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JD Power, at its annual Automotive Internet Roundtable in Las Vegas last week, laid out a convincing case that Internet and mobile marketing has made major headway among local auto dealers. While digital media comprised just 7 percent of all auto spending in 2008,  JD Power projects it will jump to 22 percent by 2011.

“More creative methods of marketing will need to be demonstrated, requiring more effort than ever seen in the past,” said the researcher, which noted that 19 percent of online auto shoppers first log on to dealer sites, 41 percent go to manufacturer Web sites, and 40 percent visit third-party automotive sites.

Mobile is likely to be a big part of the boom in digital marketing for autos. The most useful mobile features include ad listings, payment calculators, maps and directions and dealer contact information. JD Power advises dealers to ask shoppers whether the e-mail is for a mobile device so it can extend mobile-only offers.

Social media is also a major component. By integrating user-generated content and capturing “real-world” consumer opinions, marketers can improve their brand’s credibility among consumers. Strong digital content often spurs discussion among social media users, which can achieve a widely expansive reach among the target audience. Social media networking Web sites, such as Facebook, have greater reach among new-vehicle prospects than online search engines or portals — such as Google and Yahoo.

“Social media is now shaping customer expectations in any and every way,” said JD Power VP and GM Chance Parker, in a statement. “Listening to social media is increasingly on people’s radar screens and people are scrambling to understand it. It’s not enough simply to count the buzz; it is important to understand what that buzz really means to your brand.”

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