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Guest opinion: Incorporating social media into your digital strategy

This is an excerpt from the speech by Mark King, group digital sales and marketing manager at Benfield Motor Group at the AM Used Car Market Conference 2011 on incorporating social media into your digital dealer strategy.

To download the full transcript see November's issue of AMe.

"We sat round the table at Benfield HQ and there was again probably a dozen of us involved at the time and we talked about social media and what it was, how it was going to evolve, what did it mean to us as a business.

It was like a hot potato. It was getting passed around that boardroom like, I don’t know what, because at the time we didn’t know how big it was going to be and were we geared up for it?

Once we got into social media what were we going to do with it, what were we going to say, how were our customers going to react? Anyway we’re into it now and have been for some months and I just want to share with you what we’ve been doing within our social media channels via Twitter and Facebook.

When it comes to Twitter, yes you need followers, but it’s not just about that.
Within Benfield we’ve got more than one account. We’ve got old franchise accounts and the “DriveBenfield” and I’m not going to bore with you the structure but we’ve got over 4,500 followers.

The main “DriveBenfield” account has just over 800 followers and growing.

For us as a business it’s about conversation, a two-way conversation, so having conversations with customers and potential customers.

Engagement, now we engage with our customer or again potential customers via adding rich content on there, almost becoming the authority on a particular subject and that could be the franchises you represent.

Interaction, let’s interact with our customers as you would offline, let’s get conversational, don’t be frightened of it.

It took us a short while to find our voice as well and I firmly believe the voice within the social media channels should represent who you are as a business and who you are as an individual or individuals operating these channels.

We need to strike the balance between too informal and too formal. At one point, just remember, if you set these channels up and you set yourself up on Twitter and Facebook as a business the business accounts – treat them that way don’t go tweeting you’re off to the pub after work for a pint with the lads.

We embarked on two campaigns. We use Twitter not only to put out rich content, not only to engage with our customers but want to give something back to our customers, we want add some value.

Every Friday we give stuff away for free from our partners that we’ve got quality local business relationships with. So we just gave away a meal for two at Hotel du Vin. Durham County Cricket another partner of ours, we give free tickets away. The Eagles, the Falcons, all local businesses that we work in partnership with. We gave 10 tickets away to a professional golf day at Rockcliffe Hall the other week. This all adds value. “Charity Drive” is a campaign which we’ve promoted via Twitter but it really sits on the Facebook platform which I’ll come to in a second.

I want to just quickly put to bed any concerns – or try to anyway because we have them as well at Benfield HQ - you might have with regards to how your customers are going to interact.

A customer complaint isn’t just a letter that comes and drops on your doorstep or goes to the boss now, it’s online, it’s on Facebook, it’s on Twitter and everybody sees it.

So anyway, we went live with the TV campaign as I said. We’ve already embarked on this social media journey. We put a tweet out there saying, “tell us about your favourite car journey for a chance to win a free valet,” and this rather stern looking lady came back and said we’re rather you spoke about this: “Someone from Benfield talked to me about a replacement sound system and I’ve been waiting since January.”

That was one of the first interactions I had on Twitter and it was quite daunting because that’s now public.

And this particular person has got just short of 2,000 followers so all of their 2,000 followers have just seen Benfield in a bad light.

I introduced myself online, sorted out the issue offline because I can’t do it all online, and they had the courtesy to come back and thank us.

So publicly complained or had a dig, we sorted it out and they came back and said, “thanks to Mark at DriveBenfield for being responsive, professional and delivering on his promises, a big step forward.”

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