Dealers Drive Brand Awareness via Social Networking Sites

by Mary Wisniewski

“It is all about branding. The more that you are out there, the more branding you’ll get.” — Alvin Newton, Bob Baker Chevy Subaru

Dealerships are turning to social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.

MileOne Automotive may help consumers rule the road, but the company is finding those car buyers on locations far from the highway.

MileOne which operates 65 retail automotive franchises, is using social networks like Facebook and MySpace to cultivate relationships with consumers, increase traffic to its Web sites, and lure in business. The short of it is social networks are becoming hot among dealers.

MileOne is at the forefront of this trend. In November, the automotive retail dealership operator took it one step further by creating its own social networking site called MyMileOne. com. The site allows customers to engage with them via blogs, videos, photos and sites like Twitter. The site also lets users play games and receive updates on discounts and specials, from MileOne’s 28 different manufacturers.

“We wanted a hub of stuff that would differentiate us from our competitors,” says David Metter, MileOne’s chief marketing officer. As it stands now, most of the traffic to MyMileOne.com is driven by them.

MileOne Automotive broke into social networking about a year and a half ago. Currently, YouTube generates the most traffic for them. “A customer will remember a video piece,” Metter says. Twitter is also a particularly valuable tool to engage customers.

MileOne Automotive is not the only dealership tapping into social networking.

The Kelsey Group reported earlier this year that more dealers are utilizing 2.0 advertising tactics and technologies. In its survey, 62 percent of auto dealers reported on planning to increase online media spending within the next 12 months, while only 17 percent of those surveyed reported to increase their traditional media budgets.

Bob Baker Chevy Subaru is one such dealership turning to Web advertising tactics. The California dealership puts videos up on YouTube and MySpace to further its brand awareness. The dealership also started a blog four weeks ago, headed by its Internet Director Alvin Newton.

Newton says that a common social networking misconception dealers have is that the sites will generate a lot of sales leads for them. “That is not the case,” he says. “It is all about branding. The more that you are out there, the more branding you will get.” Because of this, Netwon anticipates corporate-type web sites to fade in the future, with blogs taking the center stage. The Pasch Consulting Group specializes in search engine optimization and assists auto dealers develop their internet marketing strategies.

Owner Brian Pasch says since so many people spend a lot of time in front of social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace, dealers should utilize these sites to increase sales. “That would be an instant way of getting the word out,” he says. Using social networking sites is also cheap marketing. “I think it is the perfect time for it because everyone is looking to reduce their budgets,” Pasch says.

One of Pasch’s clients executing this method well is Tim Martell, director of eCommerce and marketing at Marlboro Nissan in Massachusetts.

The dealership originally broke into social networking to drive traffic to its sites and discovered that people really do want to read what they put out. Martell posts his own blogs, for example.

“People are actively looking for updated content,” Martell says, noting review sites are particularly beneficial. DealerRater really helps get the dealership’s name out there. The economic crisis has taken the credibility from manufacturer awards, he says, while a place like DealerRater lets customers justify what to buy.

Martell anticipates the dealership will continue focusing on DealerRater.com but realizes he must look beyond the site. “I also found you can’t rely on any one thing,” he says. “You put everything in one basket, and you get weak.”

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