By Debbie Kirlew
The battle to be noticed in the social media domain starts behind the scenes – before a tweet is made, a Facebook status is updated or a blog post written.
With the phenomenal proliferation of content, it is more challenging than ever to be heard, making a highly focused process critical. Social media management covers a spectrum of processes from individual ‘champions’ controlling timing and content to guidelines for all staff. Broadly speaking, dealers can manage their social media in-house, out-source it or work in conjunction with the manufacturer, although most are likely to operate a mixed approach.
1: The in-house approach
Mark King, group digital sales and marketing manager at Benfield Motor Group, decided to bring all digital communications, including web development, in-house and created a centralised and specialist team.
NEED TO KNOW
♦ Dealers’ social media strategies vary between in-house, outsourced and jointly with manufacturers
♦ Consistently engaging and useful content is key
Benfield has achieved an impressive presence with a well thought-out and managed strategy which has evolved over time and includes “brand champions” posting and tweeting interesting content and engaging in discussions with customers and followers while adhering to group guidelines.
The Benfield Motor Group blog launched in December 2012 and now has 3,000 views a week. Although King said: “I still feel we have a lot to learn with regards to our blog, but I am confident we’ll see engagement grow as we learn more about our readers and the content that engages them.”
A central team allows Benfield to be fluid and quick-thinking and try new ideas.
When it comes to engagement and content that is more likely to resonate with followers, King believes simpler is often better.
“We gave away some tickets to a local event, which was very popular and had a tweet reach of over 39,000. Also a simple wash and vac giveaway can be popular,” he said.
“It was all about followers and likes when we first started out. I didn’t really understand any other measurement. We still try and grow our fan base, but reach and engagement is the measurement I now use.”
Similarly, at Ridgeway, marketing manager Philip J. Deacon’s success is the result of a centrally managed structure, which also provides the opportunity to try new platforms, such as Vine.
Continual measurement means Deacon’s team can identify the content that works. For example, their experience with YouTube reflects the growth of video consumption with year-on-year rises – up 184% in 2011 compared with 2010; an incredible 395% viewing rise in 2012 and slowing to a still impressive 83% increase last year.
“All of Ridgeway’s social posts and interactions are administered through the centralised marketing team,” said Deacon.
“Content is produced in collaboration with the CEO, group operations director, brand directors and departmental managers. Statistics, engagement and content are reviewed brand-by-brand on a monthly basis for improvement.
“We also capture and analyse data from social media channels to monitor our represented brands, site locations and identify key communities and influencers, address any customer service issues and generate new sales and service leads.
“We have been very successful ensuring any detractors or advocates are contacted appropriately. All direct tweets and customer concerns are answered seven days a week – and followed up by our board of directors regarding their outcome.”
Content has been vital to Ridgeway’s social media success and comes in a number of forms, including making use of commercial partnerships with the likes of London Irish Rugby Football Club, local Championship football clubs, golf clubs, health clubs and charities plus celebrity advocates.
Ridgeway’s wider content sources make use of corporate information, dealership and manufacturer news including new car live streaming and events as well as world and automotive news. But it also includes competitions, features such as ‘ask the tech a question’, sharing customer experiences and photos and a look at automotive ads through the ages.
The breadth of content illustrates how social media can be much more than a stand-alone activity and, to maximise its effectiveness, needs to be joined up with all marketing efforts.
At Ridgeway, the social media processes are just as important as the medium itself and since 2010 it has incorporated social media training into the induction programme for all new staff.
It also provides employees with a copy of its ‘social media policy document’ which includes individual responsibilities and explains how a seemingly innocent comment or post can pose a risk to the group’s confidentiality, harm its reputation and even jeopardise compliance with legal obligations.