Car Dealerships: It’s Social Media, Not A Newspaper

The biggest mistake, among many that car dealerships make, is using social media as if it’s meant to be a newspaper. The 20th century form of effective marketing is over, it’s now time to advertise in a way that attracts both Millennials and older generations. The largest growing demographic on social media platforms is 50+ year olds, which means they’re joining their younger cohorts and entering the digital age of communication. Facebook and Twitter have become the extension of the newspaper to most dealerships. While spending money on ads in the local newspapers, they’re posting the exact same content on Facebook and Twitter timelines. It’s time to end this nonsense.

With the existence of Instagram and Pinterest, pictures, not words, have become more effective for social media marketing as the years have passed. Sure a few sentences will work, but posting manufacturer’s photos of cars, newspaper style ads, and sharing third party links is how you lose the interest of people where they congregate. Millennials are now the second largest car buying group, surpassing Generation X. Seeing as though most, if not all, 18-35 year olds are on social media, you have to meet them and market to them in a way that is relevant and not come across as pushy.

The dealerships who are doing a fantastic job on social media are having fun with the content they’re sharing. Pictures of vehicles in their showrooms, promoting their courtesy cars for people with vehicles in the shop, displaying and talking about the cars on their lots, and interacting with their current and potential customers is how they’re beating the competition. In fact, one dealership outside of Boston has grown a strong following, and despite their success on social media and the buzz they’ve created, no other dealership in the immediate vicinity seems to be afraid or have any sense of urgency to do the same.

Car dealerships who have been in business for 30+ years should be frightened, and actually terrified by dealerships who market effectively on social media. That one dealership has done everything right, from sharing pictures of their showroom, the cars on their lot, and giving an inside look of their maintenance department. This dealership has quelled any sense of mistrust, and in fact have almost become the new friendly neighbor that everyone loves. They’re marketing right, and by using social media as a word of mouth tool, they’re beginning to separate themselves from traditional powerhouse dealerships who have a strong reputation of being the best.

Stop making your social media pages a newspaper. Very few people read newspapers to begin with, so why try marketing in a way that would have worked 15 years ago? Manufacturer’s photos don’t display the car. With the technological features coming out, consumers need to be more informed than ever, and by not sharing content that will support a buyer’s decision, you come across looking as lazy and unprofessional.

There’s been a few times where disgruntled customers have taken notice of the minimal interaction the dealership has on social media, and these customers are also noticing fake and unofficial Facebook pages because the dealership hasn’t entered the 21st century yet. We’re living in a time where if you don’t have a strong social media presence, people might not do business with you. Think about that for a second. Your dealership has been in existence for a number of years, and just because you don’t have an operating Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram page, people think you’re not a legitimate or a great dealership to shop at.

The worst strategy you could have for Facebook is making your page be a virtual newspaper. Have fun with social media, you’re selling cars! What’s more exciting than the new car smell, and all the emotions that come with owning an amazing vehicle? Use that to your advantage, and market to your customers in a way that tugs at their heart strings. Consumers of 2015 want a “friendship-like” experience, and by being social with them where they spend the most time, you can make a lasting impact on that person.

Use Social Media To Showcase Your Cars

I’ve gone in-depth on the importance of a strong social media presence for car dealerships. Now it’s time to take it up a notch and discuss content, primarily content of the cars and services you offer. As I’ve said many times before, only 5-10% of dealerships are actually using social media effectively, and not just selling hard trying to make a quick sale. The more I talk to marketers in the industry and car dealerships who market on Facebook and Instagram, the more I realize that social media is meant to build a connection, one that takes a lot of time and effort.

How to build that connection is the question many car dealerships ask themselves because they’re not seeing engagement from current followers and are seeing absolutely little to no results using social media. The answer to their problem lies within the native content they post, or the lack thereof. Dealerships who primarily use the same content from the car brand itself, share third party articles, or revert to hard selling give up with Facebook and Instagram within a few months. The ones who are still operating their accounts post inconsistently or with very little interest because they don’t see the results they want. Again, it all comes down to native content.

Combine your dealership’s showroom, car lot, a smartphone or some other camera, and social media and you’ve got all the content you could ever want. For example, I’ve seen a decent amount of car dealerships who sell the entire Fiat-Chrysler brand (this includes Dodge, Jeep, and Chrysler). They have a wide selection of vehicles that go from high performance vehicles with the Challenger and Charger, to luxury sedans such as the Chrysler 200 and 300, to off-road capable SUV’s that cover the entire Jeep lineup. It’s not possible that these dealerships can’t put together a collage, a handful of posts, or interesting content centered around these vehicles.

The showroom is usually where the best vehicles are stored. Take photos of them and post those pictures to Instagram. If winter is around the corner, start promoting your Jeeps by posting great content displaying them on your Facebook page. You might say, “But I’m not seeing results”, and that’s because you’re not using social media in a way that appeals to your customer base. Social media is all about visualization, eye candy that makes people Like, share, and comment on the photos or other forms of native content you’re sharing. Just posting generic photos of cars, with the hard selling copy such as, “We’ve got the SUV’s you need for this winter, so come test driver one” won’t work. Not on Facebook. If the customer really needs a vehicle, he or she will visit your showroom, there is no need for selling hard on another platform.

Take photos of the exterior and interior. Show the center console and interior features. Because cars have become more technologically advanced, consumers now want to experience being in the drivers seat to get an idea of what they’ll be expecting when they test driver the vehicle. The best way to do that is by posting pictures of the interiors, both on Facebook and Instagram. Another idea is to share photos of the cars you have in front of your store. Make the customer aware of what your dealership looks like, and use the nice cars you’re selling to your advantage. Your cars are your decorations, don’t be afraid to display them.

Social media is changing how consumers shop. Unfortunately the automotive industry is far behind the curve. To become relevant to your target customer base, you have to market in a way that is relevant to them and how they interact on the Internet. It’s essential to speak their language, and give them what they want when they’re scrolling through their news feeds.

Facebook and Instagram Are Important Platforms For Car Dealerships

With the existence of social media and the changes in how we communicate, there’s now a difference in how people shop. Instagram and Youtube has given consumers the ability to visualize themselves owning and driving the cars they see, both in pictures and videos. Facebook then comes in as being visual, while also striking a cord with customers, by writing a few sentences that make an emotional connection with the cars they own, or will own in the future. Car dealerships are far behind this curve, as car brands have taken to Instagram and Facebook, seeing results that’s creating a very loyal following.

Think back to when your parents or one of your older neighbors bought a car. Sometimes they’d be extremely loyal to a certain brand. “I only buy a Cadillac” or, “Ford makes the best cars and that’s why they’re the only cars I drive”. Today, it’s much different. Consumers aren’t as brand loyal in some cases, and can easily be influenced by other brands just by their marketing and the products they’re selling. Not only can the cars themselves influence these consumers, but also their interactions with the brands on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook is where most of the one-on-one interactions take place, and for the car dealerships who are using the platform correctly, they’re building long-term relationships with those customers. On a side note, this is where posting native content worth engaging with comes into play. If you’re posting articles from Car & Driver, Consumer Reports, or some other third party source, you won’t see engagement from your followers. By sharing pictures of vehicles in your showroom, along with exterior and interior shots of individual cars, you’ll begin to see growing interest from current and potential future customers.

I can’t stress enough the importance of interior pictures of your cars. Very few car dealerships use them on social media, and in fact, you’re withholding the most effective content you currently have. Anyone can Google search the car they want, but very few photos with the interior of the car with a real life setting. Usually most photos have a white backdrop, or fake scenery in the background, giving customers an inaccurate view of what they’ll be experiencing when they get behind the wheel.

I understand that the dealerships who do post pictures of their pre-owned lot on Facebook tend to not go too far into detail because there’s a high probability that particular car could be gone tomorrow, possibly upsetting a few followers. However, you shouldn’t be too shy from sharing your pre-owned lot, even if it’s a wide shot, especially if they’re certified pre-owned inventory where most if not all of the vehicles are by one brand.

With new cars though, post pictures, both the interior and exterior. Why have your customers go on Autotrader.com or Cars.com to get a visual of the cars you sell. While you do want them to go on your website for those details, having those pictures on Facebook too would allow interested customers to contact you via social media. This allows for instant communication, or you can try encouraging them to call if they have more questions.

As I’ve said before in multiple articles in the past, I’m very against the hard sell on social media. You’re building a community of happy customers, while also reaching out to potential car buyers. Never revert to the, “Come visit our showroom” line, because that doesn’t work. If the customer is interested they’ll visit your dealership. Your job on Facebook and Instagram is to give them a visual appeal that attracts them to your dealership and social media pages. While your ultimate goal is to sell cars, Facebook and Instagram should be used with the intent of creating a connection with the customers, whether they’ll be visiting your dealership to buy a car, or after they’ve already purchased it.

Many dealerships aren’t even using social media, and if they are, it consists of hard selling copy, along with recycled content used from some other dealership or the car brand’s advertising department. Post native content that the consumer can’t get anywhere else. That’s your value proposition on social media, and because 90-95% of dealerships don’t use Facebook or Instagram right, there’s your advantage over the competition. Social media is meant to build a long-term, and hopefully, a life-long connection with the customer. Don’t hard sell and just continue posting relevant and native content that will keep your followers coming back for more.

Subaru Owners of America: We Envy You

After six feet of snow in a matter of three weeks, we’re waving the white flag. Subaru owners of America, you’ve made the best decision of your lives because you bought arguably the best winter vehicles on the market today. AWD and a history of long lasting quality is a worthy adversary for what mother nature throws at us during the winter. For those of you who are on the fence about whether to buy a Subaru or not, watch these videos or look out your window, you’ll see why owning these vehicles will make your lives better.

Time and time again Subaru’s have come up big in the clutch when driving in snow. In fact, during storms, Subaru’s are really the only brand that dominates the roads besides pickup trucks and plow operators. These vehicles were made for weather in New England and continue to stand the test of time. After this winter, when the snow piles are melted and people can get back to shopping, there is no doubt that Subaru sales figures will skyrocket.

Who cares about the CVT transmissions and very limited horsepower, at the end of the day these owners aren’t complaining about being stuck in snow and are instead warm inside their houses. If there is one thing that winter of 2015 has taught us, Subaru + AWD = the ultimate winter vehicle. A couple of more winters like these and state officials will have to make it mandatory to own one.

I think it’s safe to say we’re all sick of winter. If two foot snow storms are becoming the norm in New England, maybe it’s time to trade in the FWD sedan and move up to a more capable winter vehicle.

Winter In New England: Never Buy A Front Wheel Drive Car

Have you had enough of winter yet? We sure have. Between shoveling out the driveway, getting stuck on unplowed roads, fishtailing down city streets, and not feeling invincible like the car ads show, makes us extremely tired of snow this year. But guess what? We still have another month or so of winter left, and with a front wheel drive car, patience has run out. Unless you’re a young kid who likes snow drifting in parking lots, RWD will get you nowhere in this weather, and at times FWD is no better. That leaves us with one choice. AWD crossovers, SUV’s, and sedans. Are we complaining? No.

The biggest issue with front wheel drive is that you have no traction in the back. You may make it around the corner, but the back end always gets loose, even with stability and traction control on. Older vehicles are more prone to these problems due to loss of power, and this is very noticeable when going uphill. The prime remedy is to always winterize your car, put on snow tires, and go the whole 9 yards, but weather chooses no favorites and it will stop you dead in your tracks.

When it comes to RWD, you might as well attach a RV trailer on the back of the car because it will expend all your energy and concentration to make it home in a timely manner. Because all the power comes from the back, you have to stabilize the weight ratio as the engine is in the front which causes a nightmare if you get stuck in a rut. Personally, we never understood why RWD was ever considered to be a great idea for driving in the northern reaches of the country, but that decision is up to the buyer.

After surviving six feet of snow in less than three weeks, we’ve decided that AWD and four wheel drive is the only answer to making it through unplowed surfaces. Go on Youtube and Instagram and you’ll find Subarus going through snow as if it was cotton candy, and a BMW dealership in Massachusetts showed the power of BMW’s AWD system as it made it out of a snowbank surrounding the car.

If you still want a RWD or front wheel drive vehicle after winter of 2015, all power to you. We’re done with fishtailing and watching drivers with AWD facing no adversity while we’re trying to correct the wheel because the rear tires feel like they’re on banana peels.

Some people would say all the fun cars are RWD, but we beg to differ. You can’t tell us that cutting through snow in a Subaru and feeling unstoppable for a season is better than snow drifting. Having to put a shovel in the trunk and constantly debating whether you can make it through that snow pile or up that unplowed street has changed our perceptions of winter driving. Yes, for the first storm it seems fun, but when you’re actually trying to get from point A to point B in one piece, AWD seems like the best alternative.

This winter will be over in a few months, at least that’s what we’re hoping. By then maybe FWD and RWD cars will seem more appealing, but for the time being, AWD systems, whether that be Quattro or X-drive, Subarus or Volvos, SUV’s or crossovers, are the only vehicles we want to be behind the wheel of until late April.

Making A Case For The Kia Forte Hatchback

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of getting a good long look at the redesigned Kia Forte5 SX. Needless to say, it left a lasting impression. The hatchback market is extremely competitive with the Volkswagen Golf and GTI leading the way, Ford bringing their Focus RS over to the United States, the Fiesta’s dominance in the compact hatchback market, the fresh design of the Mazda3 which is turning heads, and Hyundai’s Elantra GT. Where does Kia’s Forte fit in, and can it hold it’s own against the competitors?

The Forte hatchback comes with two trims: The EX and SX. For performance, you would most definitely want to go with the SX, which is turbocharged, packing 201 HP. Unfortunately to get all the bells and whistles, which includes front and rear heated seats, you’re looking at spending $28,000, but it’s worth it. A sporty interior that will grasp the attentions of young millennials and will certainly get them noticed. A spacious interior that has more cargo volume than the Golf and GTI will make it easy for college students to move in and out of dorms, while also making room for passengers when it’s a late night on the town.

The EX on the other hand is more practical, getting much better gas mileage (25 MPG in the city, 33 MPG on the highway), but not lacking in power. With a 2.0L engine, you’ll still get 173 hp, 0-60 in 7.5 seconds (only two tenths of a second slower than the GTI). With a base price of $19,960, it’s much more reasonable, but if you’re looking for leather interior and other comforts, the price could hover around $25,000.

The Kia Forte is definitely a car worth looking at getting if you don’t want a Golf or GTI. While you’re not getting the fastest hatchback with the SX, you’re still getting a turbocharged engine, cargo space, a sporty interior, and a car that will turn heads. It’s the kind of car you want to get if you want to be different and not buy a car your friend owns.

If you’re a fan of Top Gear UK, you’ve probably already seen the Forte make it through a grueling challenge of rugby. The car is no doubt durable, and even for Top Gear, was an eye opener. The Forte is by far one of the most impressive cars I’ve seen in the hatchback market. I wasn’t expecting to see premium features such as backup assist, heated seats, navigation system, leather seats, and sunroof from a car that’s been flying under the radar for so long.

As someone who goes against the trend and leans more towards something different, the Kia Forte5 would certainly be in the top 5 cars under $25,000 I’d choose as a daily driver.