Dealers must take a conversational and respectful tone when communicating with customers through social media, according to dealer management software company Pinewood.
The company has set up a list of 10 guidelines for dealers that are unsure of the right approach when it comes to social media.
Chris Caines, Pinewood marketing executive, said: “The question of striking the right tone is by far the most common subject we are asked by dealers about social media.
“The answer is not always easy – the best approach varies from dealer to dealer, customer to customer, and between different manufacturer brands – but the general, common themes are taking control of usage within your dealership and striking a conversational but respectful tone with customers.
“An essential step is to write a social media communications policy that ‘polices’ your use of the medium, and also to make it a specific responsibility for a member of staff.”
• Create a social media policy - do not allow use of social media across your dealership to be carried out on an ad-hoc fashion. Decide what you are trying to achieve, how social media can help you do it, and which dealership staff will be responsible for your dealership’s social media. Put methods in place of monitoring activity and results.
• Decide your style – think about how you want to be perceived and how to achieve this. Aim for a personalised, conversational style - social media is all about striking up a dialogue. Use a tone that is friendly and informal but respectful and businesslike.
• Do not lapse into “textspeak” – remember that social media is still a business relationship. Use correctly punctuated English rather than texting-style abbreviations. Do not be overfamiliar or vulgar.
• Place the sales element correctly – do not use social media to ‘sell, sell, sell’ but instead be appropriately informative about products and services without being excessively pushy. It is also important to realise that customers are expecting you to talk about your products and services at some point – avoiding occasional messages reduces trust within your community. Customers are clever.
• Update only when you have something to say - there are few bigger customer turn-offs than outdated information or a ‘forthcoming event’ that happened last month. However, do not be tempted to update every hour, only when you have something relevant to communicate.
• Use different approaches for different channels – there are all kinds of social media, so find the right approach for each. For example, how you use Twitter, Facebook and Groupon to promote you dealership should be different, because they are completely different animals. Explore where the conversation is happening and join them.
• Learn to handle negative criticism – social media communication tends to be much more fast and loose than traditional channels. You may need to develop a thicker skin but also learn to deal with negative comments in a sensitive and constructive way.
• Don’t be afraid to take the conversation offline – there are some things that are simply better handled on the phone. When the situation demands it, ask the customer if it would be OK to give them a call.
• Abuse is not appropriate – there is no need to put up with insulting language just because it is occurring online. You’ll be respected more for dismissing sexist, racist, ageist remarks, for example.
• Don’t worry about the pace of change – social media is moving very rapidly all the time and the speed can be startling. Try to keep abreast of developments but remember to look at the business case for each new tool rather than getting carried away by the hype.
Caines added: “This advice is basic but provides a framework within which dealers can start using social media in an effective and appropriate framework.
“Social media is often common sense, but make sure that you approach it in a structured, business-like way. It is a powerful communication tool.”