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Knowing how to tap into that social influence can be challenging for an auto manufacturer. Here are five tips for automakers as they attempt to harness the social influence.
1. Market to the peer influencers as well
Auto purchasing decisions are rarely made in isolation. Think hard about the spheres of influence both online and offline that affect a specific customer segment’s decision-making process and find ways to target those influencers as well. For example, if you’re selling a car to a college student, you can also promote the vehicle online (as a great college car) to the parents of the buyer.
2. Allow for the social influence to take place more naturally
A passionate customer’s relationship with an auto brand is never a private relationship. The customer invariably wants to showcase that relationship in some public form. Provide him or her with enough digital artifacts to do so. There’s memorabilia in the offline space, but what about memorabilia for a social network? Is it available on your website? And I don’t just mean screensavers.
3. Market to your current car owners more aggressively
Most auto manufacturers don’t do enough to harness the passions of current car owners. They’re your most valuable marketers as they strongly influence their peers. Find ways to keep them excited and engaged with the brand on an ongoing basis. Now with marketing through social media, this has finally gotten easier. Take advantage of it and give them more excuses to talk about your brand when they socialize online.
4. Redesign your website to allow for group purchasing decisions
Growing up, my father always made my mother, brother and me active stakeholders when he went shopping for a new car. We’d look at brochures together; visit car dealerships, debate over dinner and vote for our favorites. No auto manufacturer lets me take that experience online. Auto purchases invariably are group decisions, so provide customers with the tools to share information, debate (via social networks or otherwise) and make decisions as a group. You’ll win more customers.
5. Direct customers to third-party experts online
Web behavior has changed, whether you like it or not. Customers will hop between third-party review sites, social networks and competing auto manufacturer websites as they make the purchasing decisions. Instead of ignoring this behavior, embrace it. Point your site visitors to the most authoritative blogs and auto review sites and let those customers tag and catalog that information. They’ll become more informed buyers and you’ll build vital trust by pointing them to the right places. Don’t worry; they’ll come back to your site when they’re ready to buy.
Arguably, over the last few years auto manufacturers have taken some great strides in the social media domain. The challenge now is to lead the way in the next phase of social influence marketing. It’s when the auto manufacturers can truly go social and allow for those peer and anonymous influences to take place naturally. We’re all waiting to see who will do that first and how.
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