Published On: June 20, 2011
“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, But You Can See it on YouTube!” Presented by Mark Dubis at the 10th Digital Dealer Conference.
Car dealers everywhere need to beware of one major paradigm shift: the proliferation of online social media and user-generated communities. Your online reputation can make or break your internet-based sales, if not all of your sales entirely. To qualify this warning, let us take a step back and reflect on how information is now flowing from consumer to consumer. With the increased use of business review websites (e.g. Yelp) and social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter, information about a customer’s experience spreads at light speeds. The fact that a car dealer’s reputation is now freely available on these websites means that your reputation will be affected by reviews. Good reviews from customers, along with a car dealer’s active participation on business review websites and social networking websites, can build up the car dealership’s brand. When your car dealership receives more positive reviews on third-party business review websites, you build a reputation that new customers can trust when they do their research on where to buy a new or used car. Conversely, your reputation can decline if you accumulate negative reviews from past customers, or you can fail to tap your potential customer base through the ever-important social media channels.
According to Mark Dubis, a 25 year veteran of the automotive and finance industries who currently serves as Vice President of Marketing for Hourglass Management Corporation, this consumer empowerment is a double-edged sword. Car dealers can proactively use social media and marketing channels to engage potential customers, while benefiting from increased trust and reputation as they receive good reviews, but they can also be the target of complaints and negative reviews from their past customers, which damage their reputation.
To benefit from this new opportunity and reduce any potential harm to your brand, Mark Dubis makes the following recommendations. First, leverage everything positive your dealership does in your community for marketing purposes, whether your business sponsored a local event or gave away a high school scholarship. Secondly, build relationships through social media websites by differentiating your business and sharing the value your dealership provides to the community. Thirdly, encourage customers who had a positive experience at your dealership to write and share their reviews on third-party review websites, such as DealerRater. Lastly, use interactive media such as videos of your sales staff, new and used videos, and informative content to share on YouTube and on your social networking profiles. Dubis believes that the more you engage and participate in the conversation that your customer base is already having, the more you can become a familiar and friendlier choice to them when they do decide to make a purchase.
To reduce any potential harm caused by online negative reviews and customer complaints, Mark advises dealers to actively create and post professional profiles on every social media or community review website. Having representatives of the dealership engage and respond to any negative reviews also helps in showing that your business is participating and attempting to alleviate customer complaints. Mark asserts that dealers fall into two camps: the first camp claims they take care of their customers and give them a great deal, whereas the second camp makes the same claim but backs up their reputation with social evidence from objective third-party review sources. As a dealer, which camp do you want to be a part of, and are you willing to take steps to proactively manage your online reputation? According to Edmunds, three out of every four online car shoppers read dealer reviews, and as many as one in five will change their mind about where to purchase based on the ratings and reviews they read. With such increasing relevance in consumer decision-making, online information made available on social media and business review websites must be engaged and acted upon by car dealers who want to succeed at protecting and growing their reputation.