06 Feb

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Live Event Social Content Syndication: Old Concept, New Format

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Chicago Auto Show Media Center

This week and I am at the Chicago Auto Show running an experiment I am dubbing Live Event Social Content Syndication. The idea is nothing new but the format and execution are. This is my first true official experience as a media/press member at a major event like this. One time I made up my own fake press badge and appeared at an auto show to make some videos. Yeah, I am such a renegade!

Media and press coverage at auto shows of course is nothing new. The media room and showroom floor are riddled with TV crews, magazine staff, reporters, photographers, PR folks, you name it. Of course many of the folks here are preparing content for their social media channels and profiles. What they aren’t doing though is syndicating this content down to auto dealers. That’s why I am here.

What they aren’t doing though is syndicating this content down to auto dealers. That’s why I am here.

Stemming from a partnership with SOCIALDEALER and the CATA (which hosts the event), we have enrolled a number of dealers to participate in the experiment which will allow us to publish content directly to their Facebook pages through a simple process known as Social Content (or Message) Syndication.

Content Syndication is nothing new. It’s been around for decades. But syndicating social content to auto dealers is a fairly new practice. SOCIALDEALER has been doing this with CARFAX for more than a year now, helping CARFAX reach more than 3 million eyeballs on Facebook through multiple posts each week. SOCIALDEALER also is conducting a pilot with Ally Auto to see how auto finance information performs in this format.

What’s exciting about this experiment with the Chicago Auto Show is that A.) the content is live and B.) the content is some of the most popular content in the world! We all know the importance of engaging relevant content for your friends and fans in social media. Fortunately for auto dealers, automobile-related content is considered some of the most interesting and engaging information. And what is more exciting than the hype and the buzz going on at a major auto show?

Dealers across the globe can tap into this free social content simply by enrolling their Facebook page(s) with the CATA Connect4Content program, a free program powered by SOCIALDEALER that allows them to publish auto show content directly to their Facebook pages. Enrolled dealers will receive daily updates that they can choose to publish to their pages through a simple Approve/Deny process. Dealers that choose the Auto Approve option will receive 2-3 pieces of brand-specific information to their page each day. This is huge because as we know Facebook is only able to show a post from your page to 3-5% of your fans. By posting multiple times a day your dealership will reach more fans. And it’s all automated!

Here are a few examples of the type of content dealers will receive…

Toyota FT-1 Chicago Auto Show

KIA Debuts - Chicago Auto Show

Nissan Debuts - Chicago Auto Show

While there are kinks to work out and lots of educating to do to create buy-in for the concept, I do believe there is true potential in this. Magazines and media brands have always benefitted from these types of major events. Now dealers have a chance to benefit as well.

 

18 Jan

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Ally Partners with SOCIALDEALER to Offer Social Media Content Solution

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Ally Auto SOCIALDALER Syndication

SOCIALDEALER recently announced that it has partnered with Ally Auto to provide social media content to enable dealers to reach tech-savvy customers. This is the second major pilot that SOCIALDEALER will be performing with its Content Syndication solution.

The program, called “Connect4Content,” removes the most common obstacle for dealers looking to bolster their social media properties – the need for a constant stream of new and engaging content.

Through the use of SOCIALDEALER, Ally dealers now have access to engaging automotive content furnished by Ally Auto that can be posted to their Facebook pages to help attract customers and build buyers’ confidence. The content is designed to assist dealers in reaching the tech-savvy, millennial generation – those 16-32 years old – currently the largest generation in U.S. history.

Ally is the first auto finance provider to work with SOCIALDEALER to provide this type of service to its customers.

I was part of the team the designed this program with the two companies and I know it extensively. I manage the process and the relationship daily. It’s exciting to see what can be achieved. There is much potential with Content Syndication.

You can learn more about this on the SOCIALDEALER blog. I will be in the Ally booth at NADA all day Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. You are welcome to swing by to check it out or just to chat.

Hope to see you there!

 

14 Jan

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Autobytel Acquires AutoUSA

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RVINE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Autobytel Inc. (Nasdaq: ABTL), pioneer of the automotive Internet and the company dedicated to connecting automotive consumers with dealers and manufacturers, today announced it has acquired Ft. Lauderdale-based AutoUSA, a longstanding, premier Web-based auto leads and services provider, from AutoNation, Inc. (NYSE: AN).

The purchase price included $10.0 million in cash, a $1.0 million, 6% convertible note payable in one lump sum in five years and convertible to Autobytel common stock at a conversion price reflecting a 20% premium over the price of Autobytel’s common stock on the date of closing, and warrants giving AutoNation the right to purchase approximately $1.0 million of Autobytel’s common stock at an exercise price reflecting a 5% premium over the price of the stock on the date of closing. The transaction was financed by Union Bank, N.A. through a newly established $9.0 million senior secured term loan, and by drawing on Autobytel’s existing secured working capital revolver. Both the term loan and the revolver carry interest at a rate of LIBOR plus 2.5%. The term loan is amortized over a period of four years. AutoUSA generated 2013 revenues of approximately $30.0 million, with positive operating income and cash flow. The company believes that the transaction will be accretive to Autobytel’s 2014 results.

Autobytel said the acquisition expands its reach and influence in the industry by increasing its national new and used car dealer network to more than 5,200 from approximately 3,800, while boosting its business with auto manufacturers. It also enables the company to offer its new mobile and SaleMove products to a larger customer base, while continuing to build on relationships with OEMs and large dealer groups, including the AutoNation family of dealers.

Autobytel, which was founded in 1995 by former Southern California car dealer Pete Ellis, has again grown to become one of the most influential automotive services organizations, providing high quality leads and innovative marketing and mobile services to dealers and OEMs. The company serves a critical role in the industry in helping car buyers find the right vehicle while delivering highly relevant consumer purchasing information to its industry partners.

Phil DuPree, President of AutoUSA, has joined Autobytel as Executive Vice President, President of Dealer Services. As an inducement for joining the company, DuPree was granted an option to acquire 40,000 shares of Autobytel common stock at an exercise price equal to the closing price of Autobytel’s common stock on the acquisition closing date. The option will initially vest based on certain financial performance criteria related to Autobytel’s dealer services group and then on DuPree’s time of service with Autobytel.

“AutoUSA brings a new, high quality client base to the Autobytel family and strengthens our existing relationship with AutoNation, which is the largest U.S. automotive retailer,” said Jeff Coats, Autobytel’s president and CEO. “The transaction solidifies our leadership role in the industry, enabling us to offer an even larger base of dealers and automakers top quality products, including leads that convert to sales at nearly three times an estimated industry average, and a wide range of mobile products designed to sell more cars.

“AutoUSA represents an outstanding fit with Autobytel. In addition to its core leads business, AutoUSA’s suite of complementary third-party, Web-based services includes payment-based pre-qualification tools, incentive programs and other products and services designed to help dealer customers and manufacturers increase their sales,” Coats added.

“Since 2000, AutoUSA has developed very strong relationships with dealers across the country. The combination of Autobytel and AutoUSA adds strength to both organizations and represents an opportunity for consolidation in an industry segment that remains fragmented,” said Mike Maroone, president and chief operating officer of AutoNation, Inc. “This combination benefits automotive consumers, dealers and manufacturers, alike.”

As previously announced, in addition to AutoUSA, Autobytel also recently acquired Advanced Mobile, LLC, now known as Autobytel Mobile, which provides a full lineup of auto industry mobile products and services such as mobile apps, mobile websites, Send2Phone capabilities and text message marketing, and TextShield, a web-based portal that allows dealers to centrally manage text communications. Also as previously announced, the company recently made a strategic investment in SaleMove, which enables auto dealers and manufacturers to enhance the online shopping experience by interacting with consumers in real-time. These new services will be available to Autobytel’s expanded network of automotive dealers and manufacturers.

About Autobytel Inc.
Autobytel Inc. provides high quality consumer leads and associated marketing services to automotive dealers and manufacturers throughout the United States and offers consumers robust and original online automotive content to help them make informed car-buying decisions. The company pioneered the automotive internet in 1995 with its flagship website www.autobytel.com and has since helped tens of millions of automotive consumers research vehicles; connected thousands of dealers nationwide with motivated car buyers; and helped every major automaker market its brand online.

20 Dec

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Dealertrack Acquires Dealer.com

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Dealertrack Technologies Inc. (TRAK), which makes software used by car dealerships, will acquire Dealer.com for about $1 billion, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

Shares of Dealertrack rose as much as 5 percent to $45.04 after the close of regular trading in New York today.

Dealertrack will pay $620 million in cash and about 8.72 million shares of stock — valued at $373 million at today’s closing price of $42.80, for Dealer.com, which offers digital marketing services to the auto industry, the person said, asking not to be identified as the information is private.

The purchase is the largest for Lake Success, New York-based Dealertrack, whose software connects car dealers with lenders and credit-rating companies, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The company has spent about $461 million on 19 takeovers, not including the purchase of Dealer.com, the data show.

Dealertrack’s shares have gained about 49 percent this year, giving it a market value of about $1.9 billion as of today’s close. The company has about 44 million shares outstanding, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Dealer.com, founded in 1998, is owned by private-equity firms including Apax Partners LLP and Accel Partners. The Burlington, Vermont-based company provides online marketing and sale services to 7,000 car dealers in the U.S.

The transaction values Dealer.com at about 20 times its earnings before interest, taxes, amortization and depreciation for the 12 months ended Sept. 30, the person said.

11 Dec

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Charting Your Course for the Future Web with Google+

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Google+ Strategy

In a recent workshop I conducted for the CATA (the Chicago Automotive Trade Association that puts on the Chicago Auto Show each year) I discussed with a group of dealers the importance of a Google+ strategy and not letting Facebook be your only major Social Media investment. I did not anticipate what seemed to be such a welcome response. Believe it or not, most of the dealers there were more enthusiastic about G+ than they were about Facebook.

 

While we did not get into why this might be, my observation was that the dealers present felt that Facebook was a.) becoming a pay-to-play system which is creating trust issues for dealers and b.) the future demographic of Facebook users appears to suggest that it might not hold its relevance over time.

 

To address the pay-to-play concern I think it’s important to note that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Buying media is how it works with traditional advertising so there is no need to hold it against Facebook for becoming this way. There is still an organic importance to to Facebook that can and should be embraced.

 

As for the future demographic of Facebook users, reality is this is only skepticism of not pessimism. Facebook is indisputably a mainstream media source that has become a part of the global fabric of consumerism. While it is true that older age demographics are embracing Facebook while younger ones are spending time elsewhere, this doesn’t threaten Facebook’s relevancy over the next several years which from a marketers standpoint is practically eternity. Point is, Facebook is relevant now as an advertising medium and can be expected to remain so in the years to come.

 

social-media-network-traffic

 

Facebook vs. Google+

 

That said, there is a key difference between Facebook and Google+ which I think is worth recognizing.

 

Facebook is in the business of connecting paying advertisers with its user base. Facebook gives advertisers access to insights and information about its users that make for easy targeting for relatively little cost.

 

Google is in the business of connecting its users with information it knows the users want and need. This is done based on each user’s online activity and social connections.

 

Understanding this fundamental difference between the two networks is important so that you know how to tailor your strategy around them. With Facebook, you can target people based on their expressed interests, determined by their actions. With Google+ it’s not so much about targeting, but about connectivity. The circles you are in and the circles you place connections ultimately drive the Google+ experience.

 

Knowing this, there are some things you can do to immediately enhance your Google+ experience in anticipation of Google+ playing an increasingly more significant role in your online strategy.

 

1.) Create a G+ Business Page

If you have not already done so, make sure you have a G+ Business Page. This is a simple process that takes only 10-15 minutes to complete. If you do have one then make sure it is properly optimized and linking to your website, your blog, and your other social media profiles.

 

2.) Post SEO-minded Content

One of the great benefits to using Google+ is SEO (Search Engine Optimization). While SEO tactics have and continue to change over time, chances are Google will always want to know how your website, your brand, your message, and your content are relevant to people searching online. One of the best ways to make sure Google knows these things about you is to post content relevant to your audience. This might seem obvious or even natural, but the practice of producing SEO-minded content is a constant work in progress.

 

3.) Use your Personal G+ Profile Page

In addition to your G+ Business Page you also want to have a Personal Profile. For one, people might be reluctant to follow a business page but inclined to follow a personal profile. Additionally, when you publish content to your business page you can use your profile to share it and interact with people on the page.

 

These are but simple tips you can deploy quickly and easily. But don’t stop there. Keep at it and evolve these tactics. Google+ is an entirely different animal that you don’t want to ignore. Better start now before you fall behind.

20 Nov

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The Truth About Yelp Reviews and Advertising

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The Truth About Yelp Reviews and Advertising

Last month while at Sean Bradley’s Internet Sales 20 Group in Los Angeles, a debate arose around the idea of Yelp cornering dealers into purchasing Enhanced Listings and/or advertising in order to unlock positive reviews on their review pages. As one who has personally investigated this subject with Yelp directly and, I couldn’t help but take part in the dialog.

Over the years, Yelp has been the target of complaints alleging that its filter discriminates in favor of advertisers, going in some cases as far as claiming that the filter is nothing other than an “extortion mechanism” for advertising revenue. Yelp has denied these allegations, and successfully defended itself in court when lawsuits have been brought against it (for example, see Levitt v. Yelp Inc., and Demetriades v. Yelp Inc.)

If such allegations were true, they would raise serious concerns as to the validity of using filtered reviews as a proxy for fake reviews.

What are Filtered Reviews?

Yelp is the only major review site to date that allows access to filtered reviews – reviews that Yelp has classified as illegitimate using a combination of algorithmic techniques, simple heuristics, and human expertise. Filtered reviews are not published on Yelp’s main listings, and they do not count towards calculating a business’ average star-rating.

While Yelp does not reveal how it’s review filter works (not even to key personnel), it states that, “the filter sometimes affects perfectly legitimate reviews and misses some fake ones too,” but, “does a good job considering the sheer volume of reviews and the difficulty of its task.”

Yelp does retroactively filter reviews using the latest version of its detection algorithm. Therefore, a Yelp review can be initially filtered, but subsequently published (and vice versa.)

Reality is that Yelp’s current implementation of the filtering algorithm does not treat advertisers’ reviews in a manner different from non-advertisers’ reviews. Independent investigations have been performed and revealed a lack of filtering biases associated with advertising, which increases my own confidence in the idea of using filtered reviews as an unbiased, albeit imperfect, proxy for fake reviews.

In fact, one particular report reveals that neither 1- nor 5-star reviews were significantly more or less likely to be filtered for businesses that were advertising on Yelp.

Percentage of Filtered Yelp Reviews by User Count

Does Yelp Favor its Advertisers?

Local business advertising constitutes Yelp’s major revenue stream. Advertisers are featured on Yelp search results pages in response to relevant consumer queries, and on the Yelp pages of similar, nearby businesses. Furthermore, when a business purchases advertising, Yelp removes competitors’ ads from that business’ Yelp page.

But favoring positive reviews for advertisers and pushing negative ones for non-paying merchants is illogical and self-defeating. The most important challenge of any site collecting reviews is the integrity of the reviews. The minute a review site contaminates it reviews, the site loses credibility.

What all this boils down to is not that Yelp doesn’t experience fraudulent reviews but that there is no evidence of Yelp favoring merchant reviews for those that are advertised tising and vice versa, Yelp is not pushing negative, let alone fraudulent reviews for non-advertising merchants.

That said, it is certainly in your interest as a dealership to be advertising on Yelp, but that’s a topic for another post.

Why you don’t want to foster reviews on Yelp?

The case of a business owner “nudging” consumers by providing them with instructions on how to review his or her business is in a legal grey area. Most review sites – whose purpose is to collect reviews that are as objective as possible – frown upon such interventions, and encourage business owners to avoid them.

In the auto business, it has become common practice for dealers to urge or nudge customers to leave reviews. If you are sending people emails with links to Yelp to leave reviews, or placing links on your website for people to leave reviews of your dealership on Yelp, quite frankly I think you are wasting your time. More often than not Yelp is going to filter those reviews and they won’t count towards your rating, plus you just eliminated a positive reviews that could have been left somewhere else.

I mean this half jokingly but maybe a good practice is to identify unhappy customer and give them links to Yelp. This way your negative reviews are more likely to be filtered.*

ps – Please don’t follow that advice. I am being a smart ass.

*A good portion of the contents of this article were derived from an independent academic study on the subject which you can download and read here if you want, but I basically gave you the buts and bolts of it in this post. You’re welcome.

 

01 Jul

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Time, Vision, Commitment, & Skills

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Come August (2013) this blog will have reached the 7-year mark. Let me tell you, it has been through a lot. But as of late BlogPro has been rather quiet, keeping to itself. Maybe that will change soon?

The video below is from the old “sign up” page I just took down. I am doing some renovations to the site and no longer have need for the video, but I did not want to simply discard it. For now this post can be its new home.

I made the video back in 2007 in anticipation of a growing demand for blogging by car dealers. The message: That blogging takes time, vision, commitment, and technical skill. Reality is, most of the automotive professionals that took to blogging and WordPress were marketers, NOT dealers.

Anyhow, enjoy the video. It’s still relevant.

YouTube Preview Image

 


CARBUCKSps – You can subscribe to BlogPro via email with Feedburner in the side bar. You can also join me on the Facebook Group CARBUCKS…A Coffee House for Car Guys and Car Gals where I visit almost daily for fun and always interesting conversation.