What Is The Value Of Social Media Marketing In The Automotive Industry?

Carol Forden

A good social media strategy requires as much careful planning, time and thought as any other type of marketing.

Despite this, we often see social media at the bottom of the marketing priority list for managers.

We often see business owners passing it off to an intern, sales member or low-level marketing person.

With 84% of car buyers using Facebook and 66% of car buyers who viewed a Facebook Ad and clicking on it, it is pretty shocking that social media isn’t paid more attention by auto dealerships.

Social media and social selling is a great way to market your products and services and boost dealership brand awareness.

Social media gives you the opportunity to connect with customers on a personal an human level.

Some of the biggest questions asked by the automotive industry about social media management are:

  • Why invest time and resources in social media?
  • Which platforms should we be using?
  • How often should we post?
  • What type of content should we post on each platform?

1. Why invest in social media marketing if we already have a website and advertise on Autotrader?

Today, there are 24 touch points in the average car buyer’s journey.

Of which 19 of which are digital, your website is one of these touch points, as are the social media platforms consumers utilize.

Research shows that consumers look at a companies’ social media presence when doing their research for a new car.  Consumers are looking at customer reviews, comments, and photos.

Now imagine you’re a potential customer and you see nothing has been updated in months on your dealerships social page or the post are the “car of the week.”  Doesn’t this make you wonder what is, is going on at the dealership that they don’t post useful educational or entertaining information that helps their consumers in the buying journey?

Consumers want to engage with an innovative, exciting, happening businesses; not stagnant, dormant and boring companies.

Digital Touchpoints including social media

Source: Opportunity Max

80% of USA car dealers advertising on Autotrader, dealerships need to differentiate themselves to stand out from the crowd.

They need to rely less on AutoTrader and more on separating yourself in the hyper-competitive automotive market. Read more here on 3 Great Ways to Differentiate Your Car Dealership – Alternatives to Autotrader.  

With social media and social selling, there are three core goals which social media marketing can help you achieve:

Responding to customer inquiries:

Consumers have their preferred method for contacting a dealership and inquiring on social media is increasingly becoming a key channel for people to engage with dealerships.

People expect responses within a few hours of their question posted on social media channels and don’t want to have a conversation with someone in sales, for obvious reasons.

According to AM-Online, 81% of consumers will take their business elsewhere if their questions aren’t answered quickly and efficiently by a company

Talk to your customers

Many dealerships get social media marketing wrong by continually posting sales pitches and advertisements of inventory.

Consumers are not on social media to endure your sales pitch. Social Media is a 2-way conversation; consumers want to know you’re listening and answering their questions and concerns.  That you promptly and efficiently follow-up on their complaints and demonstrate that you genuinely and honestly want to help them.

Related article: 3 Great Ways to Differentiate Your Car Dealership – Alternatives to Autotrader

Reach more people:

Social media marketing can grow your business; 1/3 of all car buyers use social media to post pictures of their new vehicles. They are promoting your dealership to their friends and followers which in turn helps boost your brand visibility to reach new audiences.

This is an opportunity to engage with your customer and garner a positive review of the dealership.

2. What social media platforms should my car dealership be using?

This depends on where your customers and potential customers hang out online. This requires research, and I would suggest taking the time to develop buyer personas.

Not every dealership is the same and results will vary for each car dealership.

You need to do the research where your customers and prospects are online and which social sites media they use.  The benefits of developing buyer personas are they will guide you as to which platform is best suited for the demographics of your target audience.

For effective social media marketing, your car dealership should have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

To engage a younger audience, then you should be on Instagram. These are the key social media sites for auto dealerships and the platforms that will allow you to interact and engage with prospects.

Examples of the multiple social media channels in automotive industry

Want more exposure for your dealership?  Then you need aa presence on multiple social media.

It’s critical to remember that you don’t need to be on every social media channel.

Not every social media platform is for everyone and not every platform is used by your target audience.

(Related article: 4 Benefits of Multi-Channel Digital Marketing For Car Dealerships)

3. What type of content, tone, and how often should we be posting on social media?

This will depend on the social media channel you are using. Each has its own and different “rules” as to how to use them efficiently for automotive marketing.

Below are the basic rules:

Type of content:

Do not use the same material for every channel.  What works well on one social site usually will not on another.

Facebook is used to connect with their friends or family. Your brand posts need to fit into this in the ecosystem to keep the interest of your audience in what you’re posting.

So, don’t make it solely about selling.

Twitter is fast-paced, it is a great place to share quick thoughts, news and generate traffic to your website about special offers or coupons offers, a good ratio is five posts that educate or entertain followed by one promotional post.

Using manufacturer’s content is okay as long as it is relevant and exciting to your audience.

The bulk of your posts should be custom created content or curated content that is education or entertaining.  Dealerships should focus on the content they create for a more successful social media marketing experience.

Every blog post or article can easily be repurposed into about 24 social media posts, from video to infographics.

Use high-quality images; there is nothing worse than posting bad-quality pictures of low resolution.  These will highly likely put off any potential customers as it makes your brand look unprofessional.

Outsell Digital What Should Be Posted On Social Media 2The tone of content:

You want to keep the tone and language consistent across all social channels and with content.

Do you want your dealership to be perceived as serious and professional, or humorous and cheeky, or inspirational or educational?

The tone is essential for your social media marketing strategy.

Posting only advertisements of your cars, will bore your audience and you will be seen as a pushy sales channel, which to be h no one wants to interact with.

As important, you don’t want to be continually joking, as this can come across as unprofessional. 

You need to find a happy balance that works for your dealership that speaks to your target audience and customers.

How often should you post:

You want and need to keep in mind how often you’re posting for your social media marketing strategy to be effective and deliver an ROI.

You should post content often enough to keep your audience interested and gain their trust, while at the same time be conscious that you aren’t posting too much.

You don’t want to bombard your audience with post after post as this will be considered spam by your audience.  They will just to scroll past your content instead of looking at it, and worst case, unfollow you.

(Related article: 9 Common Mistakes Car Dealerships Make With Social Media Management)

4. Will training be required at this or can anyone take the baton?

An effective social media management plan and strategy takes time, planning and as much thought put into it as other areas of marketing.

The rise in technology has resulted in a significant change in the car buying process.  Social media, engaging with consumers directly are just a few to date that has had a direct an impact on the auto industry, and over time this continues to grow.

Social media is used today by car buyers to read reviews, and recommendations,  which influence whether a consumer will do business with you.

38% of consumers check social media as part of the car purchase decision-making process according to Brandwatch, which is why it’s crucial to have a social media marketing strategy today.

Facebook star ratingExample of star-rating that appears on Facebook business pages

A successful social media marketing strategy requires and investment in time and effort.  The payoff is rich, and it can be done by your in-house marketing team or outsourced to an agency.  Either way, the time invested or not will determine the success.

Today, the digital talent gap in the automotive industry is widening, so the need for rapid skill development is higher than ever.

Investing in on-going training is a way to stay ahead of the curve and ensure you understand the ever-changing customer car buying behavior of today.

Another option is to partner with a digital marketing agency that specializes in automotive marketing. Agencies place their credibility on being up to date and invest continually in training to stay up-to-date to deliver the best quality work and results for clients.

This option is often more attractive as the processes and results are proven, it can be more cost-effective for most dealerships, and you don’t have to consider recruitment, payroll taxes, benefits and training costs.

5. How do you handle negative comments or feedback on social media?

Every car dealer is going to get a bad review, that is a given. How and when you respond to it that makes the difference.

Consumers will watch how you respond.

This can be an excellent opportunity to show you care about your customers and want to help them;  this demonstrates to the market at large that you listen, show empathy and concern for your customers.

Responding to negative comments on social media speaks as loudly to your customers as positive feedback.

Acknowledging online complaints promptly and following up until they are resolved sends a message to the marketplace. What applicable, do not hesitate to add a little humor to your response this humanizes your dealership.

There will be a time when you receive an unfair comment or the person who posted it is notoriously difficult or trolling you.  You still need to respond.

Don’t be afraid to report a comment to Facebook if you can provide sound and clear explanation as to why the criticism is not valid.

When a customer in the dealership showroom thanks you for all your help, you acknowledge this and respond. The same holds true for a customer complaint in the dealership; you try to resolve the problem.

Why would it be any different on social media?

One of the best way to manage customers’ reviews and comments is to assign the responsibility of responding to all your customers’ comments, complaints or other to a dedicated person.  This allows for continuity.  Its best t allocate a specific time for this task.

When someone responds to customer compliments and complaints, it shows that you appreciate and care about the time your customers invested to write to you and that you’re on top of their issues.  This action is worth more to your customers than any advertising ever will be.

Assure that your responses are unique and personalized to the customer,  They will know that you have taken the time out to respond to them personally, and it’s not a generic ‘thank you/we’re sorry’ canned message.

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