Dealers jam TADA boot camp to learn socially acceptable patterns of behavior

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By Lawrence Papoff

TORONTO, ONT. – Dealers, some perplexed, some skeptical, jammed a meeting room at the Toronto Conference Centre to learn how to come to terms with social media. The Toronto Auto Dealers Association, now Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, recruited a platoon of experts to instruct the 250 attendees on how to make their way through the maze of channels or at least feel at ease in what to most is a new environment.

It won’t go away and it’s growing was the message that Tim Wilson, head of industry at Google Canada, brought. Even the mighty Google has ventured into the area with Google+.

“You cannot avoid the fact that your customers and potential customers are talking to their friends and using social networks to shop,” Wilson said.

Just in case that wasn’t persuasive enough, Wilson offered up these figures, the results, he said, of third party studies done by Ipsos and Maritz.

Studies showed that of the 2,300 interviewed, 16 per cent relied on YouTube and other social media channels when car shopping in 2011.

That’s up from 11 per cent in 2010.

“Our guess is that it’ll go to 20 per cent in 2012,” he said.

Those numbers came at the expense of OEM websites, AutoTrader and Kijiji.

“They want to see a video made by John Smith, not the manufacturer.”

That explained why automakers were letting people test drive their cars and put those videos on their blogs and YouTube.

 Google+ is Google’s answer to Facebook with its 800 million users. As of mid-January, Google says it has a user base of over 90 million.

“It lets you begin a conversation on your Google+ page,” he said.

Features include “hangouts,” where up to 10 people can chat. He recommended dealers film a video about one of the features of a car or a service they offer and place it on YouTube. Clicking on the share button lets the user watch it with friends in a Google+ hangout.

Dealers could encourage their customers to join groups for Corvette or Jeep lovers and hangout.

The bonus is it’s not costly.

“You don’t need to hire a professional photographer,” Wilson said.

Jared Hamilton, founder of Driving Sales, a social media company, told the audience there were nine social media platforms. (See sidebar.)

But wherever dealers turn, they should approach humbly. They needn’t be in charge.

“Show up with a smile. Join. Participate. The communities are there,” Hamilton said.

He offered this idea. Tapped out for charitable donations? Sponsor one. All that means is you put the charity’s logo on your website then have your content editor attend the group’s next meeting and make a video. Post it on your website or Facebook page. The group will reciprocate.

While the technology may be strange, the involvement with community groups and charities is not.

Still in fog about what all this means? He offered this piece of advice: hire a content editor. They create or edit copy to promote your dealership. The editor’s job is to churn out relevant content for one or more of the social media channels you use.

Relevant means it contains keywords or phrases that will be picked up by web users who are shopping for car or just looking for advice.

That’s called search engine optimization or SEO.

They can also write or edit dealership blogs, which contain helpful advice from your staff or videos starring new models or your latest community or charitable efforts.

Editors can be recruited from journalism schools. You don’t have to pay them very much, Hamilton noted.

To get the best one, the most creative, he suggested offering a $1,000 scholarship and a part-time job to the student who can write the most interesting and relevant copy. You pick the topic.