2011 was a big year in social media. There were a lot of new players, like Google+, while others such as Facebook have made updates and improvements to their platforms that completely changed how automotive dealers are able to engage and communicate with car buyers. Today, Facebook is where the shoppers are with 800 million registered users – more than 50% of those users login every day. Of the 9.1 million light vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2010, 84 percent were purchased by Facebook users. It is imperative that dealers capture this audience – a daunting task for many dealers with constraints on time, money and manpower.
The number of channels in social media is large and complex. For dealers to be effective in using this medium to help drive new sales, they need to be able to efficiently post to all of their networks with planned, purposeful campaigns, and they need to be able to monitor the results of their post content to see what consumers respond to.
A dealer’s posts to even a small, local audience can have a large effect, because it’s not simply the size of your audience that determines your reach, but the size of the local audience’s reach beyond their own. Red McCombs Ford in San Antonio recently promoted a service coupon in December and within 24 hours the coupon had been clicked on 390 times. These numbers are surprising considering the fact that Red McCombs Ford has less than 250 combined Fans and Followers. This response is not due to the fact that the same 250 people clicked on the coupon 390 times; rather it demonstrates how a portion of the audience clicked on the coupon, liked it, shared it, then others liked it and shared it, and so on. With the average Facebook subscriber having 180 friends, it only takes small number of people to click on and share content to dramatically increase their social reach.
How does this dramatic increase in reach happen? Sharing. In social media, people share relevant, interesting content with their friends and family. Compare that to a dealer who has an audience of 3000 fans and followers, except these fans and followers are all over the world. Since most of these people will be out of market, a local coupon is neither interesting nor relevant. So what happens next? No clicking, no sharing, and no new customers. Dealers who have a large fragmented audience only see clicks and sharing when they post generic content, content that does not drive sales.
“The most important thing for dealers is to reach a lot of customers for free and for these customers to then click through to do business with the dealer while also sharing the content with their friends,” says Joe Castle, CEO of SocialDealer, the social media platform that Red McCombs uses to automate and measure their social media campaigns. “The top priority for Red McCombs is to build a large number of in-market fans and followers that they can communicate with for free. Not only do in-market fans have the potential to become a customer, but their social network is going to be concentrated around where they live. So if they live within the dealer’s market, so do the majority of their friends. This means there is a far greater chance a dealer’s content will be relevant to the audience, and more likely to be shared or re-tweeted. This is where the viral effect of social media really comes into play,” explains Castle.
There are also many varied opinions between dealers about content posting in social media, both in terms of frequency and types of content. Dealers who are successfully working social media know that if they are not part of the conversation, they cannot influence car buyers. Artioli Dodge in Enfield, CT, follows a strategy of posting a variety of content to engage visitors, but the majority of posts have an automotive focus. Artioli posts service coupons, automotive videos, news from Chrysler and Dodge, and even information on the best local gas prices. The goal is to post content that is relevant and interesting to visitors, knowing as long as it is, it will be shared.
The most successful dealerships have not only Facebook and Twitter pages to manage, but hundreds of social network pages. These become very difficult to manage and measure manually, and so dealers are turning to social media platforms that can automate as much of the process as possible, to avoid expenditures on staff.
“With an automotive social media platform, dealers can automate the work of hundreds of people, for very little money per month, allowing the them to measure everything they spend, so they can see what’s working and what’s not,” says Castle, whose SocialDealer solution is also used by Artioli. “I see a lot more interaction with content coming, and the best practices for content will begin to filter through – the ideas of what to post, when to post and where to post will become apparent and dealers will see what is both valuable to consumers, as well as viable to drive new sales at their dealerships. A good plan is to keep your site fun and engaging, but the days of video games and posting pictures of polar bears will begin to go away as dealers recognize how to post content that drives sales,” adds Castle.
Once you get enough people sharing your content and talking about your dealership, sales will follow. Social media helps generate sales in that it allows dealers to join the conversation. The more conversations dealers are part of, the more prospects they can communicate with and ultimately influence. Influencing more people generates more prospects in the sales funnel. A recent example from Artioli is the response to a video on their Facebook below.
Research has shown that more and more consumers, including car buyers, are using social media to research and plan their purchase. Seventy-six percent of consumers use a combination of web search and social media as their first step (research) before making a purchase, according to a Group M Study 2011, and 70 percent report that they consult reviews before purchasing, according to Business Week 2011.
Social media done right can affect the number of people who call or walk in a dealership’s front door on a daily basis. Dealers that take advantage of all that social media has to offer have more influence over the consumers in their market than their competition, and they will always get a bigger share of the sales.
Dealers such as Red McCombs Ford and Artioli Dodge are seeing a direct impact on sales from their social media campaigns, whether it is in service or new car sales.
WHAT THEY DO:
- Post regularly to their social networks.
- Post a variety of content, but with a strong automotive focus.
- Track which content users share and engage with.
- Engage with consumers in-market looking to purchase new cars and services.
- Automate the management and measurement of all social media activities with a social media platform.
RESOURCES THEY USE:
- Facebook (www.facebook.com)
- Twitter (http://twitter.com)
- YouTube (www.youtube.com)
- SocialDealer’s Automotive Social Media Management platform and service (www.SocialDealer.com)
- Post relevant and interesting content to engage consumers on Facebook.
- Keep customers engaged with regular updates on special offers and promotions on Twitter.
- Use a social media management tool like SocialDealer.
- Create and post consumer-friendly ads to YouTube.
- Get help. Use a social media management solution that will save you time, provide tracking for all your social media efforts, and provide experts to advise on social media strategy, if not manage it for you entirely.
“The top priority for an auto dealer should be to build the number of in-market fans and followers.” – Joe Castle CEO, SOCIALDEALER