Social media has and will continue to change how we see marketing and sales, and as the years continue to roll on, we’re also beginning to see a distinct difference between marketing and sales. Prior to social media’s existence, marketing was basically hard selling, especially on television. The gimmicks, the limited time offers, and the company urging you to visit their store have run it’s course. A new form of marketing with a completely different strategy behind it has taken the old school method’s place. Social media marketing. Instead of focusing on sales, it’s now all about customer service, building a connection, community, culture, and brand on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The automotive industry’s marketing philosophy is rather interesting, considering they’re still using a 20th century approach in a 21st century economy and environment. Car dealerships still believe, “Come on down, and test drive the latest model” works. In actuality, consumers are only going to dealerships because they need a car, or they have a preference and taste toward a certain brand and model. The car sells itself, but dealerships forget that there needs to be a marketing strategy that attracts consumers, not only to that car, but to their dealership.

The question that dealerships should ask themselves is, “Why should car buyers come to our location as opposed to the dealership down the street or the next town over?” Dealerships still bank on their reputation and tradition, but as I’ve seen multiple times on social media, consumers want interaction far in advance before they even step foot in a showroom. Your reputation can be thrown right out the door if you don’t have a strong social media presence, especially since customers can vent their frustration and displeasure towards a dealership because of a bad experience. Without stepping in and responding to that complaint, you look like you’re out-of-touch, and there’s been a few dealerships with strong reputations who’ve had their brand tarnished thanks to complaints going unanswered.

Your customers have already singled out which car they want, it’s up to you and your social media presence to attract them. That’s where the marketing aspect comes in. Remember social media marketing in your industry should be used to entice and attract customers, while you’re sales representatives do the pushing in the showroom. Hard selling on Facebook is how you repel potential customers. They already know they’re going to be met by a sales representative the minute they walk through your doors, they don’t want to feel that pressure while sitting on their couch scrolling through their Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Dealerships are focusing too much time on sales, and not enough dedication and effort towards marketing. Yes, sales are important, but if your digital marketing is primarily composed of non-native, hard selling content, you might as well stop posting on your social media platforms because you won’t see the results. Dealerships often ask, “How can we track ROI off Facebook and other social media sites?” The answer can be found by taking the time and energy to care about your customers, and not pressure them into a sale. There are marketing strategies out there that work, and you will see the ROI, but you’ve got to get creative.

Social media marketing strategies aren’t cookie cutter material. With an open mind and thinking outside the box, you can implement several marketing strategies that don’t include spamming people’s news feeds with sponsored advertising. Connect with your current customers and followers, show them that you care. Word of mouth advertising has, and always will be the most effective form of marketing. In 2015, social media is that platform where you should be focusing on building long-lasting customer relationships that will in-turn create long-term customer equity, and a strong customer base of brand ambassadors.

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