There are very few things I can say with 100% conviction I’m an expert at. Eating, breathing and sleeping certainly top the list and I may be able to conjure up a sentence or two – but master of social media, I am not. I don’t have the thousands of airline miles REAL social media experts earn while trotting around the globe attending events. These gatherings, with their alphanumeric hodgepodge of a name, are where the Pros go to share their social media know-how. Rumor has it just being in the proximity of (and of course tagging) a Level 20 Social Media God increases your web credibility to the third power! Keep that in mind all you social media greenhorns.
To make sure I stay grounded and not get sucked into the whole social media mystery, I take very small sips from the Social Media Kool-Aid jar. I prefer to see the world through the sober eyes of the non-tech savvy consumer…. you know, like most of the consumers out there.
After reading over (remember small sips) a few studies that examined social media in the automotive industry I noticed they all seemed to proclaim – “If you increase your social media presence, you’ll increase your market share”. While that sound bite has a nice ring to it, especially if you’re the one selling an all-inclusive social media package, it ain’t 100% right.
After bankruptcy, two of the Big Three automakers were scurrying around with their hair on fire trying to develop a strategy to shake the unpleasant government-owned smell they’d been blessed with. Many turned to social media as their elixir of choice. These self-proclaimed social media experts will tell you, it was this investment in social media that fueled the glorious resurrection of companies like GM. Really social media experts, really?
“Sorry Cruze, Volt, Silverado and CTS – you are extraordinary, but let’s face it – if we didn’t tweet about you or give you a “like button” and your own Facebook page, you’d still be sitting in an overflow lot miles from the showroom. A simple thank you will suffice” – Your Friend, Social Media.
Sorry folks I don’t buy this. Companies like Audi have consumed market share faster than Charlie Sheen has gained delusional followers. Wearing my consumer hat, I watch the social media of automotive producers and I tell ya what – Audi ain’t doing nothing special (no offense Audi). Sure, the occasional “WE broke the speed record on ice” or “Glad you like your A3!” tweet, but they haven’t created a revolutionary social media strategy. Also, don’t even get me started on how many diesels they’ve sold without any educational social media campaign pounding the “Buy Diesel Drum”.
What can all this mean? Well folks, I know it sounds crazy, but maybe product is what sells (Ask Bob Lutz) and social media is just a way for people to play on the web and get paid to do it (Hmm..sounds like most jobs). In a study conducted by Polk of 4,005 people who recently purchased a vehicle online, they found that “97 percent of buyers indicated that social media did not inﬂuence their vehicle purchase.”
Before you start lobbing rude and snide comments at me, let me say this.There is a place for social media in the automotive arena, specifically when it comes to direct customer support. Ford and GM really understand this and have customer service representatives available and ready via social media. Efforts such as these will have the highest return on social media investments (ROI metric unavailable - just TRUST ME).
In the end though, what social media won’t do is make your product better or improve dealership experience. No amount of tweeting, facebooking or youtubing can conceal a dreadful sale associate or make a substandard plastic interior feel more expensive.