Ask the Experts – Online Automotive Forum with Joe and Bill
My dealer just got back from his 20 group meeting and the person there told him that he should invest (my) time in building an online automotive forum on our website, and then go into every other existing online automotive forum and convince them to post/engage on our site. Is this a necessary use of my time?
All the best,
Digital Marketing Director
From Joe Webb –
Both Bill and I are going to weigh in on your question. A lot to unfold here. This is a perfect example of an overthought idea being put into action by a dealer for all the wrong reasons. It’s all concept and no understanding of the execution. First, let me ask this: Do you have anyone on staff with the time and knowledge to manually keep up with an active online automotive forum on your website? Or would that be you? If it did actually ever generate significant traffic (though I doubt it would), it could be a full-time job in its own right. Is your website provider going to host it? Considering message boards mean people would likely need to build their own accounts and post questions, topics, images, and videos, it takes an increased service size and upkeep if done well. Does your owner intend to dedicate budget/resources to make this idea fly?
Next aspect to address: Convincing those currently on their preferred online automotive forums to switch to yours is no simple task. Forums are similar to groups and clubs. There is loyalty there. Time spent that cannot be discarded. Why would someone want to leave a site they’re involved in to go to one run by someone likely trying to sell them something? Moreover, there are so many forums out there, I shudder to think of you exhaustingly blanketing forum after forum wasting hours trying to influence people to join another similar forum.
Are you enthusiastic about this? There is absolutely a value here of spending time on existing forums. Quick story, and I’ll age myself here, I used to get the newspaper every day on my way into the dealership. I’d read through it and if there was anything automotive related that I could weigh in on, I would track that same article down on the newspaper’s website and get involved in the conversation. Same goes for message boards and forums. I recognized then that if I could add value into the discussion, I may be considered an authority among those interested in the topic. This allowed me to make countless connections/links from those sites to my dealer’s website. (This was before anyone ever uttered the acronym SEO in automotive.) I knew if people were talking passionately about something in one place, I needed to be a part of that conversation. I did this not for the inbound link, but because I too was passionate. If you’re going to spend your time in online automotive forums, you better be an enthusiast on the topic and not simply doing it for “work”.
Start small. Jump onto message boards for Jeep owners or MOPAR or local car clubs and see if you can be of value. If you can add another viewpoint, and are passionate about it, do it. But don’t do it for the increase in site traffic (or to steal traffic to any forum of your own). Do it because being an authority on a topic nowadays carries with it just as much value (and opportunity for new business) as any inbound links would.
So would all of this be a necessary use of your time? Much of what he asked for, no. Not at all. It is ill-conceived, time-consuming, and destined to fail. However, the underlining idea of getting involved in those types of sites can serve you now and into the future. You just have to pick your spots and do it for the right reasons. Hope this helps.
From Bill Playford –
Message boards and online automotive forums have lost their momentum a bit since the groups now exist across Facebook, Instagram, and the other social networks. They can be a good place to pick up some customers (and as Joe said, the extra SEO text content/links on a site could be beneficial), but just like other social media, it takes (a lot of) time to reap the benefits. In fact, most web boards are very tight-knit communities of hardcore enthusiasts. If you have someone at the store who owns a ’68 Superbee, has encyclopedic knowledge of Mopar cars, knows how many Pro Stock victories Ronnie Sox had between 1970 and 1972, or has a rock-crawling CJ-7, THEN you might want to try it out. Otherwise, it’s easy to get bounced as a “noob” or a “spammer”.
I think there are plenty of other mainstream avenues to exhaust that are worthy of a dealer’s time and efforts before dedicating significant time to fishing for clients in a pool of passionate vehicle enthusiasts with a penchant for taking their questions, concerns, opinions public. It is possible to do more damage than good. However, if you decide this is a strategy you want to develop, DealerKnows can gladly train you how to most effectively involve your dealership in these communities.
Hope this helps,