Discovery Honda is a car dealership located in the small town of Duncan, British Columbia, Canada. Its social media platforms, including Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are staffed by Tanya Thompson — who was originally hired as a receptionist at the dealership back in 2006. “Being a receptionist at a local car dealership for so many years, not only did I get to know about the car business, I also discovered that I really enjoyed talking and interacting with people,” she says.
So it seemed logical when her bosses asked her to “take over this social media thing” about 18 months ago. “I really didn’t know a thing about social media,” says Thompson, “but I did know how to effectively engage with people, so I agreed to take it on and give it a try.” Like many beginners, Thompson found that once she got the basics covered, like how to send and receive tweets, use hashtags, and so on, she began to get more comfortable using the platform in a business context.
But to make sure she was doing everything properly and effectively, Thompson enrolled in a training course with a local social media consultant. “I was really pleased when the trainer said I was a natural”, recalls Thompson. With that vote of confidence, Tanya began spending more time tweeting and posting links, as well as connecting with members of her local community on Twitter. “I connected with lots of local people but I also connected with people outside of our typical target market too, because you just never know how people are connected and where your next referral is going to come from,” Thompson says.
The Power of Listening
“Most of all, I really started listening on Twitter,” says Thompson. “I scanned Twitter for mentions of our name, our vehicles, our Twitter handle, and made sure to reply to every single mention.” That strategy was soon to pay off in a big way for Thompson and Discovery Honda.
“Last April, a woman came into the dealership for service on her vehicle,” recalls Thompson. The customer seemed to know her way around Twitter because as she sat in the waiting room waiting for her vehicle to be fixed, she tweeted about how great the new Honda pickup — the “Ridgeline” — looked on the showroom floor. She also included the @DiscoveryHonda Twitter handle in her tweet.
Thompson, who by this time had become quite adept at listening and responding to brand mentions on Twitter, saw the tweet and replied to the customer: “So how would you like to take the Ridgeline for a test drive?” The customer didn’t need much convincing. The salesperson on duty looked at Ms. Thompson a little skeptically when she asked for a test drive plate and said she had a hot lead that came from Twitter. “The time to act was now,” recalls Thompson. “There was no point in waiting around or looking for approval, I just went ahead and did it!”
Sure enough, Thompson found the tweeter in question in the waiting room and presented her with the keys to a brand new Honda pickup truck. “I think she tweeted about the truck every time she stopped,” says Thompson. “I replied to every single tweet and even encouraged the customer to take her time, do some errands, and go pick up her kids from school in the new vehicle. She was out all day,” says Thompson with a laugh. The customer also got her sister in on the Twitter conversation, along with a number of friends. The Ridgeline and Discovery Honda were mentioned on Twitter dozens and dozens of times throughout the day — and all in the context of having a great time. But the best was yet to come.
Like a scene out of a movie, as soon as the customer returned to the dealership she walked over to Ms. Thompson and said: “I’ll take it!” Thompson said she was shocked (and thrilled). “I’m not even a salesperson, I’m the social media community manager,” says Thompson, “and yet I’d just made my first sale — and through Twitter, no less!”
The takeaway, and the advice that Thompson would like to convey to every business using Twitter, is that “you always have to be listening.” She adds, “We never would have made that sale — we would never have even known that woman was in our waiting room tweeting about us, if I had not been actively listening for opportunities to engage with our target audience on Twitter.”
Interestingly, Thompson’s engagement with her customer on Twitter didn’t stop with the sale. It turns out that the customer wanted her new pickup truck in a custom color that wasn’t available at the dealership. “It took a couple of weeks before her truck arrived but when it did, I was out there tweeting pictures of it on the trailer,” says Thompson. “I was able to recreate that excitement and publicity all over again on Twitter. That same customer refers us publicly all the time now — and all because of Twitter!”
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