât see waves of customers drawn to such dealer Web connections. âThey are not looking for a relationship like that with a dealership.â
Still, it is another channel for customer contact. âYou want to provide every path to a sale that you can,â he says. âBut I wouldnât give up a website to get a Facebook page.â
Consumers are interacting more with dealers online, says, Steve Anenen, president,Dealer Services, pointing to social media as âanother way to reach out.â
Social media can help dealers establish long-term relationships with consumers.
But the downside is that a customer with an ax to grind can use that social network as a way to hurt a dealerâs reputation, whether itâs deserved or not.
For dealers, social media is âreally about reputation management,â says Kevin Henahan,âs vice president-marketing.
âIt is not about selling cars or sales people blogging to customers. Studies indicate that wonât work,â he says. âItâs about taking control of your brand.â
ADP offers various social-media services. One of them is monitoring websites, looking for negative and positive comments about particular dealers.
âIf it is negative, you jump on it fast and try to fix the problem,â Henahan says. âIf people are saying good things, you want to amplify it. That will drive sales.â
Dealerships are pursuing social-media strategies, although some skeptical dealers are not sold on the idea, says a study by GOSO, a Web and social-media firm.
The study claims 25.5% of all dealerships have a Facebook page and 10.9% have a Twitter account. This does not include the large numbers of dealers who have created user accounts for their dealerships.
The total number of dealerships on Facebook amounts to 5,155; the total on Twitter, 2,195.
The top automotive brand on Facebook isfollowed by Buick, Chevrolet, and Jeep, the study says.
The top auto brand on Twitter is Toyota, then Chevrolet,, and .
The study says the Internetâs most searched automotive brand is, followed by , , Lincoln and Mini Cooper.