Seventy-three percent of 10,000 car buyers surveyed worldwide in 2014 by the consulting firm Capgemini, “say they are ‘more likely’ to buy a specific model or brand if they find positive comments on social media.”
Yet, according to a recent article in the New York Times, “While large companies have learned how to stand out on social networks and get lots of hand-holding from sites like Facebook and Twitter, most local business owners are left on their own and remain stumped by social marketing. Nowhere is that gulf more apparent than in the auto industry.”
How can automotive dealers bridge the gulf and reach that 73% of car buyers on social media?
A large proportion of that target market includes the younger generations who will be in the market for a long time to come. That’s a market worth investing in. Studies show these consumers, besides spending a lot of time on social media, also prefer video messages to text.
So, your dealership’s marketing plan should include a steady stream of videos that have the punch and potential to go viral on social media and grab that market segment’s attention.
Now, viral distribution of your marketing videos to millions of car buyers online would be great, but let’s face it, your dealership isn’t equipped to handle the millions of sales per year that such a viral video might pull in.
You don’t need the reach achieved by the Top 100 Most Viewed Videos on YouTube – that are dominated by pop stars like Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, and typically cost megabucks to produce.
A low-cost video that you and your sales people produce and that goes even a little bit viral in your local/regional market could bring you a welcome, substantial boost in sales.
Witness the low budget “Evolution of Dance” video that has received 291 million views on YouTube. It shows just one man, Judson Laipply, dancing on a stage.
So what does it take to put together a low-budget viral video to create awareness and drive business to your dealership?
Let’s look at what some experts say you need to do and then apply those principles to your dealership’s automotive marketing plan.
These experts are focused on two aspects of the viral video: its content and the nature of its distribution network.
Market researcher Tyler West at Elon University examined the content of the top 20 viral videos, as determined by Time Magazine, to see what made them tick. He analyzed: title length, run-time, laughter, element of surprise, element of irony, minority presence, music quality, youth presence and talent.
- 60% had titles with three words or less.
- 50% were under 3 minutes in run-time; the longest was under 7 minutes.
- 60% contained musical elements.
- 70% did NOT require a practiced performance – what he defined as “talent.” (In fact, many viral videos look homemade and their unpolished presentation is part of their charm.)
- The elements of surprise, laughter, youth presence, and minority presence were found in 50% or fewer of these videos. So while these are useful elements, they are not necessarily critical to success.
- Most importantly, 90% of these viral videos exhibited irony — defined as displaying an element contrary to what was expected and involving the breaking of social norms.
People, apparently, love to share the taboo, the quirky, and the unexpected. Of course, as a business owner, your video –whatever else it is — has to be in good taste.
Another study by Visible Measures, cited in the New York Times, found that 19% of video viewers abandon videos in the first 10 seconds, and 44% of viewers in the first minute.
So, as far as content goes, it’s advisable to put your most ironic and captivating content at the beginning of your video. Don’t save the best for last when trying to create a viral video.
According to an article in Forbes.com, you should make your content upbeat, informative, and inspiring, so people are more likely to share it. The same article recommended tying your content into a current event, or a pop culture topic dominating the news. It also recommended engaging the viewer by asking for comments.
Karen X. Cheng, whose video “Girl Learns to Dance in a Year (Time Lapse)” rocketed to 1 million views in 3 days, recommends telling a story and putting emotions that “spread” in the video. “Emotions that spread [are]: awe, excitement, amusement, anger, anxiety. Emotions that don’t [are]: contentment, sadness,” she said in an article on Medium.com.
The Distribution Network’s Impact
Once you’ve created a great video with captivating content that viewers will want to share, you need to post it. Where you post your video may have a significant impact of how far and how quickly it is disseminated.
According to an article in Business Insider, Facebook is eating away at YouTube’s audience and may come to dominate the social media market when it comes to sharing videos. “Shares are a really important metric for marketers because they are a sign of endorsement, rather than just a sign that someone may have passively watched something without really paying attention. Facebook makes that [sharing] easy to do within the platform itself, whereas you can’t share a YouTube video within YouTube.”
Another aspect of networking to consider is community. If one member of a community relates strongly to your video, it will likely go viral within that community, be it: a college, a high school, a social club, a church group, a corporation, a professional association, etc. So, if you know a “viral” sharing person in any community that matches your target audience, definitely get your video in front of that person early on.
According to Karen X. Cheng, your marketing plan for your video is critical. She recommends:
- Putting together a formal marketing plan, so you don’t miss any opportunities.
- Posting your video to Facebook and YouTube and Tweeting about it on Twitter.
- Submitting it to social news sites like Reddit and Hacker News.
- Asking friends to share it.
- Emailing it to bloggers who cover news in your field. “Each blog is a giant marketing engine with millions of readers and twitter followers. It’s in their interest to get the article as many views as possible, because each view is an ad they can serve up. Understand how the money flows.”
- Releasing it on Monday or Tuesday. People check out social media at work and this gives your video weeklong exposure.
- Asking any company that might have a stake in your video for permission to put links to their websites on your video’s YouTube site. Ask them to share the video with their networks. (For dealers, this might be OEMs and aftermarket companies.)
The Viral Video and Your Dealership
So, let’s recap the recipe for a viral video for your dealership:
- Make your video ironic: Display something unexpected that breaks a social norm. (A word of caution: Don’t display anything that would encourage bad driving practices or tarnish the image of your OEM’s or your dealership’s brand.) For openers, you could use Photoshop to position an image of a new car on the roof of your dealership, at the top of a Ferris wheel, on top of a billboard displaying an ad for your dealership — anyplace that causes the viewer to do a double take. Just don’t make fun of the product.)
- Limit your video’s headline to 3 words or less.
- Keep your video’s run-time under 3 minutes.
- Add humor when you can. Make your viewers laugh with you, not at you. Insert some genuine, or canned laughter.
- Surprise your viewers, or let them see someone in the video be surprised. (Perhaps your surprised customer takes delivery of an antique car, instead of a new one, in front of your dealership. Let your imagination go tastefully wild.)
- Add music. An upbeat tune can punch up a video and move the viewer through your message at what feels like a faster pace. Music also adds emotion to heighten the experience for the viewer. Match the type of music to your target market. For Baby Boomers, chose music from the 60s, 70s and 80s. For Millennials, put today’s music in the background.
- Babies and animals are the traditional show stealers. If appropriate, add them to your video.
- Make your content upbeat and inspiring.
- Gather your sales people and have a “green light” session where anyone can shout out wild ideas for the video. There should be no censorship here. You can cherry pick the best and most viable ideas for your videos later.
In short, you can have fun, even build dealership morale, and potentially put together a valuable marketing tool in the process. Why not shoot for the stars in developing your soon to be viral video? You might just land on the moon! And you might just drive more consumers into your showroom.