Social media has been on a steady rise as a valid service in automotive since 2009. Old companies add social media services to their offerings. New companies that specialize in social media continue to pop up. Dealers do not lack choices in this important arena.

Reputation management has seen a similar growth pattern at a smaller scale over the last 3 years. Once OEMs started taking notice of online reviews, the mad rush to put out a service in hopes of getting co-op money and OEM endorsements spurred many new products to pop up.

These two events by themselves are not bad. The side-effect of them growing around the same time is definitely bad. For some reasons, companies started associating social media marketing and reputation management as if there was a connection between the two disciplines. That’s a problem. They are not the same disciplines. They don’t even have the same goals. The techniques and strategies are different. The only real connection is that some social sites like Google+ and Facebook have review portions to them and most review sites allow you to share on social media.

Having a team run social media and reputation management together is like having the same team working on buses and trains. The similarities do not change the fact that the dynamics, parts, and techniques are completely different. Keep in mind that we own a social media company and a reputation management company. It would be easy and cost-effective to combine them into a single unit, but that doesn’t make sense for the dealers.

Perhaps a better way to look at it is through sports. Social media is an offensive play for the dealership with the goal of spreading the right marketing messages. Reputation management is a defensive player with the goal of protecting the dealership from being seen in a negative light. They require different actions to make them work properly. They require specialists.

As more dealers invest into both of these disciplines, it’s important to understand that no single team can manage both well. We keep them separated, not because it’s more profitable for us to do so. It isn’t. We would make more money through consolidation, which is why nearly every social media company bundles in reputation management into their packages and within their operations. I’ve worked at a company that did that and I’ve seen the results that other companies offer. It’s simply not as effective to put them together.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t buy your social media and reputation from the same company. I’m saying that you should investigate to see who handles each component and how the operations at the company work through them. There are times when consolidation of form and function make sense, such as with SEO and PPC or websites and CRM, but in the case of social media and reputation management, consolidation makes no sense at all.