There are 1.7 billion active monthly Facebook users and another nine hundred million using Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. To put it another way, about 37 percent of the world’s population are using at least one of these social media platforms. Of this 37 percent, a significant portion are actively shopping for goods and services – including cars. With such a concentrated and interconnected pool of potential consumers, easy to target and frequently engaging the platforms, it’s no wonder marketers continue to flock to social media in droves.
While it’s clear that social media, once considered by many as a promotional afterthought, has evolved to become a core element of most businesses’ marketing strategy, it isn’t clear why many auto dealerships continue to miss countless sales and customer relationship-building opportunities due either to an outdated and shaky social strategy, or none at all.
If you’re “on” social media, maybe your dealership isn’t seeing much ROI attributable to a social strategy. Perhaps social media seems intimidating or a nuisance, another digital distraction pulling you away from day-to-day operations. For whatever reason, social just doesn’t make sense for your dealership.
We’re here to help you understand that it does. And not only that it makes sense, but that with some simple steps and a little bit of marketing know-how, a sound social media strategy will greatly improve your bottom line. Here’s how to get back on track:
1. Ensure the accuracy of your brand is reflected across all social channels.
Check your contact information listed on all social media accounts. Is it correct? Are your dealership’s profile and cover photos up-to-date and optimized to reflect your dealership and brand? There’s room for lots of customization on social media platforms, giving you ample opportunity to present to the world the most polished, professional, and informative version of your business. Treat your social accounts like an extension of your store.
2. Stay active.
Once you’re in, you’ll need to stay in. Keep close tabs on your social accounts so that you can respond to comments, questions, and reviews. Lots of people will look to contact you through social media.
Just as important is your content flow. Going days without posting to your social sites can create a negative experience for followers and/or potential customers. But post too much and you compromise the value of the posting strategy as a whole.
Look to post fresh and relevant content once every other day. We’re not talking lengthy prose or dissertation quality here. For starters, take a new car off the lot once a week for a photo shoot and post the pics with some simple captions. (Don’t use stock inventory photos.) Feature staff or customers who’ve recently purchased a vehicle from you. Ask their permission, take their photos, write a quick blurb about them and their experience and Voila!, you’ve just created fresh content. Change it up a bit, too, by peppering in car reviews and other articles written by reputable publications featuring the inventory you’re selling. Actively share and retweet. Ensure that the content is engaging, timely, and relevant. Don’t rely on auto-feeds, which are not considered active posting. And don’t forget to leverage OEM marketing efforts to align with national campaigns at your local level.
3. Make social media management a key function of your internet sales team, or hire a dedicated social community manager.
Your dealership is a busy place. You’ve got your entire physical operation to run, customer walk-ins to handle, incoming inventory, a bustling service department, et cetera. And then there’s the matter of managing your digital operations as well, including social media. If you rely on staff untrained in current social media practices to handle this part of your digital marketing, you’re probably not going to see good, if any, results. Hire a dedicated social community professional – one who manages budgets for social advertising, has some design experience for graphics and illustrations, is a decent copywriter, and knows how to interact with your social community – or invest in training for existing staff to perform these skills. If this isn’t a possibility, the right digital provider can often manage social communities on your behalf, including gathering and coordinating inventory assets and optimizing across the major social platforms.
4. Include social media in your marketing strategy.
For all of the reasons to use social media mentioned above, add these stats:
– 92 percent lower cost per vehicle details page view.
– 66 percent lower cost-per-click.
– 45K+ vehicle detail page views.1
Facebook continues to blur the lines between social media and research platform, as products like Facebook Dynamic Ads are bringing display advertising into the social sphere. If social media sites let businesses advertise products, then dealers need to place social in the same category as website and advertising when examining marketing strategy. It’s digital marketing, and it all matters.
5. Budget for social media spending.
You’re going to need to allocate funds specifically for social media, which means including this expenditure in monthly, quarterly, or annual budgeting meetings. While establishing an account for most social media sites is still free of cost, Facebook and Twitter organic posts (content you post to your newsfeed and don’t promote) are not nearly as effective as they once were. To serve your content to high quality shoppers in their news feeds, you’ll need to actively promote, or pay, for placement.
Using social media is more than worth it; it’s just as valuable as having an optimized website and advertising strategy. By using social media’s simple (and fun) brand-building power, and combining it with a regular cadence of organic and promoted posts, your dealership is going to start connecting with a specific audience of motivated shoppers in your target market that you previously may have had a hard time reaching. Keep at it, experiment, and make sure that social is known throughout the business as key component of marketing strategy.
Sean Slattery is the social community manager at Dealer.com and Dealertrack
1Results reflect three-month performance of dealer group using Dealer.com Facebook Dynamic Ads.