Facebook. Twitter. Flickr. These social spaces used to be buzz words. Now they are commonplace – and very heavily used. Facebook and Twitter are estimated to have close to one billion users between them (probably many of the same people using both). That’s over ten percent of the population of the entire world!

It’s no secret that these sites are primarily used for social networking: keeping in touch with friends, reconnecting with long lost relatives, keeping abreast of the latest celebrity smut. However, recent changes – particularity to Facebook – indicate that the tide is changing. Businesses have caught on to the power of social marketing. Facebook states that over sixty million businesses have a registered “Fan Page” – a social space that allows a business to connect to fans and people in their local demographic. Furthermore, Facebook has even developed its own computer language called “FBML” – a variance of HTML that allows designers to write code in order to customize a Facebook Fan Page to suit the needs of a particular business.

Again, the power of Facebook is no secret, but it’s interesting to study which industries have taken to it. Not surprisingly, web-based businesses are the first to leverage the power of social marketing. Media businesses are also quick to make sure they are “Facebooking” and “Twittering”, while traditional businesses – especially sales-based enterprises – are yet to fully utilize the power of social marketing.

Perhaps the largest industry segment that has yet to get on board with social marketing is the automotive industry. Some research has indicated that many dealerships feel they are simply “jumping on a bandwagon” – a bandwagon they feel will eventually ship off, leaving the current trend followers in the same place they were before the social marketing craze began. But it is clearly evident that social marketing is far more than just a trend. Facebook was founded in 2006 and has shown consistent and significant growth over the last four years. It would now appear that those who have not jumped on the bandwagon have only missed out on four years of free publicity.

Think about how much money the automotive industry spends on advertising on a yearly basis. The figures are staggering – in excess of tens of billions. And not just advertising for dealerships, but brands as well – lifestyle and image marketing, brand preference battles, and so on. Maybe the industry has become so accustomed to spending huge dollars on advertising that the thought large-scale, free exposure on Facebook and Twitter is virtually unbelievable.

But, dealerships are busy. Sales people are selling cars and management is making sure they’re doing a good job of it. So, it’s best for dealerships to leave the management of a proper social marketing campaign to a professional – a company who makes a living out of utilizing social marketing to generate new leads and to increase branding and exposure for dealerships

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