Few things have changed the way businesses advertise like social media. Of course, radio was a big change from print, and TV brought a whole new dynamic, but advertising was still a matter of pushing a message to the masses and hoping some got it.

In today’s market, your customers and prospects tell you what they want, when they want it. To some of us old car dogs, this can be a little bit intimidating. It seems like we just got used to using e-mail and now everyone’s telling us that we have to be in social media. And when you consider that Facebook has over 300 million active users and is growing by a half-million a day, the reality is you really do need to be in social media if you want to sell cars in 2010. Fortunately, it’s not as complicated as some would have you believe. Like most things that lead to success, however, it does require some effort and attention.

To get started, you need to set up accounts on three of the most popular social media Web sites and create a blog account. Each of these accounts will serve a purpose in your social media strategy.

Facebook.com: Create a page for your business, not a profile. According to Facebook, profiles are for individuals and pages are for businesses and organizations. If you set up a profile, Facebook can shut it down for a terms-of-service violation, so do yourself a favor and make it a page. Then, create a personal profile and become your business’ first fan! Facebook does not automatically make you a fan just because you created it, so remember to become your first fan.

Facebook is by far the most popular social networking site and is most likely the place where your customers and prospects will engage your store, so you will want to include:

A link to your Web site – Many experts agree that sites like Facebook will replace search engines, so it’s possible in the not-too-distant future that your Facebook page could be the leading referral source to your Web site.

Contact information – This seems like a no-brainer but a lot of people forget. Be sure to include contact information for your management staff. Used properly, this can quickly resolve customer issues and show prospects that you’re transparent in the way you deal with your customers.

Press releases – You don’t need to write routine press releases here. You can set up a RSS feed for your manufacturer and you can feed your own blog in as well.

Videos – Have a meeting with all your managers. Have them poll their teams and report back with a list of the questions that customers ask them the most. Then, shoot short videos answering those questions. You could even start the video off with a real customer asking the question. You’ll post these videos on your YouTube channel, Web site, Twitter and Facebook page.

Twitter.com: When you create your Twitter account, be sure to use the name of your dealership and NOT the name of a person. If your staff changes, be sure that you retain the Twitter account. It will be more valuable than your current list of e-mail addresses very soon.

Let me be clear: Twitter is not an advertising tool. Twitter is the polar opposite of push marketing. People will choose to follow you based on how useful, informative or entertaining you are. Posting your inventory on Twitter is none of those things.

Use your Twitter account about five times a day to post something helpful or entertaining.  A Tweet can be a short as, “Just posted video showing how to sync your Bluetooth with your Fusion.” Then, include a link to the video. Be sure to use one of the many URL shorteners available, as you only have 140 characters on each Tweet. You can also Tweet about local community events that your store is supporting.

YouTube.com: Create your account then set up a channel. It goes without saying that you’ll need a video camera. My favorite is the Flip Mino; it’s cheap and easy to use. In addition to answering the most frequently asked questions, you can also record short walk-arounds of your models.

There are a few things to remember to make your videos worth watching:

• Make sure the audio is good. People will watch a grainy video, but if they can’t hear it they will bounce off to another.

• Keep it short and sweet, and make it useful, informative or entertaining.

• Maintain good lighting and stability. Keep the light source in front of you and use a tripod.

Now that your accounts are set up, make sure everyone knows. Have signs in the F&I office, on the service drive, and in the showroom and waiting areas telling your customers to “Become a Fan on Facebook” and “Follow Us on Twitter.” Be sure to tell your staff to mention these accounts with customers and prospects.

Vol. 7, Issue 1