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SMWChicago12: Cars.com – Rev Up Your Social Enterprise

I love panels where people tell it like it is from the trenches.  Last week Cars.com hosted a Social Media Week Chicago discussion to talk about what it really means to roll up your company’s sleeves and ‘get social’.  Kerri Noeth, Director of Social Business, Vicki Ledajacks, Director of CRM and Kerry Sugrue, Social Community Manager brought a comprehensive view of how they worked together to integrate social media, CRM and internal community to rev up their brand and deliver efficiencies that propel their business.

Social Media Week Chicago - Cars.com Get Social Panel

Kerri Noeth, Vicki Ladajacks and Kerry Sugrue share lessons from the social business trenches at Cars.com

Cars.com realized things had changed in terms of what their customers were looking for, how they search and want to be managed.  They also concluded the need to become more social themselves in order to become better advisors to their dealer network and be seen as leading in their category.  Their social business journey began with a management team that was open to social media and the development of a 3-point strategy:

  1. Drive the discovery process and consideration of our brand
  2. Socialize the shopping experience
  3. Build a scalable Social Enterprise

The sales force became the epicenter of their efforts with the introduction of Chatter, an internal ‘Twitter-like’ tool, which brought scores of remote employees through questions, feedback and problem solving.  As people started seeing quick responses to questions that were being harvested into sales assets and watched the 17-person e-mail strings disappear – word spread and more people caught on.  It was easy to measure the contributors and eventually draw out the lurkers once they saw the norms and got more comfortable with posting.  Keys to Chatter’s success: not using a tool for tool’s sake (Chatter came alongside their existing Salesforce environment where the sales teams spent the majority of their day) and teaching the language and nuances of the 140-character world through visible champions.  Next, how to get the rest of the Cars.com employee base to come in, so it’s not just the sales force collaborating with one another.

What follows are 5 best practices from the Cars.com team for putting social to work from the inside out as part of a longer-term change management process:

  1. Arm employees with the digital tools they need to access and engage social media.  Cars.com gave their sales team’s iPads, custom CRM applications with social features and hosted contests to encourage adoption and utilization.
  2. Talk about what employees can do with social media, not so much about what they can’t.  Keep it simple or they will be put off.  Have your top employees talk about how they are using social in their respective jobs and the difference between professional and personal profiles.
  3. Make social top of mind with your employees. Cars.com launched a ‘GetSocial’ internal campaign that promoted tips, guides along with stories of how social was working in employees’ lives plus solicit ideas from staff on how to make Cars.com more social for customers.
  4. Capture the latest social media trends and publish so employees can stay up to date.
  5. Make your social efforts as visible as possible within your organization.  Cars.com did this by:
  • Bringing the internal Chatter conversation to display screens in and around the office – helped to bring the social media world into the rest of the organization
  • Putting up a large wall with live Chatter feed at internal events.  Recently, over the course of three days, Cars.com had 700 of their employees talking about their brand, showcasing their culture, which eventually went viral to their own personal networks.
  • Added ‘social share’ buttons to their daily internal newsletter and job posting content and cross-populated these items to the employee Facebook page.

How’s all of the above paying off for Cars.com?  Vicki Ledajacks pointed out, “the ultimate metric of success was watching all of the unnecessary e-mail processes disappear and decision timeframes get shorter and shorter.”  No doubt, we could all benefit from the same in our own organizations, but the road to get there requires passionate commitment to try new ways of doing things + a lot of patience for these new approaches to catch on and become a part of the culture.  What I dig most of all is how Cars.com brings together the Social Business, CRM and community management into one integrated enterprise strategy – they really get that it’s the people inside and out whom make social work.

About Michelle Batten

Michelle Batten is a seasoned digital marketing & advertising leader. She has spent two decades in the interactive arena, working with Fortune 1000 brands + start-ups to define and execute their digital initiatives. An emerging media visionary, Michelle is currently serving as Head of Global Marketing for Mobile & Innovation Intrapreneur for Amadeus, a global travel technology company. She is also the President for the Chicago American Marketing Association. Her passions include culture + tech evolution, mentoring, experiential travel and foodspotting.

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