After many years as a senior manager, consultant, and co-owner on the retail side of the automotive industry I have a unique “view” as I watch the typical automobile dealership management team wrestle with the idea of implementing social media into their organization.

It seems the manufacturers have done a great job of educating the owners of their franchise on the importance of getting on-board the social media wave. However, most, with little or no understanding of  Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, etc., are struggling with how to get it done.  It doesn’t seem that many years ago we were dealing with a similar issue.  At that time the Internet was the “buzz word” and the majority of us were trying to get an understanding of how to best utilize this new “tool”.  For most of us our new internet manager was someone we chose from our sales team who had an interest in the internet and enough knowledge to ensure us that we were making the right decision.  With the internet manager in place and our limited understanding of the subject we went back to the day to day challenges of running our stores. In hindsight, by hiring from within, it caused us to under-utilize the potential the Internet provided.

Now the “buzz” is social media and I am hearing managers say they could hire teenagers, relatives, college kids etc. (saving money) to run their social media campaigns.  How do you educate someone that does not yet understand the difference in having a personal Facebook profile versus a company running an effective campaign using Facebook, Twitter, etc. and integrating these with their other forms of advertising? Having the benefit of 30 years in the auto industry and a good understanding of the potential of social media, it is somewhat frustrating to witness the lack of understanding that managers have.  On the other hand, as discussed earlier I went through the internet learning curve just as confused as what I am witnessing today.

Complicating the issue, most dealerships are still reeling from the financial hits taken by their business during the last 18 months; so finding ways to stretch their dollars is a high priority.  Unfortunately their inability to see the potential results combined with their tight purse strings will cause many to miss the advantages associated with getting on board early and distancing themselves from the pack.

Like the adoption of the Internet, the only question is not “If” the dealer will join the social marketing wave but “When.”  Will they be an innovator or a laggard??

The dealer’s job is finding a consultant that can patiently walk them through their challenges and prove the value!

I am interested in hearing from auto dealers and marketing consultants on how they are adopting social media into their marketing mix. Are you using a staff member, a consultant, a friend or relative or a combination? What is working best for you? Please use the comment section below to leave us your thoughts.