Facing Facebook: Is it worth the trouble?

Should your dealership be on Facebook? Is Facebook a valuable tool or a time wasting toy?

Those questions were debated last week during a dealership technology panel discussion at an automotive summit put on by the Rainbow-PUSH Coalition in Detroit.

Damon Lester, executive director of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers, says members of his association would like to establish Facebook pages for their dealerships, but fear the social media site is just another way for dealership employees to goof off.

An audience member opined that Facebook gives disgruntled consumers a public forum to bad-mouth your dealership, and there is nothing you can do about it.

Not so, said panelist Ryan Soffa, director of product development at Ford Motor Co.'s FordDirect.com.

Consumers have always talked about the vehicles they own and their dealership experience -- especially if they are unhappy -- to their neighbors, friends, family, co-workers, mailman, babysitter and anybody else who would listen. Soffa said the Internet gives dealers a chance to get in on the discussion and to make things right.

“Not only is the first customer happy, but everybody in that Facebook community can see how the dealer treats his customers fairly,” Soffa said. “That can help him get more business and more customers.”

He also said employees that cultivate and develop Facebook followers can drive business to the dealership by creating exposure for specific vehicles, accessories and services.

Considering the growing popularity and the low cost of social media compared with traditional media such as TV , says Soffa, Facebook is the way to go.

He added: “This is the next generation; this is what they use. We have to really embrace this to generate business for the store.”