Automotive advertising agencies are being asked to deliver more for less by a consolidating auto industry in response to reduced sales volume, profit margins and automotive advertising budgets. The solution, as is often the case, lies in the leveraged use of technology applied to a constant in the auto industry — change. Another constant that can be found in the auto industry is human nature. These two constants, change and human nature, power the explosive growth of the use of social media by automotive advertising agencies. Unfortunately, the change is happening at warp speed on the Internet Super Highway and agencies don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to new technologies and applications being developed to monetize social media.
Attempts to provide a presence for automobile dealers on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter fall short for the same reasons that these online communities of friends are so successful with consumers. People hate car dealers and they often turn to advice from like minded consumers on social networking sites to get away from them. Automotive advertising agencies that impose on these personal conversations with self serving sales messages are often ostracized and even virally attacked as an intruder. The potential damage to the online reputation of their auto dealer clients represents a risk to reward formula that has forced many agencies to abandon social media as a viable channel to deliver a retail sales or service message.
Fortunately, the same social media that teaches consumers how to buy a vehicle can provide automobile dealers with the information and the tools that they need to sell them one. Social networking portals developed by advertising professionals, automotive vendors and auto dealers allow their members to share best practices with the common philosophy that a rising tide floats all boats. Each online community boasts its own personality and rules of the road to keep members in their lane. The temptation to sell to each other is controlled by the same social pressures that exist on consumer facing social networks for those that forget why they are there — to listen and learn so they can presume to teach their auto dealers how they can sell cars and service to their online friends.
In addition to sharing best practices, many automotive advertising agencies use social media to discover new technologies and vendor applications that have not yet been discovered by the mainstream auto industry. Recent discoveries that I can contribute to my searches on social media include an automated video production platform that produces scalable interactive videos from pictures using human voice to narrate them that are placed on the auto dealer’s website and pushed through a dedicated API with YouTube onto the world wide web. An equally revolutionary discovery was a consumer centric inventory marketing platforms that offers auto dealers free listings and free leads with the ability to purchase real time market analytics and social networking profiles that empower the salesperson to answer the customer’s questions even before they ask them. Each of these vendor applications were introduced to the market through automotive advertising social networking communities that enabled them to listen and learn from their members about how they can improve their products and services before they introduced them to the general market. My access to these automotive advertising solutions was only possible as a result of the time I invested on social media looking for them so that I could stay one step ahead of the competition.
Online blog talk radio stations hosted on automotive advertising networking portals provide a another social media forum for finding and reviewing new automotive advertising solutions. Regularly scheduled blog talk radio shows with live interviews of the developers of bleeding edge automotive advertising applications allow their online audience to ask vendors questions in an open forum. These open exchanges of ideas in a problem solution format help the vendors as much as the automotive advertising decision makers that follow the shows. A new mobile sales presentation platform with an integrated training component was recently discussed on a blog talk radio show to solicit feedback from the audience. Their insights were used to modify the platform before the vendor began their beta test it in the real world saving thousands of wasted dollars and man hours that would normally be required to mature their application.
The opportunity for automotive advertising agencies and auto dealers to listen, learn and contribute to social networking communities allows them to discover what they don’t know while allowing them the opportunity to share what they do know. Auto dealers are people too/ The same efficiencies and extended resources that attract consumers to social media to research their next vehicle purchase is sourced by automotive advertising agencies who need to stay one step ahead of the competition in a consolidating auto industry that demands more for less. Automotive advertising agencies don’t know what they don’t know but they can definitely find out on auto industry focused social media. After all, what are friends for!
Philip Zelinger is a former auto dealer principal with an earned reputation