Social media by businesses can be a challenge. There are many opinions on how it should be done, what kind of content businesses should post and even the time of day that offers the best chances of reaching customers. Many big brands have taken a more light-hearted approach to social media. Following the announcement of Apple’s purchase of Beats, Denny’s restaurants tweeted out “BREAKING: Denny’s Buys Beets for $3 Billion, Makes Huge Salad.” We see example of these types of novel and clever exploitations of real-life events often. Consider Oreo’s famous tweet when the lights during Super Bowl in 2013 or the social media one-upmanship by auto manufacturers that occurred when Jimmy Fallon announced on The Tonight Show that he was in the market for a truck. Sometimes these tweets go viral and sometimes they fall flat. The common trait that all of these brands share, however, are dedicated full-time social media teams with creative designers. These brands have the resources in place to execute well-designed and written content at the drop of the hat. While this is an excellent example of something that many big businesses are missing, it’s not typically an affordable resource for small businesses including car dealerships.
Social media offers an excellent venue for businesses to connect with their consumer. In the cases of big brands like Denny’s or Ford, their focus is on driving business to the brand and increasing brand awareness. Their main goal is to keep their brand front and center in the eyes of the world. When they make mistakes like the infamous Chrysler tweet or Volkswagen’s censoring of Facebook comments, they apologize and fire people. Consumers react but inevitably go about their business and focus on the next shiny object that passes through their social media vision.
Dealerships, on the other hand, exist in a much smaller world than their big brand parents. They do share the same challenges in that they want to attract the attention of their consumer but are at a disadvantage in resources. Consumers give brands more leeway because they exist in a more abstract world in the consumer’s minds. Local businesses, on the other hand, are places that consumers drive by every day and are a part of their lives. Consumers are less apt to “forgive and forget” when a local business makes a social media faux pas than when a big brand does simply because they are real places. Ford isn’t a place. It’s a brand. Your car dealership, however, is a place. The old, but still true, concept of “People buy from people they like” is one that must be considered when making content decisions on social media.
That shouldn’t stop your dealership from being creative, however. Social media success revolves around connecting with your customers. A recent example of a car dealership turning what could have been a bad situation around involved Subaru of Wichita. The local union took exception to their alleged use of a non-union contractor (which they later explained was subcontracted out by the general contractor) and decided to protest in front of their dealership. Their outside of the box thinking led them to create their own sign that reversed the message of the union and led them to an incredible amount of national exposure. One of their YouTube videos has even surpassed 153,000 views at the time this article was written. While these types of opportunities don’t come on a daily basis, any business’ social media strategies should be well thought out and executed. As the world gets noisier and platforms increasingly become pay-to-play, dealerships will find it more difficult for their message to be seen. The only way to extend the reach of your message is through the use of content that their audience finds engaging, as it is their engagement that fills your contents gas tank and allows it to keep reaching more destinations.
Most social media platforms offer analytics and data that will help dealers better identify what type of content their audience finds most engaging. There is no cookie-cutter answer to car dealership social media despite what anyone would try to make you believe. Every dealership’s audience will find different types of content engaging. Dealerships in large metro markets will see less engagement on community news and event type content than a rural car dealership in a smaller market, for example. Invariably, some of the most consistently engaged content in any dealership’s social media efforts has to do with the thing that their customers most want to engage with… them. Pictures and information involving company culture transform dealerships into something more personal and human. Customer testimonials and photos of customers taking delivery of their new vehicles allow previous customers to relive those moments and congratulate the new owners. Brand news and information along with special offers for social media followers are also consistently strong performers.
The fact remains that how and what your dealership posts on social media is a reflection of your dealership. Ensuring that you are selecting content that supports your brand message and image while also engaging your customers will put you well on your way to achieving success and seeing revenue from your social media efforts. The most important thing is that you pay attention. Your audience will tell you what they want to see. Every like, comment, retweet and engagement is a vote of confidence for that type of content. By consistently posting quality content that is engaging, dealerships will earn the right to share advertising messages from their audience. A good analogy involves television content. People watch their favorite shows because they enjoy the content. They like it so much that they understand the need for commercials and forgive them. If networks were to air commercials every 2 minutes, however, people would probably stop tuning in, as the advertisements become the content. A social media DVR that can skip commercials has yet to be invented so the only option you will give your audience if you continuously solicit them is to stop watching the show.
Is it all right to be creative and funny in your social media content? Absolutely. In fact, creativity should be encouraged. Just be cognizant of the fact that your dealership lives under a much smaller bubble than brands do and make sure your content is relevant and appropriate and you’ll find more success than failure.