Lebanon Ford-Lincoln did something radical in May: It offered a "pay what you want" oil change coupon to its 586 friends on Facebook, the social media Web site.
"You had some people who paid us $1, but we also had people pay $20 or more," says Jeff Cryder Jr., social media director at Lebanon Ford-Lincoln in Lebanon, Ohio.
The coupon ran for two months and attracted 33 customers. Customers, on average, paid $15.35 for the oil change. The dealership broke even, says Lisa Cryder, 48, owner of the dealership. But, she says, she wasn't looking for a short-term gain.
"The point of an oil change is to get the person in and do an upgrade service," she says. "Now we're sending service reminders to them. It's the longer term relationship you're building."
Some dealers are discovering that inexpensive social media can be a creative tool to build service business. They are posting offers on Facebook and Twitter and using Foursquare.com, a mobile phone application that enables friends to track each other's whereabouts. Dealers are running promotions on those sites and establishing search-engine connections to steer potential customers to a dealership Web site or a social media page.
"The largest opportunities dealers have in social media are in fixed operations," says Jared Hamilton, founder of DrivingSales.com in Salt Lake City. "Most customers' questions and relationships really happen in the service department. So that's where you can create the most content, searches and relationships."
DrivingSales.com is a social networking site for auto dealers.