AutoNation starts slow, becomes social media star
Ryan Beene is a reporter for Automotive News.
How many followers does AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson have on Twitter (@ceomikejackson)? Try more than 3,000.
And that's just on his personal site.
After edging slowly into social media two years ago, the nation's largest retail group now has a multilayered social media infrastructure. The corporation, its 10 regional brands and about half of its 232 dealerships have unique Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.
Overseeing its social media presence is a team of three employees, including Mallory Colliflower, AutoNation's social media coordinator.
In addition to Facebook and Twitter, Colliflower says about 80 percent of the company's stores have deals with FourSquare, a location-based social networking site accessible through mobile devices. AutoNation also has separate company blogs for investors and consumers and is developing video content to be uploaded to YouTube."Our overall goal is to build trust with our customers and to shed this whole stereotype that the car dealer is the bad guy," Colliflower says.
Mike Maroone: Still learning
AutoNation's regional and national pages are managed through the corporate offices, but individual dealers upload their own content to their Facebook pages. AutoNation suggests a framework of content for dealer Facebook pages and they offer best-practice examples.
Colliflower says the AutoNation team posts news stories from automotive and consumer publications such as Car and Driver and Consumer Reports to foster discussion and interaction on Facebook pages.
Special offers for discounted oil changes and other service promotions are posted on the Facebook profiles, and some deals are available only to those who "like" the Facebook pages of AutoNation's regional and local dealerships.
So far the AutoNation corporate page has about 8,000 "likes."
COO Mike Maroone told me the company is still in the learning phase when it comes to social media. But he knows AutoNation can't ignore them.
Said Maroone: "Is there an ROI? I don't know. Can I measure how many things we sell on it? I don't know. But the way people get their information is very different than the way things were done in the past. If we're not playing in that world, we're not connecting with that customer."
Editor's note: An earlier version of this Social Brief (which also appeared on Page 3 of the June 6 issue) incorrectly said BMW Financial Services and Mini Financial Services were the first capitives to have a Facebook profile. The capitives were the first to have profiles within BMW and Mini's Facebook brand profiles.
BMW's captive finance company went social recently on the Facebook profile of BMW USA and Mini USA.
BMW says its new Facebook pages for BMW Financial Services and Mini Financial Services are the first for a captive automotive finance company to have profiles within their brand profiles. The BMW/Mini financial services profiles have links to lease and finance deals offered by the captive, plus other content about the brand.
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