In one of the 20 Group presentations I gave last month discussing how dealers can better leverage social media, I showed a live demonstration of a dealer’s website that for nearly a year has had a direct link to Facebook in their Top Level Navigation. For those of you who don’t know what that means, the Top Level Navigation refers to the major categories of “drop downs” or “menus” along the top or on the left column of most websites. Of course, if you understand anything about the purpose of your website, this area should be reserved for critical links that are vitally important to you and/or the Internet shopper.
For this dealer, their main navigation items read from left to right: HOME PAGE – VEHICLES – UNDER $10,000 – FINANCE – SERVICE & PARTS – SPECIALS – DEALER INFO – FACEBOOK – FLEET. Because Internet shoppers depend on you to tell them what is important on your website, this dealer clearly thinks that Facebook not only needs exposure, but also traffic; as this link doesn’t even point to the dealer’s page on Facebook, but rather the Facebook.com homepage. That’s right, this prominent Chevrolet dealership is encouraging their website visitors to stop shopping for cars and spend some quality time on Facebook; and they’re making it mind-numbingly simple for consumers to do just that.
For those in the automotive space who are still so gaga over social media that they think this dealer needs links to Facebook more than links to their body shop, I will have to apologize in advance. Sometimes, you see, I let logic get in the way of irrational zeal.
Where is Dealer Profit Generated?
The issue is not just the misguided link to Facebook, but also that the dealership doesn’t even think highly enough of their own fixed operations departments to give parts, service and collision their own Top Level Navigation. (They have room to give Facebook its own navigation heading, but don’t even mention their body shop?) As everyone in the industry knows, dealers take a whole lot more to their bottom lines from their fixed operations than they do their variable ops. (My apologies, but I couldn’t find any stats detailing how much Facebook pays dealers for traffic or I would have factored that into the calculations.)
“But,” you argue, “Facebook is the most visited website in the whole world, and it’s important for dealers to make it easy for their website visitors to connect with them via social media.”
Give me a break, please. Those who would use this argument are clearly demonstrating their misunderstanding of how a low frequency of engagement business like a car dealer should interact online with their fans; or even how they should gather fans in the first place. To help those who would argue that dealers need a giant Facebook logo on their homepage, let’s look at both of these concepts as they relate to dealerships:
Frequency of Engagement. Car dealerships are not restaurants, coffee shops, wineries or even clothing stores. The average consumer’s frequency of engagement with a dealer is low compared to all other retail businesses. Assuming someone services their vehicle with a dealer, we can envision up to four engagements a year. If they don’t, then the frequency of engagement drops to about once every three years. In fact, if a consumer is in your dealership more than a few times a year it likely means they are having repair issues that your team cannot solve – these people don’t make good Facebook fans.
Because of this low frequency of engagement (relative to other retail businesses), dealers need to understand that participating in social media may be a branding activity, but that successfully leveraging Facebook to deliver a measureable positive return on investment (including labor hours) is probably not in the cards for most. Not because you’re doing something wrong, but because no matter what you post on your Facebook page, the guy who bought that Chevrolet Aveo from you last month is not likely to naturally desire to be your fan – regardless of the deal he got or how much he loves his new car. The frequency of his engagement with you is just too low. (Of course, if he really loves his new Aveo, there is a much higher likelihood that he will “Like” an Aveo page on Facebook.)
Gathering Fans. Assuming for a moment that your customers actually want to “Like” you on Facebook and want to read your posts, why would you believe that the best way to convert these consumers into fans is through Facebook links on your website? The process of gathering fans should occur sometime after purchase or service – how else will a consumer even know that they like you well enough to “Like” you until they’ve done business with you?
For some reason many dealers think they can use Facebook to create raving fans – this strategy is flawed because, simply put: Raving fans come before Likes, not the other way around. There are plenty of businesses (including dealers), of course, who’ve created huge Facebook followings via promotions and giveaways. Are these businesses enjoying high-quality interactions with true fans or meaningless banter with a bunch of people just interested in winning a prize or getting discounts? Where do these fans go once the giveaways cease?
Where on our Website should we put our Facebook Links?
I think most people in the automotive community would agree that Ford is the most competent of the major OEMs at leveraging social media to actually sell cars. And, while their efforts are more branding than customer acquisition, Ford clearly takes a measured approach to everything they do to generate a legitimate fan base.
As of this writing, the Ford Mustang page on Facebook has nearly 1.5 million likes, yet nowhere on Ford’s homepage can you find a link to Facebook. (Ford, it appears, knows that Facebook has enough traffic already.) Every link on the Ford.com homepage is dedicated to helping sell Ford vehicles.
In order to “Like” the Mustang from the Ford site, you have to drill into the Mustang page and scroll below the fold (nearly to the bottom) to see anything referencing Facebook. Ford, which has a legitimately interesting vehicle in the Mustang, wants to sell cars, not just gather Facebook fans. Their website’s goals are aligned with their corporate goals. (The question for dealers is this: Are your website’s goals in alignment with your corporate goals?)
So where on your website should you put links to Facebook? Nowhere.
But Steve, Facebook is Ginormous
By the way, we all know how big Facebook is, but how influential is it really for dealers? (Search engines, as we learned from an old Polk/Cobalt Dealer eBusiness Performance Study, are used by 79% of new car shoppers when researching auto dealerships.) Using statistics compiled by ExactTarget earlier this year, we know that 73% of US Online Consumers have created a Facebook account, and that 65% of US Online Consumers are considered active Facebook users. (That’s a big number.)
However, for businesses to be concerned about this medium, we need to know how many users interact as “Fans” – that is, have “Liked” a business (any business). That number, according to ExactTarget, is somewhat smaller. In fact, only 42% of US Online Consumers are active and have “Liked” at least one company. (That’s still a big number, of course.) Where the number starts to shrink is when we realize that 51% of these fans say they rarely or never interact with companies they’ve “Liked.”
Using simple math, this means that less than 22% of US Online Consumers are fans of at least one company and provide any interaction. While that’s still a significant number of consumers, it’s a whole lot smaller than the 79% of new car shoppers who use search engines to research auto dealerships. More importantly, the ExactTarget study shows that this 22% includes plenty of fans who only became fans to take advantage of a one-time offer (26%) and those who stopped liking you because you didn’t offer enough deals (24%). Since the nature of interactions between a car dealer and a Facebook Fan doesn’t allow for constant compelling deals (like a coffee shop might), the true value of a fan gathered in this manner is diminished for dealers.
If you’re still not convinced that you shouldn’t dedicate website real estate to Facebook, how about the data from Polk this year that showed only 3% of car shoppers said social networking sites influenced their buying decision?
Can I even generate traffic via Facebook?
Without diving too deeply into the nuances of true raving fans, there are a few proven ways to leverage Facebook to drive some traffic to your website, including these five simple tips:
- Make it easy to find information about your location and web address on your Facebook page. This seems like a no-brainer (and it is), but I still see plenty of dealer pages that only include contact information on the information tab and sometimes they even leave off the web address. Active hyperlinks that point to your website pages should litter your Facebook account (if you don’t know how to do this, hire an expert).
- Build your network legitimately by providing a business card to sold and serviced customers asking them to like you on Facebook and including your Facebook account information. If they choose to become your fan via this avenue, you know you have a chance to drive more website traffic from legitimate, quality interactions.
- Be interesting and post only things that a raving fan might care about. Hint: Posting “TGIF – What are your weekend plans” every Friday is not only not interesting, it assumes that even one of your true fans wants to tell their car dealer what they’re doing on Saturday night. (Creepy.)
- Don’t over-post or spam your fans. Most fans who don’t want to be spammed will just remove your posts from their news feed and never see what you write again (unless they choose to visit your page). Over-posting may make you feel like you’re working, but in fact it’s just a form of spam to the average consumer.
- Buy targeted ads on Facebook. Creating ads on Facebook is amazingly simple and the targeting is more precise than virtually anything else you can buy today. Want to reach the 318,720 people aged 24-28 years old who live within 25 miles of Atlanta? You can set this up in less than 10 minutes on Facebook.
Okay, but what about that Chevy store?
You might be interested to know that the Chevrolet store with the Top Level Navigation Facebook link has less than 150 fans – this despite the fact that they’ve had this link active for almost a year. Like all businesses, there needs to be a compelling reason for anyone to become your fan. Whether through giveaways or a genuine interest in a brand, consumers must have a WIIFM before they are willing to let you into their world – this includes the online world of social media. Presenting me with a quick link to Facebook won’t make me your fan and won’t compel me to buy from you.
Of course, if you’ve read my writing you know that I firmly believe opinions vary, and I can agree to disagree with those who would argue that using Top Level Navigation for a link dedicated to Facebook is doing the right thing. I cannot, however, fathom how any intelligent person interested in selling cars would think this way. (Sorry, but I did try to see the other side – it’s just that logic got in my way.)