Social Media Does Not Put Car Dealers In Driver's Seat, Hurricanes Do

Having incurred the wrath of Sandy this past hurricane season, I was unwittingly placed in the market to replace a car that was totaled due to flood damage. While social media has been around for almost a decade now, the car dealership industry hasn't always needed to rely on the new marketing medium that's known to garner new leads, and ultimately more sales for many brands.

"There is considerable confusion and disorganization around social media across all stakeholders in the automotive industry value chain," noted Maxine Friedman , VP, Business Development, Automotive for Syncapse, and co-author of the white paper. "Empowering the Automotive Customer Through Social Business Transportation."

"Automakers and dealers now have a huge opportunity to improve their ROI and deliver a more enriching and seamless customer journey by integrating social best practices into each pivotal buying stage."

So why of recent date, have car dealerships been lax in utilizing this low-cost tool to their advantage? Well, Sandy's hand in the matter had a lot to do with the economics. By literally and figuratively flooding the market, it increased the demand side of the equation with new buyers. And with greater demand, dealers didn't have to pay attention to the sometimes tedious chore of maintaining a Twitter and Facebook presence in addition to allocating dollars to an online ad campaign.

Syncapse developed an actual blueprint to help auto manufacturers, dealer networks and dealers themselves capitalize on social media to drive value through each stage of the customer lifecyle, as demonstrated in this detailed infographic.

Now, under normal circumstance this 'customer journey' and subsequent engagement by the auto industry makes a lot of sense. But with today's short-term mentality. Today, all the car salesman needs to do is show up to work and make sure he's visible when the client walks in the door. And if the customer's done some online competitive shopping before they arrived, all the better - because they have just done some of the salesman work, speeding up the process from discovery to sale.

As far as a Google Adwords campaign, I must say, it was one of the social triggers that did focus in on my preferences, directing me to targeted dealerships in my marketplace that featured the types of cars I was seeking. Once I started searching for Mini Coopers, those ads appeared on 90 percent of thesubsequent web searches I conducted, whether they were car-related or otherwise.

Once clicked, these ads prompted automated emails to be sent to me with all kinds of offers. But again the supervision of this process was lacking. All too often when I responded for more information, I either received another automated response or worse, no reply at al -- indicating to me, that no one was really managing this part of the pull marketing process.

Hopefully the repercussions of Sandy will eventually dissipate and the social media cycle that Syncapse outlined above will become part and parcel of the industry's best social media practices. . . that is, withstanding any future natural disasters that might once again put dealerships back in the driver's seat. 

And while not funny at the time, check out this entertaining video highlighting how our cars were affected by the storm of the century…