FordDirect will help dealers manage reputations online
DETROIT -- FordDirect, a joint venture between Ford Motor Co. and its dealers, launched a new service to help dealers manage their reputation and social media presence online this week.
FordDirect has contracted with Digital Air Strike, a Sunnyvale, Calif., company that helps dealerships create and manage social media content.
"Facebook is a great way for dealerships to interact with new and current customers alike and share information about Ford and Lincoln products," Valerie Fuller, COO of FordDirect, said in a statement. "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."
FordDirect was created to help dealers effectively use digital technology to sell more cars and trucks.
At dealers' request
Ford and Lincoln dealers had requested a service such as the new one in regional dealer group meetings.
FordDirect chose Digital Air Strike after a nine-month bidding process that included two other providers, said Kate Bullach, FordDirect vice president of communications. She did not identify the other bidders.
Ford and Lincoln dealers can sign up for the voluntary service immediately, said Bullach. The service, called FordDirect Social Media and Reputation Management, is being offered at two service levels: Premier and Elite.
For the $399 monthly Premier fee, dealers get an adviser assigned by Digital Air Strike. That adviser will engage with customers and provide content. For the $799 Elite fee, the adviser will respond to every single customer posting.
Alexi Venneri, co-founder and COO of Digital Air Strike, said a Digital Air Strike study showed that 69 percent of car buyers say social media and dealership reviews has an impact on which dealership they choose to do business with.
Google+ and others
FordDirect will help dealers manage their reputations by creating a platform on 20 sites, including major Web sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube, along with 10 review sites, including Google+ Local, Yelp, Yahoo! Local and Citysearch.
About 30 dealers participated in a pilot program to help set up the new reputation management service.
The study 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 rate their shopping experiences, 75 percent said they had a good experience.
The growth of Internet reviews and social media sites has meant that the effect of a single negative review can multiply.
Referrals from FordDirect represent 22 percent of Ford and Lincoln retail sales, FordDirect says. Dealers will sell about 370,000 vehicles from FordDirect Internet referrals this year, according to the company.
FordDirect provides dealers with such services as online marketing, lead management and Web site creation, in part by vetting prospective vendors of online services and then buying those services in bulk at better prices than dealers could negotiate individually.
FordDirect is also designed to help dealers receive optimal placement on Google and other search engines.
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