While speaking to a 20 Group last month, I was asked if transferring leads to the sales floor is the best way to manage online opportunities. Simply put, I prefer an Internet department still to this day. I understand many are saying "disperse leads to the sales floor because all customers are internet shoppers anyway and they should be able to assist them". Here is the flaw... constructing well-worded replies without spelling errors and well-thought out responses with grammatically correct sentences often takes a more educated, dedicated individual - and we know those are often not those handling customers on most showroom floors.
If you have been hiring from the beginning for that purpose then, by all means, put them in charge. Most likely, though, you have a mix of intellectual product junkies and stuck-in-their-ways old car dogs. There won’t be any autonomy in responses so you just aren’t ready yet.
Also, for quality customer interaction to take place, usually the responding party needs to be either well-versed at overcoming objections or be given the authority to price and negotiate with online consumers. Hence, this is why an actual Internet Manager is still so valuable. Yes, I like having a dedicated department performing those lead-handling duties.
Then I was asked if all of the salespeople should be in control of a dealer’s digital marketing / social media presence and content creation. “Heck no!” was my immediate answer to that. They should be “involved”, but certaily not “in control”.
That being said, just to enter the content creation game, your dealership will need:
1) An Executive (or executive-level entity) to manage the dealer's social presence, brand message, and content sharing.
2) One content creator writing blogs/stories, taking pictures, and shooting videos (vehicle, salespeople bios, customer testimonials, events, locally-driven material, walk-arounds, and fun stuff) and sharing the creations with the Executive
3) All employees to "Like" the primary dealership FB page, participate in a little of the content’s creation, and assist in the "sharing" of said content provided from the primary page off their own FB pages and into their sphere of influence.
So you really just need a minimum of two people to run it. If you are the executive in this instance, then great. You still need a content person. Find a college kid that takes theater or journalism, is comfortable in front of and behind a camera, and bring them on at least part-time (full-time if they're a college graduate). If you can't hire, look into the Automotive Internship Program.
Then find the right portal in which to manage your online presence. At NADA I saw a company called Social Dealer with a good product for this. ReachLocal's ReachCast looks good as well. AAN (Automotive Advertising Network) has a content-creation portal to help turning RSS feeds from the OEM quickly into blogs, press releases, and microsites). Exteres Auto and MyGoso are supposed to be very good as well, but I’m not as intimate with their products as the others. All offer some semblance of reporting and control that allow you to better manage your reputation, presence and content.
But it starts with the structure of your store and the people you designate to CONTROL the leads, the content, the technology, and your presence that will determine your online success.