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.

 

 

19 Feb

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How to Suck at Social Media in Your Dealership

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How to Suck at Social MediaLast month I began working with SOCIALDEALER. We have been busy putting together marketing initiatives with its talented team of designers, marketers, and innovators. I wanted to share some of what we have going on and, as always, I will plan to keep you abreast with my progress here on BlogPro.

The first campaign we ran was to promote a help guide we created for dealers to get started with Google+. The response was very good and it was a real indicator of the interest level and demand out there for Social. [Download your free guide here]

Finally, after all these years I think we can truly say that Social has arrived in Automotive. At JDPAIRT 2011 it was evident that Social was in the glue per say, at the OEM level at least, but not so much at the dealer level.

That is changing though in 2013.

In preparation of this, I and the crew at SD are in the process of rolling out a bigger, long-term campaign that uses a Prezi called “How to Suck at Social Media.” The idea was sparked brilliantly by Marketing Coordinator Zach Betz who really shows off his Prezi skills in this piece.

The reason we went with this approach is because there is so much stuff out there from so many different sources the latest tips, tricks, and best practices. We wanted something fresh and bold that could stand out. Something fun and useful at the same time. Hopefully we accomplished this.

Don’t expect us to stop here though. As stated in a previous post 2013 is going to be a big year for me personally as I kick things up a notch with Google+ Hangout and On Air. Over the next few weeks you will see us rolling out some aggressive marketing efforts around Google+ and specifically using Hangout and On Air.

Stay tuned and enjoy the Prezi. Let me know what you think by posting your comments below. Be sure to subscribe to BlogPro Automotive to receive email alerts each time something new gets posted here. I’m relatively quiet so no need to fear getting bombarded with my puke.

About SOCIALDEALER

SOCIALDEALER is the auto industry’s first platform designed exquisitely for dealers to manage their Social Media efforts and now also the first to integrate Reputation and Social onto the same platform. I joined forces with SD not so much because of what they have going on, but where SD is headed with its technology solutions. President Phil Penton, whom I have known and worked with now for about a decade, leads the way with SD’s solutions and is doing a bang-up job getting major groups, OEM’s, and Tier agencies on board with the platform.

02 Jan

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Spreading the Automotive Cheese on Social: A Reputation Management Roundtable

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In my end-of-year review post I stated that I plan to be part of several different Hangout shows and programs, one if not two of which that would be for automotive audiences. Well the first of these is called Social Cheese and it launches Thursday January 24.

Social Cheese is not specific to automotive, but being that I am co-host and producer you can count on it having an automotive twist. My hope is that Social Cheese can be a refreshing resource for automotive professionals and my expectation is that it will eventually perpetuate the need for a similar program that is specific to automotive.

There are many people in automotive that have more to talk about than just automotive. I have been reaching out to these folks about being part of our shows. This is not to say we can’t or won’t talk automotive, but it’s our knowledge and expertise in online reputation management more than anything.

Digital marketers can learn a lot from our corner of the auto business. We have unique circles, schools of thought, freedoms, and expectations that few have. Auto dealers are willing to try new things and they have advertising budgets that few small businesses have. These things are what help make automotive digital marketing professionals unique in the now competitive world of online reputation management.

Exploring this thinking is the type of stuff I plan to do on Social Cheese. My vision for those of you reading this post is that you can work with me to help carve out your voice with Social Cheese to be shared with people in and beyond automotive. Come on our program to share your thoughts, ideas, best practices, concerns, etc.

Follow Social Cheese on Google+

A Google+ Page has been created for Social Cheese which you will want to follow to keep up with our activities as they pertain to the show. The page is essentially our website for right now. Be sure to follow Social Cheese on G+ so we can keep you in the loop with our efforts and also to simply express your interest in our show.

A Google+ Community Page has also been created for community members, contributors, and sponsor to interact with one another, make suggestions, and offer feedback about the show. Be sure to join the Social Cheese G+ Community if you are interested in getting involved as a guest or contributor or sponsor.

Over the next few weeks I will be working diligently to prepare for our first show which again airs live on Thursday January 24 at 9 PM EDT. You can RSVP for the show here. I will be reaching out to many of you about filling certain segments with us, spreading the cheesy word, and of course about sponsorship opportunities.

Please wish me luck. I hope to see you on the Social Cheese.

24 Dec

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A Look Back. A Look Up. A Look Ahead for BlogPro Automotive

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Christmas Eve morning. Just sat down with a cup of tea to reflect on what 2012 has meant for BlogPro. Also want to give thanks and set the tone for 2013. This is an exercise inspired by a fellow blogger that I tried for the first time on my AutoConversion blog.

A Look Back.

The past year was interesting for BlogPro. In October 2011 I had accepted a position with HookLogic as Director of Automotive Business Development alongside President David Metter and VP of Sales Jeff Kersh. BlogPro was an important tool for me that I was able to utilize during my time there, which lasted only a year, using it to write several pieces pertaining to Lead2Show.

While working for Hook I learned much about “big data” and “showrooming” and “incentivizing” auto shoppers while getting a closer look at how certain things in automotive are shaping up. This insight will certainly add to what we do with BlogPro in 2013 and the years to come. More on that later.

A Look Up.

If there is one thing I am thankful for, it is Nancy Simmons and the regulars at Carbucks. Over the past couple of years Nancy has fostered a community of “car guys” and “car gals” through the Facebook Group Carbucks. While there are more than 1,300 members in the group, what’s important for me are the hundreds that regularly interact.

The engagement activity that goes on in Carbucks is friendly and genuine, humorous, entertaining, insightful, useful, fresh, and carefree. As a professional working in the automotive space I find Carbucks to be the place I most frequent and interact in.

I am also thankful for my time at HookLogic because it gave me much insight about myself and others in regards to leadership and mentoring and managing upward vs downward.

A Look Ahead.

One of the most interesting developments for me in 2012 was my use of Google Hangout. This easy-to-use high tech tool makes it possible to conduct broadcast-style shows and programs across the Web for all to see. After experimenting with Hangouts for more than a year now, I am excited for what 2013 brings on this front.

Throughout 2013 I plan to be part of several different Hangout shows and programs, one if not two of which will be for automotive audiences. Look for blog posts from me come January with more information about these On Air events we plan to run. Probably good to follow AutoConversion on G+ too.

A Wrap.

In short, I could not be more excited for what lies ahead for BlogPro Automotive and everybody that is getting involved with us. This blog has kept a quiet profile on the automotive front but the way things are developing I think we could be in position to do some of the more innovative stuff again out there.

Happy Holidays everyone. Thanks for being part of the journey.