The automotive industry has always been notorious for being a year or two behind the rest of the world when it comes to the internet. When other industries such as real estate and e-commerce were starting to get onto the Internet, car dealerships held out as long as they could.
When websites started getting more intricate and interactive, car dealers started throwing up online billboards. Search Engine Optimization started becoming a necessity around 2004 around the time that equipment leasing hit it big on the Internet. In the car business, it really became popular this year.
Web 2.0 has been a part of most industries for a couple of years now. Web 3.0 is just around the corner. Yet, the automotive industry still hasn’t quite embraced the social aspects of the Internet…
TK Carsites, known in the industry as the cutting-edge leader in the industry when it comes to website design and automotive Internet marketing, has been accumulating knowledge and understanding of Web 2.0 for a couple of years now. After all that time, they have started to launch products that are unique in their ability to put car dealers where they haven’t been before.
Blogging has been a growing segment of the internet for years. They range in scale and scope from huge technology blogs that receive hundreds of thousands of visitors per day to personal blogs that simply allow people to vent with only their friends and family to visit it.
There are several strong automotive blogs. TK Carsites has built the only true automotive blog network that encompasses just about every facet of the industry. They have recently expanded their network to reach out to other industries that are logical cross-overs into automotive such as environmental, tech, business, and finance.
TK has also released a blog program that caters to individual dealers’ needs. They can help dealers get set up and trained to run their own blog internally. They can set up the blogs and manage the content completely. They can even custom tailor a program that lands somewhere in between where the dealer is involved but not solely responsible.
Blogs help on many fronts. They can offer a public view of the dealership, “humanize” it in a way by offering useful tidbits, highlight community accomplishments, and house tools that local people can use. They are also excellent SEO hubs, sending links to pages on the dealer’s web properties and serving as a listing itself on the search engines to push competitors and negative reviews lower in the rankings.
Dealerships need a blog. Some could do well to have several.
Websites like Facebook and MySpace can be useful in the automotive industry, but it is in the niche social network sites where things can get more personal. This arena, dominated by web platforms and applications like Ning.com, KickApps.com, and GoingOn.com, bridge the gap between the world-focus of large social networks and the local focus of community driven social networks. It has been starting to get some attention in the automotive industry over the last couple of months.
TK Carsites has had an active automotive social network running since mid-2007. They were the first in the segment and they are the first to perfect it for their dealer clients. Similar to blogs, car dealer social networks have several uses. The one thing they have that blogs do not have is direct interactions with the customers. People can join these networks, communicate with the dealership or other members, and help to create a local community that can put the dealership in a good light. More importantly, they are excellent venues for addressing customers’ complaints. Sound like a bad idea? It’s better to find it on a network controlled by the dealership where they can make things right rather than having a negative listing on Ripoff Report or Dealer Rater pop up on searches for the dealer’s name.
Like with the blogs, TK can guide dealers through the process, they can run it for them, or anywhere in between. A well run social network can be golden. On that is poorly run (or not run at all) can be more of a negative than a positive.
What would a story on this blog be without discussion of social media?
This is by far the most difficult aspect of Web 2.0 to integrate into the automotive industry. Social media is user driven news. Most sites such as Digg, Reddit, and Propeller are designed to allow users to submit news, videos, or images from other websites and to have these submissions voted up or down by other users. Others, such as NewsVine and NowPublic, allow users to publish their own content on top of working with a similar style as the other sites mentioned.
Regardless of which type of social media site it is, the automotive industry is a hard sell. Media regarding car dealers (unless it’s negative or embarrassing) has very little chance of success on these sites.
TK Carsites has taken on the attitude of, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” More importantly, they have taken the first steps in creating and maintaining a social media site that is geared specifically for the automotive industry and car dealer media in particular. Their new website, which is currently in beta testing, promises to push the automotive industry into social media in ways that have never been done before.
That’s the million dollar question that experts in and out of the car business are tackling. What’s the next “big thing”? Microblogging? Social Hybrids? Integrated Web Communities? Regardless of what it is, based upon their track record, TK Carsites seems to be best positioned to conquer Web 2.0 for their clients as well as prepare for Web 3.0 in the near future.
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Read more about automotive social media on this blog.