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As Facebook has eclipsed its first decade in business and Twitter has joined it in the upper echelons of hot, publicly traded companies, marketers in the automotive industry are continually pondering if social media really helps them sell more cars. It depends on whom you ask, but the jury still seems to be out on the effectiveness of social media in the car business. I have to be quite honest, as I too was a skeptic when I started working for a social media marketing company that services the automotive industry. After diving head-first into this conundrum for two years, I have seen several ways that social media can, in fact, help a dealership to sell more cars.
1. Twitter Advanced Search:
Twitter Advanced Search is a great, free tool at anyone’s disposal. Any marketer or business who has a Twitter account can use the search bar to find people in their community who are actively car shopping, looking for an oil change, etc. It’s as simple as typing any keyword or phrase into the search bar and setting your geographic location. If any user in your target area has tweeted using your searched keyword or phrase, Twitter will show those results in chronological order. Marketers can then engage in real-time conversations with these hand-raisers to see if they’re genuinely interested in purchasing a car.
2. Social Campaigns:
Social campaigns are no different than a TV or direct mail campaign because the goals are usually the same: drive brand awareness, generate leads, and, ultimately, sell more cars. Marketers, however, are usually able to be more creative with how they interact with their target audience via social campaigns. Given the very nature of social media, campaigns executed through this medium can drive higher engagement rates through an array of creative ideas. How about a scavenger hunt across multiple social sites? What about having your target audience upload photos of themselves and tag their friends to increase interaction? What if your dealership had a date night giveaway with a voting meter on a Facebook tab that encouraged participants to submit their information, and get their family and friends to vote for them so they could win? This would drive more traffic and awareness for your brand. Wouldn’t you agree that increased brand awareness and leads would increase sales?
3. Facebook Advertising:
Facebook advertising is one of my favorite topics in the social media realm. No, this is not the same as posting to your business’s page on Facebook. I’m talking about using Facebook’s vast targeting capabilities through the use of target demographics and Polk data. Marketers can target a Facebook ad by conquest brands, by specific brand ownership, by retargeting visitors from a website, and geo-location on mobile devices. They can also upload a customer list by phone number or email to target for service specials — I like to call this capability the direct mail of the 21st century. All of these ads have call-to-action buttons that, when clicked on by the user, will hyperlink them to any desired URL on your website. And to top it all off with consistent CPC rates well under $1, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that marketers would be crazy to not try their hand at a few Facebook campaigns to drive web traffic.
4. Online Reputation:
Though sometimes neglected, a business’ online reputation often has a direct impact on their sales. As consumers spend more time car shopping online, recommendations and reviews on the Internet are becoming more and more vital. A recent study by Crowdtap found that 36 percent of consumers reported recommendations from family and friends as the top influence when purchasing a vehicle. At 19 percent, online reviews came in as the 2nd most influential source amongst consumers, and social media held the 3rd spot at 16 percent. Can you guess where the actual dealership came in on the list? Only 11 percent of participants in this study said that the dealership heavily influenced their purchasing decision. Not surprising, really. Word-of-mouth is obviously still very powerful, but the main difference between now and 20 years ago is that it has gone digital. So, this begs the question: Do you know what your customers are saying about your business online?
5. Mere-exposure effect (Familiarity Principle):
According to Andrew Coleman in A Dictionary of Psychology, The Mere-exposure effect, or commonly called the Familiarity Principle, was first studied by Gustav Fechner in 1876. Later popularized by Robert Zajonc beginning in the 1960s, this theory states that constant exposure to a stimulus will generate a more positive feeling towards something. In laymen terms: the more you expose consumers to your brand, the more likely they are to prefer you rather than your competitors. Now, there must be a caveat to this, right? No one has an unlimited marketing budget to constantly expose consumers to your brand on every medium. You have to be strategic and work closely with your vendor partners to execute and derive the highest ROI possible. Social media plays into this strategy especially well because it’s very cost-effective compared to other mediums. But remember, social media is NOT free. The time it takes to do it right costs money whether you have an in-house team or you have a strategic partner.
I hope these points helped to shed some light on how well-executed social media really can help you sell more cars. I challenge you to think unconventionally and take risks with your social strategy. Are you a forward thinker who is willing to question the status quo? The ball is in your court!