There's value in just one tweet.
Ryan Holtz, marketing manager of Zender Ford in Spruce Grove, Alberta, was perusing the dealership's Twitter feed recently when he spotted a tweet from a customer at the store for vehicle service.
Always on the lookout for ways to connect with customers, Holtz went to the lounge to introduce himself -- demonstrating how dealerships can leverage social media to build relationships.
Holtz learned that the customer's iPhone was low on power, so he gave him a charger to use. Then Holtz gave him a lunch from the dealership's cafeteria.
To top things off, Holtz led the customer on an impromptu tour of the building, which was undergoing renovations at the time.
Before the customer left, Holtz recalled him saying, "Wow, just from a tweet, I got treated like a king."
Holtz, who described himself as a one-man marketing department, has worked at Zender Ford since December.
When he arrived, Zender's Twitter account had only four followers and the store's Facebook page had just 57 fans.
Holtz says dealerships should look at social media as a way to give people glimpses inside their stores. Holtz routinely shares Vine videos -- up to six-second clips filmed on smartphones -- that document day-to-day life at Zender Ford on Twitter.
And when he posts inventory photos, they are often accompanied by witty messages that don't mention prices.
Zender Ford's Twitter following has grown to more than 1,700 and its Facebook fan count is approaching 3,000.
"The biggest thing about social media and online is I'm always looking for ways to take that community offline," Holtz says. "How can I actually physically talk to these people that are online, offline? Whatever chance we get to do that, we'll do it."
Holtz remembers turning an offended couple into buyers within a two-hour span, thanks to the power of Facebook.
Holtz says the husband had posted a complaint on Zender Ford's Facebook page claiming that his wife was treated poorly during a visit to the store. The wife said salespeople didn't acknowledge her because she didn't appear wealthy.
Holtz responded, sending her a link to the staff page to see if she remembered the employees. Holtz learned from the couple that the incident had happened two years earlier and involved staff members who no longer worked there.
Shortly after the exchange, the wife came in for a test drive and ended up buying a vehicle.
"We keep all posts on our Facebook. We don't delete any negative posts," Holtz says. "It gives us a chance, every negative post, to make it right."
In another instance, Zender used YouTube to help customers who were having problems using the MyFord Touch infotainment system. The dealership created several instructional videos to highlight the system's features.
Holtz says educational videos get the most attention.
"YouTube is the golden child," he says. "That's a really good way to get our message out there."
Embracing social media was an easy choice for Del Grande Dealer Group in California's Silicon Valley, the backyard of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Del Grande ranks No. 56 on the Automotive News list of the top 125 dealership groups in the United States with retail sales of 12,408 new vehicles in 2012.