We know, you've heard it before. You've GOT to be on social media.
And it's true — social media has changed everything, from the way people research and buy cars to how they view dealership and brand loyalty.
Just look at these stats from the Social Media Trends study conducted by Digital Air Strike:
- 75 percent of car buyers and 68 percent of service customers say internet research, including social media and review sites, was the most helpful medium when selecting a car dealership — surpassing all other mediums, including dealership websites.
- 97 percent of service customers and 96 percent of car buyers feel a dealership needs to have at least a four-star rating or higher online to have a "good rating."
- 45 percent of car buyers and 30 percent of service customers said they would "check-in" at a car dealership on Facebook to take advantage of various promotions.
- 66 percent of car buyers who have seen a Facebook ad say they have clicked on it.
So, yes, you do need to be on social media. But, as with anything, don't just jump in blindly and do it because you're "supposed to." And if you're already on social media, you need to do more than just post pictures of the vehicles you have for sale. You need to be active and engaging, and if you want to truly take advantage of social media to promote your dealership, you need a plan.
Here are some tips.
Build Trust and Admiration
In the book The Human Brand by Chris Malone and Susan Fiske, a key point is the need to inspire trust and admiration. Social media allows brands to show their true colors, and to communicate their values, processes, visions, and morals. What are you doing on social media to be more transparent to your customers and show them your value?
If you answered, "I don't know" or "nothing" to that question, here are a few ideas for social media posts:
- Take pictures of you and your customers after a vehicle sale.
- Ask customers to post reviews — honest reviews.
- Poll the audience and get them talking. Ask them what car features are most important to them. What can't they live without?
- Ask customers about their service experiences, and what you could provide in your waiting room to better their experiences.
- Take pictures of your staff members and highlight key features of their roles in your organization and the community. What do they do really well? What makes them individually significant that sets them apart?
- Promote your sales and offers by communicating the direct benefit to the consumer — keep the consumer in mind at all times. This is the difference between posting pictures of your vehicle inventory versus sharing pictures of your culture and environment. Show customers what sets you apart and what makes you unique.
Use social media to show customers that they're not just buying a Ford or a Chevy — they're not buying a brand, they're buying into your family. They're not dealing with a salesperson, Gina is there for them before, during, and after the sales transaction. The dealership isn't fixing their car, Chuck back in the service department is their guy, and he's going to help if any issues arise. You can't turn and burn and go through customers, you've got to nurture real relationships and keep them coming back for more.
On social media, you've got to engage customers and get them talking. Again, show them you are real people, not a faceless corporation. Highlight who you are and what you're truly about. Share jokes, interesting news stories, and industry news. Offer value — give people tips and advice on maintenance, car buying, and vehicle safety. Most of all, have fun with it! Every other "traditional" dealership promotion — family fun days, celebrity appearances, giveaways, wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tubemen, etc. — are all about having fun. Why be boring on social media?
Dealerships Doing Social Right
We get it, simply saying, "be engaging," doesn't instantly make your social media page a viral sensation. So here are some real-world examples of dealerships doing great things with social media.
Bob Ruth Ford, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Bob Ruth Ford does a great job with social media because they use it to show that their dealership is a place for people to come together and have fun — it's not just a place you go to to buy a car and then move along. They don't just have free food, they have tailgating events centered around local sports events. They don't just talk to customers, they spend time fraternizing and hanging out with those customers, making them feel welcomed and relaxed. And of course, they post it all on their social media channels. Check out their Instagram page, @bobruthfordinc and you'll see pictures and videos of food trucks, fun holiday and community events, happy customers, and knowledgeable employees. Sure, there's pictures of cars for sale, too, but the main focus is on people and community. And by making customers feel like they're family, they've been able to triple their sales volume!
Greenwood Chevrolet of Youngstown, Ohio
Greenwood Chevrolet is another great example of an auto dealer doing social media right. Their Facebook page is filled with fun stuff, such as cute pictures of kids (and a video of customer's son who is a 10-year-old guitar phenom), employees dressed up for Halloween, support for area sports teams and charities, and even a video of Bumblebee the Transformer dancing through the showroom floor! By humanizing their dealership, they're softening their image and giving customers a favorable impression of who they are and what they're about. They also use YouTube to, yes, promote vehicles and sales, but also to showcase "The Greenwood Network" — a video series that highlights employees, partners, and other members of the Greenwood family.
Hyundai of New Port Richey, Florida
At Hyundai of New Port Richey, Florida, Facebook and Twitter are utilized to share helpful tips (like the lost art of parallel parking), run contests and giveaways, ask questions (what did you name your car?), and to show pictures and videos of the fun events they regularly have at the dealership. Speaking of videos, Hyundai of New Port Richey also takes advantage of YouTube, with a highlight being reviews and overviews of the latest and greatest vehicles.