Social Media and the Car Business: Viable?

During the National Automobile Dealers Association in New Orleans last week, two things were apparent:

  1. Fewer vendors and a lot fewer dealers attended this year.
  2. Those who did attend heard a lot about social media.

You're Doing it WrongThe only problem is that, while social media is viable for most businesses out there, it seems to have eluded car dealers and other automotive-related companies.  There are hundreds of dealers and dealership employees who have created Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter accounts.  There are dozens of vendors who are attempting (usually in vain) to use social news sites for traffic and SEO reasons.  Blogs are buzzing and popping up left and right.

For all intents and purposes, they’re doing it wrong.

Social media requires social interaction, but what we’re seeing in the automotive industry is that most are simply using social media to promote themselves. The sites mentioned above and social media in general does not tolerate single-minded self promotion.  For that, people will just watch TV commercials.  On the Internet in 2009, people want engagement and interaction.  It’s that simple.

So, the question is, “Is social media viable in the car business?”  The answer is yes, but with a big asterisk.  Let’s take a look at each type of potential social media marketing aspect of the Internet and how it relates to the car business.  We’ll also look at a few different sites to see where improvements made.

For this article, we’ll focus on social news sites.

Social News

Sites like Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon are famous (notorious?) for driving tremendous amounts of traffic to websites.  For the car business, this traffic is two things:

  1. The traffic is worldwide, which makes it generally useless for local car dealers
  2. The traffic is very difficult to drive to sites that sell things, especially cars

If the traffic is useless and impossible to get, how can social news sites help the car business?  The answer (sadly) is in the optimization of the dealers’ websites.  It has been well known for a couple of years that search engines favor social media sites highly as links for search engine optimization.  On the surface, it would appear that using social news for Dealer SEO would be easy.  The problem that most vendors face is that it isn’t easy anymore and is getting harder.

Web vendors and marketing companies that spam their clients’ sites on social media are not doing their clients’ any favors.  The social news sites, their communities, and the search engines do not appreciate it and are no longer rewarding sites with rankings the way they used to.  For car dealer websites to gain value from social media, they have to give some value back in return.  There are ways to be both informative and social-news-acceptable and still get benefits from it, but it is very challenging and other than a very select few car dealer marketing firms, most are either not entering social news at all or they’re simply spamming the sites.

Think value.  Offer what you believe others want to read about.  Offer insights, videos, images, or tools that aren’t geared to make a sale but that are geared to give back to the community.  Otherwise, you or your marketing firm are just spamming.

There are programs available that will post links to several different sites.  These programs are worthless.  They once added value, but as I said, the search engines, the social news sites, and their communities are catching on.  More importantly, many of the sites use nofollow links which add zero SEO value.  Companies that are posting your content to these sites for SEO reasons probably need to go back to SEO 101 class.

In the next article, we will discuss Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace and how the automotive industry can do it right on those platforms.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about using social news to add value to the communities as well as assist in your marketing campaigns.

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Read more about automotive social media marketing on this blog.

JD Rucker

+JD Rucker is Editor at Soshable, a Social Media Marketing Blog. He is a Christian, a husband, a father, and founder of Dealer Authority. He drinks a lot of coffee, usually in the form of a 5-shot espresso over ice. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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