Social networking. It's a buzzword that became a fad that grew into a trend and is now a way of life for many -- mostly younger -- people. For me, the day I knew that social networking was here to stay was the day I got a friend request on Facebook from my mother. Yes, I accepted it, albeit begrudgingly.
The success of social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook has detonated an explosion of other networks, which cover everything from people who like vampires to a Dutch social network for people who like electronic and house music.Wikipedia lists nearly 200 different social networks, and there are likely dozens more that aren't included in the list.
For auto lenders, the list of social networks can be daunting, filled with possible landmines and liabilities, and a huge time-suck. We have highlighted the five most important social networks and outlined some brief reasons why lenders should have a presence on them.
LinkedIn: The most important business-to-business network online. LinkedIn offers auto lenders the opportunity to network with dealers, market themselves through LinkedIn's groups, and use its vast job board to recruit and hire new talent. Lenders should have completed a company page and should be using it to promote themselves on the site.
Facebook: Unless you've been living in a cave, then you should have some idea of what Facebook is and how it works. For companies, it's an incredibly powerful and valuable tool. Companies that are using Facebook properly are using it to market their products and services and improve their customer service and customer retention operations. For example: After repeated requests for help sent via a telecom carrier's customer service phone line went unheeded, we proceed to Facebook, where we posted a complaint on the telecom's Facebook page. Within 20 minutes, the problem had been addressed and rectified. Information that gets posted online will stay there forever, and nobody wants the stain of bad customer service to follow them around forever.
Twitter: Potentially the most hazardous of social networks. Want proof of how a good idea can turn bad when the Twitterverse gets a hold of it? McDonald's created a hashtag campaign on Twitter earlier this year, asking people to submit favorite stories about the chain using the #McDStories tag. What followed was a multitude of Twitter users doing the exact opposite: sharing horror stories about experiences at McDonald's restaurants. McDonald's had to ultimately pull the hashtag campaign because it had gotten so out of hand. Nonetheless, Twitter is still an important tool, for customer service, and for interacting with customers and prospects. People use Twitter to get a real-time feed of what's hot and what's cool online. Many corporations use Twitter to promote themselves and their customers using sophisticated and smart campaigns. Those who do it right stay top of mind when people go shopping.
Pinterest: The newest entry onto the social networking scene, Pinterest offers users the chance to take things they find online that they like, aggregate it into one "pinboard," and then share it with their friends. What makes this social network so important to auto lenders is that its users are primarily women. Any company looking to reach the female demographic should be using Pinterest and promoting "pinboards" to its customers.
Google+: Google's answer to Facebook is still trying to find its footing as a true social network, but generally, anything powered by Google eventually becomes popular. Earlier this week, a customer satisfaction report ranked Google+ well ahead of Facebook, citing a lack of legacy issues as a key to offering its better customer experience. For companies, Google+ is potentially a more important network because the site requires users to use their real names when creating accounts. Google+ also has a technology advantage over Facebook, offering the opportunity for users to compartmentalize the information shared, so that only certain people can see certain posts.