Greg Freeman, Social Media Risk and Compliance Specialist at CrowdControlHQ reflects on a current social media trend in the automotive industry

At this year’s AM and Auto Trader Digital Marketing Conference a survey showed that 83.3% of marketing teams at the event had increased their year-on-year digital spend for 2015. The reason for change is a backdrop of growing evidence and case studies to prove that social media can actively drive the bottom line across automotive businesses.

With car dealerships making more money on leasing and servicing plans than car sales, maintaining good relationships and engaging customers is vital to keep them coming back for more. Customers are for life, not just the one-off purchase of a car and using social media is a great way to keep that relationship alive. Keeping touch to build brand loyalty and encouraging two-way communication for customer engagement pays dividends over the years.

Since the increased use of the internet consumer visits to car showrooms have also been on the decline – as with all sectors, customers now do their research online. In 2015 consumers visited 1.2 dealerships per vehicle purchase, compared to 4 showrooms in the early 1990s. The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council recently stated that 38% of consumers said they would consult social media before buying their next car, while 23% of car buyers use social channels to talk about their experience when making a purchase.

Social media has also proved to be a successful way to keep in touch with local purchasers and many car brands are trending towards a more de-centralised model of engagement with the customer, where individual dealerships are increasingly responsible for their own local delivery of social media. The central communications team retains an oversight of all accounts nationwide, with automated moderation in place to protect brand reputation. However, individual dealerships are responsible for content creation, an engagement strategy and local delivery.

Why ‘local social’?
There are many benefits of a local social media approach. It provides a stronger local rapport (and loyalty) with potential and current customers. Managed well, social media provides better ‘listening’, localised customer insight and more effective ‘landing’ of national campaigns with localised promotions and events.

At the conference Simon Ryan, Managing Director of Social Advisors, one of CrowdControlHQ’s partners, shared a strong case study of localised social media at Luscombe’s automotive dealership in Leeds. The company used post scheduling and analytics measurement to improve their social media delivery and ensure a presence on Facebook and Twitter over a two month period between December 2014 and January 2015.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the campaign were defined as social media reach and website visits and the results were outstanding. More than 1900 new social followers (Facebook and Twitter) were recorded and a 30% increase in unique website visitors. This was an amazing outcome and the campaign demonstrated outstanding results at what is traditionally considered as a quiet time of year for car dealerships.

Two other examples of successful users of social media for customer engagement are Sytner BMW & RRG Toyota, both customers of CrowdControlHQ’s social media risk and compliance management platform.

Managing the risks of going local
So the question is, what are the challenges and risks of adopting a ‘local social’ strategy?
As with all enterprise social media, for automotive companies rolling out accounts across dealerships there are risks, both to brand reputation and aspects of compliance in relation to regulatory bodies such as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Indeed, in the heavily regulated finance sector the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has recognised the importance, and pitfalls, of social media and regularly publishes guidelines for social media. These guidelines are designed to help organisations in the financial services sector and associated industries, such as automotive which offer finance to customers. The guidelines are designed to maintain best practice and cover the entire digital environment, including blogs, microblogs, client forums, images and video sharing platforms.
Identifying the risks
For an established brand enabling its franchise businesses or dealerships to use social media the potential risks can seem daunting;

• Central communications teams having no oversight of interactions taking place on behalf of the brand
• Dilution of central brand or campaign messages
• Password security – local only access places the company at risk if the employee leaves and takes the password with them or shares the password.
• Lack of audit trail – which means if a post receives complaints or breaches FCA compliance regulations, the organisation can find it hard to identify the originator
• Users may have direct access to both their personal and business Twitter or Facebook accounts on their phone, which can result in accidental posting
• Mishandling of customer service enquires
• Breaches of industry standards e.g. posting unsolicited financial promotions
• Audit trails – there is now a need to record and report on social media interactions to the FCA when requested; under the new FCA Social Media Guidelines.

Whilst such a list might be off putting, it can take just one careless post to go viral and do untold damage, but consider the consequences of doing nothing! Here are my three top tips when it comes to managing the risks of a “local social” strategy.

1) Invest in a management system
Ensure you have a social media management platform in place that provides a time effective single dashboard for monitoring all social media interactions. It should allow for collaboration across dealerships, an audit trail and keep data in the UK to ensure compliance.
2) Secure social media accounts
Remove direct access to business owned social media assets, secure passwords and maintain ownership of accounts to provide protection when staff leave the company. This also ensures HR teams have a complete audit trail of employee contributions to social media, in the event of policy breaches.
3) Be compliant
For example to comply with FCA regulations, dealerships should have an automated management system which supports prevention of unsolicited financial promotions, a ‘two sets of eyes policy’ on content and the ability to easily report on all social media interactions which have taken place across the organisation during a given time period.

Increasingly today’s customer prefers to go local following extensive online research. Managing an online presence while keeping local interest is the winning combination to meet this challenge. With a social media risk and compliance management platform in place, clear user policies and audit trails, using social media can be a business winner for all those involved in the automotive industry.
Further information on social media guidelines issued by the FCA and how they could influence the automotive industry join the CrowdControlHQ webinar on Thursday 14 May 2015 registration details available at
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About CrowdControlHQ
CrowdControlHQ is the UK’s leading social media risk management and compliance platform. The online technology delivers social media control and compliance features, in parallel with social engagement and analytics, to provide a single dashboard for multichannel campaigns. Supported by an award winning customer service team to help brands, organisations and enterprises protect their reputations online.
CrowdControlHQ was launched in 2009. The product was born out of recognition that social media would one day be extensively adopted by UK organisations and tasked to deliver tremendous impact across marketing and customer service functions. The business has received backing from angel investors including Midven and Finance Birmingham.
CrowdControlHQ services over 125 different clients across the public sector, finance and legal sectors plus many household brands including Experian, Serco and Taylor Wimpey.
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