AM Online

Social media: opening a channel to your customers

The success and failure of an automotive retail business can be boiled down to one area – customer service.

It is how a dealer can differentiate themselves from competitors; it can trump brands, location and even convenience.

Social media is now playing a massive role in business for handling customer service, complaints, feedback and interaction. It brings the voice of the consumer into the dealership at a time when showroom visits and face-to-face meetings are at a minimum in the industry.

Dealers have been using social media networks for several years, but monitoring success and using them as part of the marketing mix has become essential to keep pace with consumer buying habits at a time when 58% of people in the UK use social media regularly. In the UK alone, 175 million tweets are sent each day and mobile internet browsing is expected to overtake desktop use this year.

One of the largest areas in which social media can have an impact is in marketing.

Giles Palmer, founder and chief executive  of Brandwatch, a social media monitoring company, believes businesses are now structuring their marketing teams to reflect where consumers are spending their time online.

“Businesses are now structuring their marketing teams with search engine optimisation at the top of the list, then social media and community managers, with PR and events sitting below that,” he said.

Community managers handle all online enquiries into the business, as well as monitor all interaction, engagement and feedback across social media channels and also manage content across those websites.

It’s an approach dealers could consider, but only after measuring the potential benefit and influence social media could have. Many dealers may  panic when they see the buzz words “social media” and jump into it but setting clear goals and monitoring activity is essential first.

Tim Smith, GForces commercial director, told AM: “For any dealership or dealer group, there should be a dedicated member of staff or team that handles social media enquiries and comments.

“This makes contact efficient and ensures consistency. Handling social media this way ensures that complaints or potential leads aren’t dealt with by multiple people and are fed through the right channels promptly.”

Gillian Phillips, KPMG senior manager foresight and innovation, told AM: “There’s still a wide variety of maturity within business when it comes to social media.

“It ranges from the very basic, to experimenting and listening to customers, to the mature businesses are building audiences and engaging.”

Social media will be discussed in depth at AM's Digital Dealer Conference on September 12 at the Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon, Warwickshire. Tickets are available to dealers and manufacturers, to book, please contact Nicola Baxter on 01733 468289 or email or visit

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