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SEATTLE — Cobalt recently unveiled the first of several enhancements to its dealership Web site platform that are designed to help dealers and automakers take advantage of social media's rising prominence and use it to promote brand enthusiasm and engage dealers with their respective communities.

Officials explained that this upgrade offers dealers a pragmatic approach to connect with "common consumer social behavior" through their own Web sites, which can help them become more engaged with shoppers and boost sales with relative ease.

Dealers don't have to alter their sales and marketing processes, nor will they be charged for the program enhancement.

Officials noted that social media is "almost as amorphous as the Internet itself" and the strategies for maximizing it are often unproven and require varying levels of investment to get desired results.

However, explaining Cobalt's approach in more detail, they said the company helps dealers get the most out of their investments by keeping participation costs low and utilizing social interactions that have been tested and found to work. Moreover, Cobalt said it also offers metrics and reporting so that dealers have an objective measure of how it helps their respective businesses.

The upgrade to Cobalt's platform will include the following:

—Vehicle Sharing: Shoppers will be able to share on Facebook and Twitter which vehicles on dealer Web Sites spark their interest through icons on the vehicle details page. These let shoppers bookmark the page and to share it on the aforementioned social networking sites.

When they share these models, there will be a brief vehicle description included as well as a link back to the vehicle details page on the dealer's Web site.

—Social Engagement: This upgrade is also designed to help dealers more easily promote their social-media presence through their own Web sites through a wide selection of Facebook and Twitter widgets. 

"These widgets let the growing number of already socially active dealers broaden the reach of their social media content to their Web site, provide relevant real-time content to their Web site visitors, and let shoppers and customers become fans or followers of the dealership with one click," officials explained. 

Some dealers offered their response and how social media has benefitted them.  

"Using social media, we're able to do things that create a fun, ongoing and open communication with our customers from hosting tailgate parties to sharing fun facts just to keep them in the conversation," stated Aaron Cohn, BDC manager of Esserman International VW in Miami.

Adam Murray, Internet Manager of Kuni BMW in Portland, Ore., noted: "These features enable a two-way learning process between us and our customers. It is where our customers are and has become the biggest source of traffic to our website next to search."

Eligible dealers can access these enhancements in the second quarter of the year.