DEARBORN -- FordDirect, a joint venture between Ford Motor Co. and its franchise dealers, announced Tuesday the launch of its new social media and reputation management service for Ford and Lincoln dealers.
Powered by Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Digital Air Strike, the vision behind this service is to provide dealers with the proper guidance, tools and resources to enable them to effectively manage their online reputation and social media presence.
FordDirect is already providing syndicated Facebook content at no charge to about 900 Ford and Lincoln dealerships' through a partnership with the Ford Motor Co. Digital Team. FordDirect posts socially relevant topics on dealership Facebook pages, on average three to five times per week, focusing on vehicle and technology articles, photos and videos.
"Facebook is a great way for dealerships to interact with new and current customers alike and share information about Ford and Lincoln products," said Valerie Fuller, COO of FordDirect. "However, dealerships often struggle to come up with ongoing posts and create engaging content that is socially relevant. FordDirect saw an opportunity to serve as trusted advisors for our dealers and solve this issue for them through our free content syndication service."
Now to build on the success of the Facebook syndication, FordDirect is launching a full-service social media and reputation management service that will help dealers take control of their online brand on 20 social media and review sites.
"More and more consumers are beginning their shopping experience online," Fuller said. "Whether going online at home or accessing the Internet from their mobile device, consumers already have an opinion of the dealership before they walk in the door. It is critical for dealers to interact with their customers online and be proactive in asking customers to share their experiences with others."
The FordDirect Social Media and Reputation Management pilot found that while 80 percent of all online reviews are positive, only 20 percent of dealership reviews were positive. However, when dealerships asked customers to review their shopping experience, 75 percent of the feedback they received was positive.
The rule of thumb used to be that, when one person had a bad experience, he or she told 10 other people. The Internet and social media have now made it so that number can quickly multiply, with the average American Facebook user having 229 friends, according to research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Also, according to Convergys Corp., an online customer review reaches 45 consumers that shop at that outlet. A negative review or comment on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube can cost a company as many as 30 of the 45 prospective customers.
FordDirect's Social Media and Reputation Management service will help dealers take control of their online reputation by creating a social media platform on 20 sites. This includes up to 10 social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube and up to 10 review sites including Google+ Local, Yelp!, Yahoo Local and City Search. The service will help turn consumers into engaged audiences with customized content that is branded for each dealership, while managing and helping to improve each dealership's online reputation.
"According to our 2012 Automotive Social Media and Online Reputation Management Study, 69 percent of recent car buyers said that social media and dealership reviews had an impact on which dealership they purchased from," said Alexi Venneri, Co-Founder , CMO and COO-Social Media of Digital Air Strike. "We're looking forward to working with Ford and Lincoln dealers to help them maximize their social media presence and become more responsive on the review sites."
"Responding to both positive and negative reviews online is very important to the company's brand," said Fuller. "Not only are you potentially swaying a customer who had a bad experience back into your favor, but you're also leaving a positive impression on future customers who get a glimpse into how the company is run."
Referrals from FordDirect represent 22 percent of Ford and Lincoln retails sales, and dealers will sell about 370,000 vehicles from FordDirect Internet referrals this year. For more information, visit www.forddirect.com/dealercenter.
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