Tapping the Power of Social Media for Your Dealership

Social media is everywhere. It’s on our phones, it’s how we connect with our friends and family, it’s how we get our news, and increasingly it’s how we determine from whom to buy the products and services we want and need. If you want to get an idea of how pervasive social media has become, just look at the number of users:

  • Facebook—1.19 Billion Monthly Active Users
  • Google+—540 Million Monthly Active Users
  • LinkedIn—259 Million Monthly Active Users
  • Twitter—241 Million Monthly Active Users
  • Instagram—150 Million Monthly Active Users
  • Pinterest—70 Million Monthly Active Users

The numbers are staggering, but they don’t tell the whole story. Sure, there are a lot of people on social media, but what if it’s just a bunch of teenagers? Well, that might have been true when Rupert Murdoch bought MySpace, however, just like MySpace, that’s old news—today the fastest growing demographic on both Google+ and Facebook is the 45-54 year old age bracket, increasing 46% for Facebook and 56% for Google+. What’s more, these users aren’t just surfing cat videos and reading listicles they’re searching for information to help them make purchases and communicating with brands online. In fact:

  • 52% of marketers found a customer through Facebook in 2013 (HubSpot)

  • 43% of marketers found a customer through LinkedIn in 2013 (HubSpot)

  • 36% of marketers found a customer through Twitter in 2013 (HubSpot)

  • 46% of online users use social media to help them make purchase decisions (Nielsen)

It doesn’t matter if you’re dealership is on social media or not, your customers are already there and they’re probably talking about your business, whether you’re a part of the conversation or not. The question is, how do you become a part of the conversation and use social media to find new customers and connect with current ones?

To help answer that question I spoke to social media experts Jason Barber, President and Founder of Friendemic.com, Fawaad Welch, President at Slipstream Creative, and Heather MacKinnon, Vice President of National Accounts at DealerRater.

social media graph

Where Do You Start?

Social media is not just one site. Like television there are multiple channels and which channels you use depends on what the goals of your campaign are.

If your goal is new customers, Jason Barber recommends Twitter, because ” Twitter is an open form…If I’m a dealer, I can, using the right message (don’t want to be too pushy or salesy), reach out and find people in my community. I can search with five miles of my building right now for people talking about car shopping or talking about new cars or talking about service issues, car broke down, etc. And with Twitter you can actually reach out to them.”

Another way you can use social media to your advantage is SEO. Your website is the face of your dealership; it must have complete inventory listings with pictures and video, multiple ways to contact you, easy navigation, etc., but none of that matters to the customer who doesn’t visit your website. Content is still king when it comes to SEO, but social media is the new queen.

“Pinterest, Twitter, and Google+ are three sites that are huge for a dealer’s SEO. Updating or pushing relevant content to these sites will have a lasting input on your first page placement,” according to Fawaad Welch.

The reason for this, explained Jason Barber, is that “content that you publish on your Google+ page that gets engagement comes up on your first page results with Google as well as PPC and SEO results…[Google] built [Google+] from the very beginning with the intention of going where they’ve gone, which is integrated into the rest of the Google properties and the SEO and PPC businesses of Google.”

What About Mobile?

Reach into your pocket. Is there a smartphone in it? I’ll bet there is. In fact, according to a recent study, smartphone penetration has reached 74% of the US market—even if you want a flip phone, it’s not easy to find one these days. Not surprisingly, this has led to an explosion of mobile users on social media. Just take a look at these numbers:

  • 945 million Facebook Mobile Monthly Active Users
  • 184 million Twitter Mobile Monthly Active Users
  • 201.6 million Google+ Mobile Monthly Active Users
  • 20.2 million LinkedIn Mobile Monthly Active Users
  • 32 million Instagram Mobile Monthly Active Users
  • 23 million Pinterest Mobile Monthly Active Users

With numbers like that mobile is something your dealership can’t ignore. And since, as Fawaad Welch told us “a phone is in arm’s length of the average American 23 hours a day. This is an easy way to get a real time message in front of customers and see a nice increase in a captive audience.”

If you want your message to reach these consumers, however, you have to make sure that it works on mobile. “Understand that copy has to be written so it’s readable on mobile, images have to be sized so they show up and they look fine in a web browser, but they also look fine on iPad or iPhone,” added Jason Barber.

What to Post?

Clearly, it’s important to make your content mobile friendly, but what should that content be?

Heather MacKinnon reminded us that, “Potential buyers are interested in not only in what your customers have to say about your business, but also how your business interacts with and treats it customers. Not only should a car dealership have a social media presence to validate their business, it should have a well-managed presence”

She recommended, “asking permission to show photos of happy consumers taking delivery of their new vehicles (be sure to capture the delivering sales person in the shot!) Not only will it make that customer feel special and appreciated, and therefore more likely to come back again, but it can also attract potential customers to your dealership. [Because] if the photo is shared or tagged on Facebook or Twitter it becomes an implicit recommendation by the buyer for your dealership.”

“Having your customers share a pic or video of themselves in their new car at the dealership has proven to be very successful in creating social referrals and mentions,” agreed Fawaad Welch. “Everyone wants a new car but not everyone wants to be sold a new car.”

Jason Barber also asserted that you need to post more than one kind of content. “Sometimes a good post of just copy is great, sometimes a good post with media links is great,” he said. He also agreed that, “in general media content rules the day… that is imagery and video content, but mainly images. Images receive good attention. If you’re going for engagement, that would be the lowest hanging fruit.”

What Mistakes to Avoid?

Let’s not kid ourselves; a lot of dealerships are behind the curve when it comes to social media. On the one hand, this means that we have some catching up to do. On the positive side, however, it means that we can learn from the mistakes of others who went before us. So we put the question to our experts—What is the biggest mistake you see dealers making with social media?

Heather MacKinnon believes, “The biggest mistake we see dealers make is overuse of stock photos and/or outsourcing to firms that post stock photos or duplicate content.” To solve this issue she urged to “instead engage both consumers and employees on social media with real photos that include employee recognition, community outreach, and happy customers.”

Jason Barber reminded us that not all social media fans are created equal. “I’d say the biggest mistake that car dealers specifically make, is focusing on likes and followers,” he said. “I’d rather have one conversation with 10 people every week than have 100 fans and have a conversation with only one of them every week. That’s a huge mistake that most car dealers make is they just want to see more fans and more followers, and those are important, but not at the expense of quality.”

Fawaad Welch added that if you want to connect with your customers, it has to be about more than sales. “The biggest mistake by far is a dealership only promoting inventory and specials and spamming customers via social media avenues,” he said. “Be active and have some fun with it. Knock off the hard sales approach and become more personable on a non biz level and good things will happen.”

Will It Help Sell Cars?

Social media doesn’t make your customers need a car, it just helps them decide where to buy it. The reality is 46% of you potential customers are already looking at social media to help them make their purchase decision, the choice is not whether or not your speak to them, but whether or not you’re involved in the conversation.

Michael Bowen


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