Over the past few months I’ve watched many videos and have read articles discussing social media marketing for car dealerships. I’ve had a hunger to learn as much as I can to help bring value to dealerships and give them realistic sales growth that they want to see from their social media platforms. During this fascination, I’ve stumbled upon videos discussing marketing strategies, which include Facebook ads. It’s rather interesting to see marketers completely believing ads on social media alone will affect a car buyer’s decision. This isn’t the clothes industry where small purchases are made everyday, this is the auto industry, where it takes weeks for consumers to decide which car they want.

A car buyer has many options to choose from: whether to buy new, used, or lease; hatchback or sedan; Toyota, or Honda. The dealership’s jobs is to attract those consumers to their showrooms, giving them exactly what they want. Marketers insist on Facebook ads, but how effective are they really in the car buying process? To suggest that a Lexus dealership can post an ad, or several sponsored links and get customers on their lot because of those campaigns is a stretch. In several other industries, there’s no argument that you need some form of advertising campaign, but for car dealerships, there needs to be a different approach.

Selling emotion and feeling, has, and always will be more effective than hard selling a vehicle. Facebook and Instagram can create that emotional attachment to a car by using photos and videos. A picture of a BMW on a beach in California at night can make people feel the warmth, and experience being in that car, creating that desire to purchase one. A Facebook ad, much like a hard selling television commercial can’t offer that. There’s much more to the buying process for consumers than just seeing an ad and thinking, “I like that car, I think I’ll go buy it.”

Try talking to a Toyota owner; convince them a Honda is better and it will offer more value in the long term. The conversion won’t be easy, in fact you may not be able to sell them on the idea of owning a rival brand. If you can’t influence someone’s buying behavior in a one-on-one discussion, how will a car dealership’s Facebook ad, which is tailored to people in need of a car, going to work? The people in the market for a Toyota and who have a strong interest in a Camry, won’t need a Facebook ad to get them into the dealership.

It all comes down to value, content, and engagement. Consumers in my state of Massachusetts don’t need ads to tell them that a car dealership exists, they already know. More importantly, your social media platforms as a whole need to be promoting your vehicles, not hard selling them and shoving those models down the throats of consumers. Car sales via social media requires strategy and a consistent stream of content.

The car dealerships I’ve talked to all have different strategies and ways of going about social media marketing. One believes in building a community and creating long term customer equity, while another focuses on promoting their vehicles during seasonal and monthly sales events. Hard selling is not part of the equation, it’s about going in-depth and building that customer relationship.

What concerns me about old-school style marketers who bring old-school methods to social media is that they’ll turn off consumers on another platform that is highly effective. People don’t want to see ads from car dealerships on their phones and tablets when they’re home. They’re already being bombarded with television and radio ads, it’s time to end that trend on social media. Car dealerships; you need to create value by offering knowledge and information about the vehicles you sell. Consumers already know your existence, they just want to know that your vehicles will be worth the $30,000 price tag.

Start building a deep relationship with your customers. Give them relevant content worth engaging and responding to. The auto industry can no longer hard sell at the rate they are. It’s time to start offering value and motivating car buyers to purchase your brand through great native content.

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