9 Critical Questions to Ask When Hiring a Social Media Agency [A Response]

In a post on Pushing Social written by Stanford, the author suggests 9 questions that you should ask before hiring a social media agency. At 3GEngagement we offer social media services and I thought, since they were really good questions, that I would answer them. Why? Because of the insight you would gain into what we do.

Lets get right to it then:

#1 Describe our business model?

The auto industry is more complex than just selling cars and service. There are a lot of different moving parts involved, there are trade-ins and financing, strange engine noises and wobbly tires, not to mention the level of communication that’s needed on many different levels to ensure that the customer is taken of. In a nut shell, the auto industry is in the business of standing out from the competition and attracting new customers to buy cars and/or obtain service. From there the business model is to keep those customers so that they buy more cars, more service and tell others about their positive buying experience.

Bottom Line: The auto industry is a people business.

#2 Why do you think that Social Media is important to this organization?

Lets face it, the auto industry doesn’t have the best of reputations. True, the auto industry has changed over the last 5 – 10 years but unfortunately the perception of it hasn’t. Because social media is such a powerful communication tool it’s a great way to reach out, humanize the dealership and change the overall perception of the industry.

Each dealership is different, each community is different, so each social strategy must be different. The reason? Because different people in different parts of the country communicate in different ways. They respond to different types of discussions. It’s thru this communication that word-of-mouth is created and customer loyalty is influenced.

#3 Describe a communications problem you solved with social media?

The biggest problem with the auto industry, as I mentioned in the previous answer, is its perception. By it’s very definition social media is the answer to the problem. By using social to humanize the dealership brand the dealership becomes more real, they become more than just another dealership, they become Mark and John, Craig and Nancy.

#4 Explain your process for building relationships with influencers?

At 3GEngagement we have a very scientific approach to engagement. We use what we refer to as the Golden Triangle of Community Engagement. We always strive to encourage 3 types of engagement, they are:

Engagement Between

  • The community and the people of the dealership
  • The people of the dealership and the people of the dealership, and
  • The community and the community.

Because engagement is a precursor to brand ambassadorship it’s easy to figure out who your would be influencers are. From there it’s a matter of engaging them around what they feel is important. Keep in mind that it doesn’t necessarily mean they feel the dealership or the makes you sell is important.

We believe in the power of social objects, which is a conversation piece that inherently generates conversation and action around itself. A social object can be just about anything, it can be a news piece, a cause such as ending world hunger, a passion such as the love one has for their favorite football team, or even a lifestyle such as surfing.

All social objects have 3 things in common, they are:

  1. Conversational: people want to talk and have conversations with other people connected with the social object.
  2. Brings People Together: people want to be around other people that are connected with the social object. They feel part of a community, that they belong with each other.
  3. Talk Worthy: people feel the desire to tell other people, who may not know about the social object, so that they, in turn, become part of the community.

We always ask ourselves, based on the dealership and the community these 3 questions:

  1. What social causes are supported by our buying demographic?
  2. What lifestyles are supported our buying demographic?
  3. What is our buying demographic passionate about.

Answering those 3 questions allow us to engage influences and help to shape their perceptions about the dealership. Change the perception in a positive way and influences start talking.

# 5 Can you walk us through the steps for creating our social media strategy and tactics?

We employe a 5 point social presence framework, in brief they are.

  1. We develop a hub around the dealership brand. This is a website, but is so much more than that, a site that included blog posts, social network specific landing pages, reviews, videos, local happenings and more.
  2. We develop outposts that link back to the hub, this can be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google + and more. Each one fits within the over all goal of the dealership brand. These outposts are where community is built, where the bulk of the conversation happens around social objects and the dealerships brand.
  3. We develop passports. These are sites that the dealership maintains a profile on but aren’t used to build community to the level that outposts are.
  4. We set up a review influence campaign where we get as many customers as possible to leave reviews on a different review sites.
  5. Using software we set up a social listening station that monitors specific keywords surrounding the dealership brand. If its positive or negative we alert the dealership and help to ensure that if it’s negative it’s resolved and if it’s positive that it happens again.

Around that framework we also have a 4 step strategy creation process:

  • Investigate: The first step in defining your strategy is to monitor your market. Figure out what platforms they are using and what they are talking about. What interests them and what are they saying on social platforms.
  • Objectives:  Define what your objectives are. Do you want more website hits, more phone calls or more service traffic. These objectives must be clearly defined and aligned with metrics. How will you define these objectives?
  • Actions: What are the actual actions you will perform to meet these objectives? Will you be blogging, podcasting, or creating videos? How are you going to build your community? It’s important when defining your strategy to NOT think about platforms, but instead what must be ACCOMPLISHED to meet your objectives.
  • Platforms: Define the platforms that will fit your strategy.

That is WAY over simplifying things but the most important point is that you know that we have a process in place when it comes to developing social strategy.

#6 How will you track our program’s performance?

We have a full set of ROI reports that we supply to our dealership clients each and every month. We understand that unless a vehicle is sold or service is performed that social media is worthless. Here are a few things we track to give you a a better idea of what I’m talking about:

  • Number of click throughs to the dealerships website from social networks. From there the number that turned into leads and then sold. We can do the same with service.
  • Share of voice report. This lets the dealership know how many positive mentions they are receiving in their local market vs. competitors. More word-of-mouth equals more sales.
  • Facebook insights report that details how active the community is. While growth is important, its only as important as it’s engagement level.
  • Social mention report with sentiment analysis.
  • User generated content report. Tells us how active the community is and how passionate they are about your brand.

#7 How will you handle content creation?

Content creation is the cornerstone of what we do here at 3GEngagement. Everything we do is built on unique content creation from blog posts and Facebook updates to eBook creation and video email. We have internal content writers that specialize in the auto industry.

#8 How will you manage legal risks?

Most dealerships don’t even consider this one but we observe any and all internal communication requirements as set forth by the dealership and the manufacturer. Since we work closely with a few OEMs and their co-op compliance boards we understand the importance of reviewing all communications and the legal risks that can happen if they aren’t.

#9 How will you coordinate social media with our other communication functions?

I’m fond of saying that social is an ingredient, not the whole entree. Having said that, it’s important that the message is both loud & clear and consistent across all marketing channels. Social is a force multiplier: In military terms a force multiplier refers to an attribute or a combination of attributes which make a given force more effective than that same force would be without it, that’s social media exactly!

Another thing I’m find of saying is that the difference between traditional media and new media (web 2.0) is that while traditional media is all about the marketing of the business, new media is all about the marketing of the PEOPLE of the business. In today’s marketing climate you need both if you want to win the hearts and the minds of the the buying community.

Bonus Questions Asked In The Comment Section

Since the post asked for a number 10 there are a few people who asked questions in the  comment section, lets go ahead and answer them as well:

Charlotte Keenen

My #10 would be to ask them who would be doing the work and there communication style? Are they 17 year old out of college; how do they deal with conflict; what’s their English ability? In essence can I interview the person who would do the work?

First, we are all local, located right here in Colorado Springs, CO. All the content created is created by people who have a background working in the auto industry. Personally I have 11 years in the business, started out as a salesperson, then worked my way up from there. Don’t worry though, I’m a geek at heart and get this whole social thing pretty well! LOL Also, I personally train all staff that works in our managed social department.

Dave Linabury

Will you measure ROI the way we already are internally (i.e., tied to sales)?

Again, we believe that social is only as good as the ROI it produces. We measure ROI as it relates to filling up your sales funnel, which is tied right into the dealerships internal ROI metric.

Closing

I know this post went kind of long (I trimmed off about 700 more words) but I wanted to give you enough to sink your teeth into, enough for you to read about what we do and learn something about social media in the process.

I’d love to further the conversation, leave a comment and lets talk.

Post author

David has been in the auto industry for 11 years, starting off as a salesperson, then internet sales and then finally BDC manager before he started consulting full time. Now he is considered the forefront of automotive social media and is both the VP and partner of 3GEngagement.com

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