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.

Car Dealerships: Stop Posting Content Your Customers Have No Interest In

Every morning I check car dealerships’ social media accounts, and to my disappointment, 90-95% of dealerships are all posting content that is boring and irrelevant. It comes as no surprise that lack of interesting posts has led to silent Facebook pages that see no engagement from fans and followers. As a result, car dealerships’ social media pages have become inactive over time. After not seeing results from the articles and non-native content they’re sharing, these dealerships then revert to hard selling, which on social media never works. There’s better ways to utilize Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to attract both former and future customers.

Recently I came across a post on a luxury dealership’s Facebook page discussing racing technology the brand is using in their race cars, and also adding a link for further reading. That article would be worth sharing on a car magazine’s account that has scores of racing enthusiasts. The question one must ask is, “How many of this dealership’s customers will take their new cars out onto a track?” Not too many is my guess. Similar articles were being shared, not only on that account, but several other dealership’s fan pages as well. There’s a reason why customers don’t engage with the business they bought their car from. The content just isn’t compelling.

It’s rather interesting though, when these companies start sharing news about keeping their new cars looking clean, removing scratches, and posting native content of their dealership and cars in the showroom, all of a sudden the customers start interacting. You’re selling some amazing products that the car brands have spent much time marketing, why not continue marketing them in a way that makes your showroom appealing while also attracting interest by potential car buyers to visit your business? The car buying experience should be exciting, especially if your customers are purchasing a new car. That experience starts on social media.

The dealerships who understand this are posting top quality photos of their best vehicles. Exclusive content, whether that be from your blog, showroom, or pictures on Instagram is how you stand out amongst the crowd. Sure, articles from car magazines and Consumer Reports are great, but don’t make that the main focus of your social media pages. Your business should take center stage, not in terms of selling, but attracting, and you do that by using all the tools social media has given you and sharing interesting content worth reading and engaging with.

I’ve seen far too many dealerships making the mistake of posting content that brings no value to the consumer. In fact, I cringe every morning because I know you’re selling amazing vehicles that should be leaving your dealership’s lots much faster than they really are. Facebook and Instagram are the biggest, and most important platforms in your industry. Stop posting irrelevant articles or news that serves no purpose or doesn’t help customers decide whether to visit your showroom or someone else’s. You have an entire inventory worth sharing. That should be the basis for your content on social media, with articles and news stories from third party sources being the icing on the cake.

Hard Selling Copy On Social Media Doesn’t Work

Despite how many people say that their buying decisions aren’t influenced by what they see on social media, companies in many industries have seen success using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Unlike with traditional advertising, these businesses can’t get away with the, “BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE” gimmick, or any other hard selling copy that worked for television and radio. Car dealerships have still not caught up with the times and insist on selling you a car, whether you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, watching television, or when you’re listening to the radio. Selling cars in the primary goal, we all understand that. However, hard selling on Facebook is how you see no results from your social media marketing campaigns.

In my previous article, “The Marketing Disconnect Between Car Brands And Dealerships”, I covered the issues car dealerships are having with their social media marketing. This time I’m going more in-depth, taking a look at a major reason why car brands are seeing strong engagement, and dealerships aren’t.

Skimming through my Facebook news feed, a few of Chevrolet’s posts showed up on my screen, and both were perfectly written, using native content worth taking a look at. The first one read.

It’s been a school year for the books, but who’s ready for summer? For Show And Tell Tuesday, tell us where the perfect summer road trip will take you.

Notice, no hard selling copy. With the post, there was a picture of a Chevrolet Sonic in a mountainous region, probably somewhere near Arizona. What stands out here is that with the picture, along with the copy, Chevrolet is trying to evoke emotions, and if you’ve vacationed before, your car was probably part of the memories if you went on a road trip. Chevrolet fans started responding, sharing where they plan on going this summer. Because of the brand’s success at social media marketing, Chevy fans are open to interacting with the company, and with Chevy’s responses to a few of the commenters, there’s the appearance of a friendly conversation, building the trust customers want.

The next post was –

You can’t spell expressive without the SS.

One simple sentence, and Chevrolet SS fans start sharing photos of their cars. Chevy didn’t ask for pictures, it was a simple post with a catchy phrase. So far there has been over 4,500 likes and close to 300 shares. Could you imagine the exposure that one status got, along with the engagement and overall reach? These posts are vital to keeping loyal fans and followers coming back for more, which in-turn makes them more open to sharing their own experiences driving Chevrolets. So why aren’t car dealerships doing the same?

The usual posts for car dealerships is usually somewhere along the lines of, “You like this car? Come and see it”. There’s no value given to followers, no information about the car, and no good reason for potential customers to actually visit these dealerships. Instead of hard selling, or even subliminally trying to sell the cars features in your posts, create an emotional connection. Why are there consumers who buy from just one brand, or even one particular model? The experience and memories they had driving that car, along with its dependability. By not creating an emotional connection, you missed a perfect opportunity to attract brand loyal consumers, and possibly repelled them if the hard selling copy was just too much.

What’s unique about social media is that customers are beginning to become “friends” with companies. They may not admit it, but they’re sharing photos of their car, talking about their experiences, and like and share content these car brands are posting. Dealerships could do the exact same thing, and in fact, they’d be building lifelong customers and relationships, not just attracting new customers who might buy one car in their lifetime from that dealer. Social media can build consumer equity over time. You can’t take Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter lightly as customers are beginning to create virtual friendships with brands.

If anything, social media for car dealerships can be used as a tool for long term car sales, especially now with the rising number of consumers leasing instead of buying. This is leading to car buyers returning every 24 to 36 months. You can’t miss the opportunity that the economy and social media have given you. You could potentially have lifelong customers if you market right on all social media platforms.

The Marketing Disconnect Between Car Brands And Dealerships

In business and marketing, we’re taught about the importance of having a supply chain in which every member does their part to the best of their ability. When it comes to car brands themselves, they have manufacturers and suppliers producing the parts necessary to make a specific model, and from there those brands need a good distribution system to get their cars to dealerships’ showrooms. In the marketing and advertising branch however, there is a disconnect that begins on the local level, where dealerships aren’t carrying the marketing momentum via social media to their cities and states.

Social media marketing is unique because you can target your audience on a local and personal level instead of paying thousands on advertising for radio and television. With Facebook and Instagram you can get a good idea at what content works, draws the most interest and engagement, and understand exactly what the customer wants on a more personal level. Car brands have the power to distribute their ads on a national scale, while car dealerships are left with the daunting challenge to market locally, while also contending with other dealerships who sell the same car brands.

As I’ve said before, native content is extremely important. It gets the most engagement by fans, and is more likely to go viral than recycled content used by car brands and other dealerships. It’s rather interesting that car brands do post native content consistently, reaping the rewards, while car dealerships don’t follow the same marketing path. There is no excuse for this as dealerships have these cars in their showrooms and on their lots. They can take similar photos, posting interior and exterior shots of the car, creating a buzz and a desire to see the car in person by potential car buyers.

Facebook and Instagram are the most important social media marketing tools that make your native content go viral. By posting pictures of your best cars on Facebook, and then later on Instagram, you’re going to accumulate a following, both locally and even globally. The point of social media marketing is to get recognized. Prior to researching car dealerships in my area, I had no knowledge of their existence, especially those that were within a 20 mile radius. The prestigious dealerships are always well-known, but they also have a strong reputation of being the best in the area. For smaller dealerships, you don’t have that luxury, which is why social media marketing is vital to your business’ success.

Using social media to its full potential is crucial, and if the marketing is done right, it could pay dividends later on down the road. People always ask why dealerships don’t use social media, and it’s because they don’t see immediate results. But with hard work comes the reward. By putting in the time and dedication, you’ll see more engagement, followers, and interested customers. Remember, social media marketing isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon, and by taking steps everyday towards the finish line, you will accomplish your overall goal: Selling more cars, and creating a close-knit community of loyal customers.

Social Media Can Help Clear Out Old Inventory

Constantly keeping my eyes open and on the lookout for great car deals, I’ve noticed some dealerships still have new 2014 models in their inventory. This poses the question. Why? The vehicles that I’ve seen are actually not base trims, and in fact a few come with power seats, moonroof, LCD monitor, and bluetooth. Even better, they’re priced below MSRP, meaning consumers will get a great deal if they walked into these dealerships right now. I’ve seen 2014 Ford Focus sedans, which are usually priced at $20,500, now at or below $14,000. These dealerships are desperate to get rid of them, and this is where social media comes in.

Most of the car dealerships that are utilizing Facebook and social media have put an emphasis on displaying their used vehicles, and some haven’t been shy about the price either when interested people ask. While on occasion, dealerships post pictures of their new cars and get immediate inquiries. It’s no coincidence however that the dealerships who have no social media, or don’t post frequently, still have inventory left over from a year or two ago. Worst of all, the pictures haven’t been updated. So you’ll be scrolling through new cars, and one car that’s listed has 15-20 photos with snow in the background. Not good scenery if your potential customer is buying a car on the cusp of summer. People will begin to think that maybe something is wrong with the vehicle, hence it still being in the inventory.

If these dealerships are really concerned about remaining inventory, social media is the answer. With the cars priced below MSRP, potential car buyers might be more willing to walk into the dealership because the haggling and negotiation process will not be that big of an issue, considering some of the cars’ price tags have been slashed by $4,000- $6,000. Social media also makes car buyers aware of these vehicles being on the market. Unless they’re researching diligently, they’ll never know your dealership has these cars at a reasonable price. While you’d probably prefer them buying the 2015 models due to higher profit margins, you have to find a way to get aging inventory off your hands so you can make more room for current model years.

This is where the power of Facebook comes into play. Assuming that you’re really serious about getting these cars off your hands, you start posting in-depth statuses about these cars. By stating the benefits instead of using hard selling copy, you can entice customers to visit your showroom.

For example. I’ve seen multiple Hyundai Elantra GT’s listed on Cars.com. Because they’re 2014 models, they’re priced around $18,500 – $19,500, putting them in the same price range as the base model trim of the Volkswagen Golf, the Honda Fit, Toyota Carolla, and a slew of other economical and practical cars. By stating that the Elantra GT gets 27 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway, you can use fuel economy to your advantage. The fact that it’s a hatchback makes it perfect for college-aged adults due to larger cargo room than sedans, and it comes with 175 horsepower to get young drivers’ attentions.

Social media marketing isn’t difficult, and in fact will get easier as you consistently post and grow a following. By not posting on a daily basis, you become uninteresting to most people, and they’ll look to other dealerships who are engaging and sharing native content that is attracting consumers, and giving them the eye candy they crave.

Native Content Is A Must For Car Dealerships

In the automotive industry, any form of marketing can become unoriginal. From commercials and newspaper ads to social media posts, car dealerships use recycled material to create content, especially on Facebook. There have been numerous occasions in which I’ve seen the exact same ad for two rival dealerships which also contained the same hard selling copy. That doesn’t look good, especially when social media can be the outlet that helps consumers distinguish your dealership from the other a couple of cities over.

Native content is essential for a successful social media strategy. As I’ve said in a previous article, only 5-10% of car dealerships are using social media to its full potential and seeing higher rates of engagement, which means more likes, shares, comments, and exposure for their dealerships. As the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. You don’t need to sell hard; a few sentences that capture emotion and makes the viewer picture that they’re behind the wheel of that car is enough to bring potential customers to your showroom.

Instagram has already been a platform for dealerships where native content dominates. Some local dealerships such as BMW of Sudbury, have built a string following by posting pictures of cars that are in their showroom and out on the lot. Again, very few dealerships have consistently posted pictures, sometimes going a few weeks without interacting or creating content. Once you have momentum, you can’t stop.

Facebook is where most of your attention really has to be. While Instagram can reach a few thousand, Facebook content can be shared and advertised, reaching every person living within a 20 mile radius, or the zip code you decide to target via Facebook dark posts. This platform is where you can see growth in terms of engagement and exposure, making you the primary destination for car buyers when the time is right. Just as dealerships aren’t posting consistently on Instagram, Facebook pages can go without an update for a few days to a few weeks, which is detrimental to your social media strategy.

To keep your followers and fans coming back for more, you’ve got to continue giving them eye candy. That’s why I’m always scratching my head when I see dealerships with upscale showrooms not using the cars they have to their advantage. For instance, if you’re selling Audi’s and have an S4, S5, S7, and S8 in the showroom, post photos on Facebook. You’ve got to give potential customers a reason to visit your dealership. While they might not buy the S variants of those Audi’s, some might buy an A3 or A4.

It cannot be stressed enough that native content reaches more people. Facebook users are much more likely to share a photo of one of your cars that’s on the lot or in the showroom, than an ad about an upcoming sale or thumbnails that can be found on Google. Here’s a couple of dealerships that have a strong social media presence that contains mostly native content, with articles from the car brand itself or other positive reviews from major car magazines.

Porsche Centre Oakville

Audi Wilsonville

They’re keeping their fan base entertained, and you can too. What Audi Wilsonville and Porsche Centre Oakville are doing, isn’t difficult to replicate. By putting forth the time and dedication, you too can see results from a strong social media marketing strategy.

Car Dealerships: Find A Social Media Manager To Run Your Accounts

Having spent a lot of time visiting car dealerships’ Facebook pages, both local and across the country, it’s apparent which dealerships understand the importance of having a social media manager behind the desk and overseeing accounts. I’d say somewhere between 5-10% of dealerships have a sound social media marketing strategy where they’re posting native content on their Facebook and Instagram pages, instead of online ads and photos the car brands supplies. These dealerships are seeing a strong interest in their cars from followers, and are on occasion, asking questions about prices and other details about the cars the dealerships are displaying. For the 90-95% of dealerships who clearly have a person who has no social media marketing experience running the social media accounts, there’s a significant decrease in likes and engagement.

I want to make it clear that it’s not the dealership’s, or the person who is running the social media pages fault. However, by placing people who don’t have any social media experience outside of running their own personal accounts behind the desk, you’re putting them in a position where they can’t thrive and are completely out of their element, costing you followers and strong engagement. Sometimes, it’s almost as if dealerships’ social media pages become that Facebook friend you forgot you had, and after about 8 months, you see them on your friends list and think, “Oh yeah, I remember him!” Social media pages should never be forgotten; they must contain content worth reading and seeing, and always make customers come back for more.

Most of the dealerships that I found across the country have upwards to 10,000 – 20,000 likes on Facebook. This could be due to social media dark posts; which are ads that get sent to specifically targeted audiences, but don’t show up on your Facebook page. These ads will be seen on the side bar and in the news feeds of this targeted audience, and these ads don’t have to contain hard selling copy, a cool picture of your best car in the showroom could be enough to attract followers and likes. Through this, you have the makings of a virtual word of mouth. The people who like your page are real, not fake, and they’ll share any photo or content that’s relevant to them, making your native content go viral. This is already happening on Instagram, just on a smaller scale and without the use of advertising and spent money.

I always felt that the dealerships that are seeing great results from their social media presence, not only hired someone who understands the ins and outs of social media marketing, but also has to some degree, a passion for cars. It’s easy to identify a salesman running a page, due to the high frequency of hard selling content, which is why people are repelled from going to your Facebook page. As with any form of content, whether that be sharing local news events, pictures of your customers getting their new car, or the employees you have, it can get old. There needs to be a well-balanced mix, along with native content that contains pictures of your cars in the showrooms, or out on the lot.

I can’t stress it enough; you have an inventory, use it. While these cars are in someway like holiday decorations, show them off. No one knows you have these cars at your dealership, unless they do research from third party resources. Be that primary resource, and make sure those customers are coming to you, and not the dealership selling the same car brand 15-20 miles away.

Car Dealerships: You Should Be Selling An Experience, Not Just Cars

Even in the year of 2015, car buyers have a very negative perception of car dealerships. Go on Twitter, search the term “car dealerships” and you get many disgruntled consumers who aren’t happy about going to a dealership or spending any amount of time at one, even when they’re buying a new car. There are some tweeters who are complaining about the lack of free coffee or refreshments. At a few dealerships I’ve stopped at, I had the option of getting a bagel, coffee, and bottled water. Dealerships out there are missing out on a great opportunity to change the perceptions of car shoppers, and social media is the best way to create a positive vibe.

Mercedes Benz of Burlington, Massachusetts is about to reshape how consumers buy cars. While there are probably dozens of others in this state or across the country catering to and treating consumers like they really matter, many still haven’t caught on or marketed their upscale customer service specials. Mercedes Benz of Burlington feeds their customers with gourmet food and coffee, offers manicures, and car washes while they wait. Not only are the cars luxury and arguably best in class, but by treating their customers special, the word of mouth and the amount of referrals from happy car buyers will pay dividends in the short and long term.

If your dealership offers comforts that many potential car buyers don’t expect, you have to make that aware to them. You’re no longer just selling a car, you’re selling an experience. Jordan’s Furniture in Wakefield and Patriot Place in Foxboro were the beginning of a new trend, and they were far ahead of the curve. Bob Kraft doesn’t just own the Patriots, he owns an empire that is attracting fans, even during the offseason. Jordan’s Furniture draws customers despite the fact that some have no intention of buying furniture on that particular day. Mercedes Benz of Burlington, because of their special services and the treatment of their customers, will attract customers who probably were loyal BMW and Audi owners. This is the direction in which the industry is heading in.

You might ask, “How do we make potential car buyers aware of our high quality customer service?” The answer is simple. Use social media to your advantage. That’s where all your customers are, and by being friendly and acting human, you will change the perception car buyers have of car dealerships. That’s the biggest problem in the auto industry, lack of trust. You have to build that trust by posting quality and valuable content that makes customers engage on your social media pages. Show the friendly and comfortable environment your dealership offers. Post photos of your inventory and showroom. Give people visual appetizers so they’re comfortable when they walk into your doors.

Mercedes Benz of Burlington has got the right idea, and they’re executing to perfection when it comes to social media. They’re using all the major platforms and posting native content showing their best cars. You have to do the same or the dealership down the street who’s got a strong social media presence will steal your business. It’s 2015, it’s time to start marketing like it.