One of the benefits of doing what we do is that we get to see the automotive industry at both levels. We very involved in the trenches helping individual dealers find success by mastering their digital marketing. We’re constantly in the stratosphere talking to OEMs and vendors about the latest and greatest heading out to the dealer body in the near and distant future. This gives us the joint perspective to allow for a deeper understanding of the direction of the industry as a whole, but more importantly it allows us to know how to approach the marketing for each dealership within their own market.

One of the negatives associated with being in our position is that we’re often given conflicting information. Dealers say one thing. OEMs say another. Vendors say something completely different. In the case of social media, we are forced to take a stand now against some of the OEMs and most of the vendors because what they’re proposing and even currently implementing is not in the best interest of the dealers. This means that it’s not in the best interests of the industry as a whole because despite perceptions that this is a “top-down” industry, the truth that we’ve learned is that dealers truly drive the industry much more than any OEM or vendor.

There is a trend towards applying standardized social media to dealers that comes from OEMs, tier 2, and even a combination that includes vendors that will be harmful to dealers. While we appreciate the stance that some OEMs are taking, the stance that “something is better than nothing and if there has to be something we might as well be the ones providing the messaging”, we also recognize that this is a very poor perspective for dealers who want to see real ROI from social media.

Social media is worldwide, but its greatest strength is in local connections. People simply do not need the local dealer telling them about the national initiatives. The message goes from personalized to insincere and synthetic when that happens. Dealers must own their social media messaging and control the conversations on a local level. The top-down attitude being adopted by many in the corporate world is taking away from the value that social media can bring to dealers and the industry as a whole.

Think of it like Panera Bread. The company has built its presence based upon a localized delivery of corporate best practices. This is a strong model that OEMs should follow – give the recipes to the stores, negotiate the purchasing of ingredients, but let them cook it all on location. Imagine how quickly Panera Bread would crumble if they had a bread factory at corporate that shipped it to the stores. “Corporate bread” would not be nearly as good as having the bread cooked at the store itself.

The same thing holds true for car dealers and social media. To send the corporate-wide or vendor-wide messaging out through individual dealership social media pages and profiles is like sending the same stale bread out to all of the Panera Breads in the country. Stale bread is stale. Generic content is even more stale.

Dealers, you need to take control of your social media and do whatever you can to stop allowing your vendors and OEMs to use your presence as a corporate sounding board. It loses 100% of its value for dealers when a corporate approach is taken. This isn’t universal; PPC and other types of marketing are handled just fine with an OEM approach, but social media must be personalized in order to be effective.

I know this isn’t the type of message that will help us get the lucrative OEM or tier 2 deals, but we can sleep much better at night knowing that we’re putting our clients’ interests above the narrow-minded “big picture”.

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