Avoiding the Online Rep Crisis: How to Track, Promote & Expand Your Online Presence

KETTERING, Ohio - 

Successfully managing, maintaining and expanding a store’s online reputation is still a relatively new job to some dealers. And it seems almost everyone has a different strategy to go about accomplishing this task.

With this in mind, Auto Remarketing looked at what some top experts in the digital marketing field have found in order to gather a few tips and tools for dealers trying to ramp up their store’s presence online.

'Stay Ahead' From the Start

There are many ways to look at online reputation.

First, forget about enhancing your online reputation; to start, dealers need to make sure they have policies and strategies in place to “stay ahead of a digital reputation crisis,” says Naked Lime Marketing.

In a recent blog post on the company’s site, Naked Lime gave a list of steps “to avoid negative comments and reviews from being splashed across the Web.”

Highlighting a few of these steps, dealers need to take “inventory” on all of the major search engines, says Naked Lime Marketing. In other words, dealers need to stay on top of online customer reviews – positive, negative and neutral.

Setting up Google Alerts for your dealership name may help with this process.

Naked Lime also cited a few steps that are inherently connected: optimizing existing positive pages, linking to existing positive pages and creating new positive pages.

But before thinking about creating a bigger online presence, dealers should not forget to capitalize on their existing website.

“Optimize all pages that showed up as positive in the first step with basic SEO (search engine optimization). If you have control over the page, make sure your name is in the title tag of each page and appears in the description field of social media profiles,” Naked Lime Marketing said.

It also might help to link to pages with positive reviews, if “it makes sense,” the company added.

Finally, Naked Lime Marketing says it’s a “must” to have profiles on all of the “big four” social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. Also, if you have video content, don’t forget about sites such as TouTube and Vimeo.
But remember: “It’s important that whatever profiles you create, you maintain and update periodically, so only do what you can handle,” says Naked Lime.

To view the whole blog post, see here.

How  Reviews Affect Your Store

Now you have read about a few ways to avoid a potential reputation crisis as well as how to promote and follow your store online. But how do these reviews and customer comments online affect your dealership?

A digital automotive shopping survey from FordDirect, revealed at the winter NADA conference, touched on some interesting stats regarding reputation management and what potential customers are thinking when they research dealership reviews online.

The survey methodology included a 10-minute online survey among consumers who had purchases a new or used vehicle in the past year; the sample size was 1,124 participants.

Interestingly, the study found that both positive and negative comments impact the perception customers have of a dealership.

In fact, 63 percent of auto shoppers are less likely to purchase from a dealer who received negative comments, according to the survey results.

The study also found that it is crucial for dealers to respond to all comments – both bad and good.

Perceptions of the dealer are impacted by 40 to 50 percent of customers when the dealer responds to comments, according to the study.

And remember, ignoring negative comments doesn’t sit well with potential customers.

According to the survey results, 59 percent of auto shoppers feel more positive about a dealer who takes the time to respond to negative comments.

“If the customer is taking the effort to share their feedback, replying is paramount,” Anne Fleming, president of Women-Drivers.com told Auto Remarketing. “Being diligent about responding to reviews is a must.”

The Next Step: Responding

But the question remains: How best can dealers respond to customers online reviews?

To tackle this issue, Auto Remarketing chatted with Fleming, president of Women-Drivers.com and digital marketing expert.

First, Fleming explained that you need to make online reviews a priority or “focal point for all employees.”

“Years ago, it was called ‘word of mouth’ and that was how reputations were established and grown. Occasionally letters were written by customers to the dealer principal about an impeccable buying experience, or the converse,” Fleming explained.

“Now, it’s called brand reputation via reviews. To ignore the value that reviews and their SEO impact on a dealership coming up on page 1, is a huge miss,” she said.

She also explained that since more and more shoppers are turning to the Web to find a new ride, reviews are one of the only options they have to gauge the quality of a store.

“There are lots of dealerships and nameplates in any given city. Why should a customer buy from you? Reviews and the actual experiences of customers is a great way to showcase your company’s dedication and commitment to service. Not just ‘lip-service’,” Fleming said.

Also, a good comment response may take more than a “blanket approach” or impersonal, automatic reply.

“Acknowledge and thank the reviewer, regardless of score. They took time out of their day and starting off with a thank you and kind, customized response is what is in order,” Fleming said.

Though negative reviews can be disheartening, Fleming encourages dealers not to be “timid of what is perceived as a negative review.

“This business is the business of human exchange, so conversations are key. If you get a bad review, see how that can be optimized by taking responsibility and seeing what the customer really wants. Listen on line for what is said and for what is not being said,” she continued.

Lastly, many dealerships still do not have an employee on staff whose responsibility is solely to expand and preserve the store; Fleming says it is time to change this.

Here’s why:

“Responding to reviews is not for the faint of heart. Have a professional do this, someone who is not ‘attached or possibly defensive,’ but rather committed to the customers’ satisfaction. If you outsource or have your very own brand reputation advocate on payroll, ensure their responses are timely, uniform and they command good grammar and writing skills,” Fleming said.

Capitalizing on Reviews: Good or Bad

Responding to online reviews is important, yes, but there are ways to utilize and capitalize on reviews, as well.

Don’t just comment and leave; Fleming says dealers should share reviews on every element of their online presence, including websites, partner sites and social media.

“Make sure that the reviews are visually optimized and incorporated into the dealer’s social channels ad networks. Showcase your ratings in a tasteful manner on your home page, ads and websites/partners sites. Build into your adverting initiatives,” she said.

Fleming also said that paying to utilize brand reputation sites like DealerRater.com can be helpful to a business, but don’t forget about the free options, as well, such as Google+.

Through Google+, dealers can “showcase” positive Google reviews to potential buyers, Fleming said.

Lastly, don’t be afraid of reviews — in fact, Fleming says to make sure to ask for reviews from loyal buyers.

“Ask, ask … asking for reviews is the first step, by your sales, service and Internet teams. And, focus on providing empathetic, appropriate and timely responses,” she concluded.

Continue the conversation with Auto Remarketing on both LinkedIn and Twitter.

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