A Fort Smith automobile dealership is getting national attention for its efforts in the world of social media.
According to a press release from the Driving Sales Executive Summit, Harry Robinson Buick GMC's social media team, headed up by Social Media Manager Cathy Nesbit, will be one of only five dealerships nationally to be recognized for "best ideas" at the group's Las Vegas convention in October.
The idea garnering Nesbit and the dealership attention is its "Free Gas Friday" promotion that has run weekly since the start of the year. According to Nesbit, she and a photographer seek out a vehicle with either a Harry Robinson front-mounted license plate or a Harry Robinson sticker on the rear and award the driver with a goody bag and a $50 gas card.
After Nesbit or someone from the dealership awards the winner with a gas card, the entire event is then uploaded to the station's YouTube channel.
"We wanted a video series and a way to honor our loyal customers specifically and just do something that they were eligible for," Nesbit said.
While the series rewards loyal customers with free gas, the efforts are gaining national attention and resulting in increased conversions to the company's website where new and used vehicles are listed for purchase.
"We put the videos on Facebook and our YouTube page. On Facebook video plays, we've had over 24,000 views and I checked Friday and we had 33,123 views on YouTube," she said, adding that another 456 views had been logged since Friday.
Nesbit said the numbers were a vast improvement from the year prior, when the company had only logged 8,000 views on its YouTube channel.
Beyond the "Free Gas Friday" promotion, other promos like "Test Drive Tuesday" were pushing up the views and also driving traffic to the dealership. Nesbit said a third of sales could be tied to customers having previously seen the information online.
"And that's traceable. If you're asking me, it's much much higher. But we have to be able to prove every number and I'm a numbers person, (and) the average is 33.3%," she said.
But the numbers were not always so strong, according to General Manager Renee Durham. Durham said Nesbit started at the company four years ago and was brought in without a defined job description.
"When we identified social media as being important in marketing and recognizing our employees and customers, we added a social media person," she said.
And even though Harry Robinson could have gone with any number of national firms that specialize in social media and web management, Durham said the decision was made to hire Nesbit and have her build the position and the new marketing arm of Harry Robinson from the ground up.
During that time, Nesbit has taken strategies she has developed on her own and strategies used in other larger markets and applied them locally to take Harry Robinson to a new generation of digitally connected customers, reaching not only the Fort Smith region but others, as well.
In that time, Nesbit has done what many in the automotive world find impressive — she has taken social media and made it one of the primary drivers of customers at the dealership.
"It's nearly unheard of for a dealership to capitalize on any kind of traffic to their website from Facebook specifically. And our number one referrer of traffic outside of Google and Yahoo! is Facebook," she said.
And with the nation's automobile dealerships watching Oct. 12-14 in Las Vegas, Nesbit will have five minutes to explain her social media strategy for "Free Gas Friday" and who knows? She could be chosen by a panel of judges as having the best marketing idea in the auto industry for 2014.