Social Media use in the car dealership is different today than it was just a few years ago. It’s interesting how in a short period of time being active on social media has evolved from something that was considered ‘free’ and optional to something that's necessary and requires an investment of time, resources and yes – a budget.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking at the 2015 Automotive Social Media Summit hosted by Thought Leadership Summits representing the LaFontaine Automotive Group. Being able to share the stage with fellow car dealers, automotive vendors and OEM representatives was truly a humbling experience.
During my presentation I shared my own journey with social media in the dealership. I told the story of how after achieving initial success with social media, we put or social on cruise control and eventually experienced a massive #SocialFail by not adapting as both social media and our automotive group evolved.
While it’s never easy to admit you’ve failed at something, it would be worse if we just gave up.
The good news is we’ve learned from our mistakes and are now realigning our social media marketing strategy for our dealerships in an effort to succeed according to the new rules of 2015.
We’ve implemented a social blueprint to follow which we affectionately refer to as the 13 Rules for Social Media Success in the Dealership. Today I’m happy to share these rules with you here on DrivingSales.com in hopes that you’ll find them just as useful as we have.
1. Define Your Social Media Mission
Before you undertake any major initiative, you need a solid foundation to what you’re doing and for me, it all starts with a mission statement.
You social media mission statement is your compass that will help guide you, your team and your employees along the way.
Here’s our social mission for the LaFontaine Automotive Group:
To engage, educate and entertain our customers and employees by providing extraordinary and unexpected value.
Every piece of content we post or share via social media needs to meet this mission. If it doesn’t, then it’s not worth sharing.
2. Identify Your Team
As I’m sure most of you know, business social media isn’t easy. It takes time and resources and often can be overwhelming for just one person to manage on a consistent basis.
Most social media experts (and by no means do I suggest that I am one) agree that for a small business to be successful on Facebook and Twitter alone, they should invest one hour per day into their social media.
Most dealerships however don’t just utilize Facebook and Twitter. We’re on Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn and maybe Instagram or Pinterest. Let’s say that adds up to an additional hour per day you need to spend on your social media.
So that’s a total of two hours per day dedicated to the social media for your dealership. Doesn’t sound too challenging does it?
But what if you have 3 dealerships? or 6? Or 16 like we do? For us that means we need to dedicate 32 hours a day just to our social media if we want to be successful at the store level.
Clearly one person can’t handle that. Heck two isn’t even enough. That’s why we built a team to handle the rigors and challenges associated with social media. We have a Digital Marketing Manager, Community Manager, Graphic Designer & store level Social Ambassadors all contributing to our social media.
3. Focus on How to Be Social, Not How to Do Social
This one is big for me. There’s a difference between doing social and being social. When we first got involved in social media in 2011, we were being social. The past year and a half we set our social media on cruise control and were doing social.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that when we took our focus off our social media to focus on other aspects of our digital marketing, we slowly began to lose our audience.
To fill the space of our social media pages, we relied on 3rd party tools and automation to push out content. We we’re simple doing social at this point in time. By the time we realized that this approach wasn’t going to work, it was already too late.
Being social, i.e. engaging with your audience, other businesses and pages on Facebook is different than doing social.
4. Always Write Back
This goes hand-in-hand with #3, but deserves its own mention because it is so important.
Have you ever tagged a brand, athlete or celebrity in a tweet or Facebook message and gotten a response? Made you feel pretty special, didn’t it?
If someone says something to you via social media, respond. Every time. No exceptions.
Even if they don’t have something nice to say.
Not only does it show to anyone who is paying attention that you are active and engaged on your social networks, but it will make the person who took the time to say something to you feel special that you noticed and replied.
5. Social is on 24/7, Are You?
I think a lot of us fell in to the trap that the social media channels for our dealerships were on only during business hours. If something was tweeted our way or a post was being engaged with on Facebook after hours, it was just going to have to wait until 9am for our response.
Let’s face it, I don’t think anyone is going to blame you for not wanting to reply to that negative review that came in on your Facebook page at 1:00am.
Just know that social never sleeps and the actions you take before and after business hours will set you apart from the competition.
6. Stay on Target
People do care about what you had for lunch…if you’re a food brand!
But you’re not a food brand, are you? No, you are a car dealership. So when planning content to post, try not to fall into the game of posting the popular types of content you see in your own stream.
Posting pictures of food, cats, babies, memes, etc. may incite some extra engagement, but you won’t leave a lasting impression of your brand once you disappear from the social stream.
Part of the fun of social media is being able to figure out what content works best for you and your dealership.
Remember, you can never go wrong by highlighting your employees and customers on your social networks – it’s almost always the most engaging pieces of content you can post.
7. Be Real. People Want to Talk to YOU not Your Dealership
Have you ever met a person face-to-face for the first time and after a couple minutes of talking you walked away mumbling to yourself, “jeesh, that dude was soooo fake!”. I think we’ve all been there, and done that.
Fakeness or insincerity is just as easily detected on social media as it is in an intimate and personal setting.
If you’re not genuine in your comments, connections, thank you’s and mentions it won’t go unnoticed.
A great self-test you can do is before you send a tweet or reply to a comment, read it aloud and ask yourself would a real person talk this way?
If it sounds conversational and rolls off the tongue easily then you are good to go. If it sounds like stuffy corporate gibberish, then you may want to consider editing your copy for more of a casual feel.
Fact: People talk to people, not to brands.
It’s a lot easier for someone to talk to Jason @ LaFontaine than it is for them to talk to the LaFontaine Automotive Group. See what I mean?
8. Don’t Try to Be Clever. Be Clever!
Ok this is a tricky one, but an important one. If there’s one thing that will set your social media apart from not just other dealerships, but from most other businesses as well, it’s how clever you can be.
And unfortunately, cleverness isn’t something that’s easily taught or learned. Most people either have it, or don’t.
If you don’t have it, find someone on you team who does. Quickly!
9. Social Media is not Free nor Easy. Ever.
Back in 2011 when I first got my start as the Social Media Manager for the LaFontaine Automotive Group, there was one refrain that you’d hear over and over again as it related to social media in the dealership.
Social Media is Free!
Oh, and not only is it free, but all you have to do is hire a college kid to do your social for you since that’s their thing.
I wish I could say I was exaggerating here, but I’m not. Even after all these years I still cringe when I hear anyone suggest that social is free and easy because it’s not and it never was.
To be successful you’ll need to invest in people, partners, infrastructure and equipment. Not to mention having a campaign budget to allocate to your various page and post campaigns that you’re running on Facebook, Twitter and/or YouTube.
10. Not Everything Will Work and That’s Ok!
There’s going to be a time when you feel like you’ve crafted the perfect post. Image looks great, the copy is short and clever, your co-workers have given you the thumbs up – and then you post that bad boy and put it out there. You kick back and wait for the red notifications to start lighting up but instead you get…
The post goes unnoticed. Whether it’s due to Facebook’s algorithm, the time of day, the type of audience or any other numerous things that could go wrong the fact is no one saw it or engaged with it.
When this happens (and it will….often) you just have to be able to get over it. Channel your inner Stuart Smalley and say to yourself “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me!”
11. Use Traditional Media to Support Your Social Media
For the longest time our traditional marketing and our social media marketing didn’t align or talk to each other. They both just did their own thing and went about their business
That’s different for us today. As we’re undergoing a massive shift in how we approach our digital marketing and social efforts, we’re also doing the same thing with our TV and Radio advertising.
Our branding campaigns for TV now include social calls to action and conversely we build social campaigns to support our branding campaigns.
12. It’s Called Social Media, Not Buy My Crap Media
I have to give a hat tip to Greg Gifford of DealerOn for this rule, and it’s one of my favorites.
Notice in our social mission statement there’s no mention of selling cars. Why? Because that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish on social media. We’re simply trying to connect with our customers, impress our prospects and encourage our employees. Another way to say it is that we want to build a value based community.
And believe it or not, I’ve found that when we follow this plan people reach out to us via Facebook or Twitter all on their own when they have a vehicle need.
13. If You’re Not Consistent, You’re Nonexistent
This was the biggest lesson learned from our #SocialFail. Once you become inconsistent with your posting frequency, you’ll lose your audience.
Facebook’s algorithm is unforgiving, and nothing will throttle your organic reach like a lack of content will. I don’t know if there is a magic number of posts we should be sharing per day, but I do know if you’re only posting once a week (or once per month!) you’re not going to reach your audience at all.
Our Plan In Action
We’ve recently implemented this process on the Facebook page that represents the entire LaFontaine Automotive Group, and I feel like we’re successfully meeting our mission. If you’d like to see the plan in action, feel free to take a look at our page to see what’s working for us and feel free to give us a like (insert shameless self-plug here.)
Our next step is to roll in our social media accounts for all 16 of our locations to follow the same plan. It’s a daunting task, but with our 13 Rules For Social Media Success in place, I’m confident we’ll build valuable communities for each of our locations that will help us meet our mission.
What do you think about these 13 Rules. Is there one or two that resonate with you? Is there anything else you’d add to your plan? Let me know in the comment section below.