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Robert Karbaum

Robert Karbaum National Digital Strategy Manager

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Should We Abandon Social Media?


Imagine social media was a new radio station that opened down the road.  You decide it’s a good idea to support the community and spend some advertising dollars with them.  Unfortunately, 3 months later you look at the numbers and sales are still flat.  You call the station, give the rep hell, and they convince you to try again for 3 more months.  Alas, another 3 months later the needle still hasn't moved.  The rep begs on their knees for another shot.  You comply, change the message, change the timing, maybe even increase your spend and the needle again fails to move. Do you continue with this advertising spend? My guess would be no. So why are we doing it with social? 

As dealers, we are spending a considerable amount of time trying to make social work, with little results. 

Maybe, we shouldn't be on social? It is a hard question to ask, but an honest one.


Few independent franchises who operate as part of a manufacture chain have their own social media profiles.  The McDonald's down the road doesn't have its own Facebook page.  It isn't allowed, nor does it make sense to compete against the other 35,000 McDonald's locations worldwide.    Pep Boys operates as a single controlled social entity and so does Midas.  CarMax has 128 locations across the United States and 1 Facebook page.

“A new report by Auto Trader found that only one percent of car buyers used social media sites to shop for a vehicle. “ i [] 

The Chicago Tribune ran an article last week with results from a study by Automotive News bluntly stating that social media doesn’t sell cars, that even Millennials are apathetic towards the automotive industry’s efforts on social media.  Yikes!

“I bought a car because of a tweet was said by no one ever.” i

Are you really surprised? As someone that has closely worked with social media in the dealership for the past 7 years I can say that I don’t disagree. In fact the more I research, the more it becomes apparent that the dots are not connecting.

“Millennials are apathetic about whether auto Web sites or brands have a social presence,” Helms said. She added that 78 percent of Millennials in the study said their attitude toward a car brand would not change if the brand had a social networking presence.” ii

So why are we, especially the franchise dealers, trying to dig ourselves out of this social cavity? Is it time to pack up your Facebook page and go home? Not quite yet.  Maybe the reason no one uses social in the car buying process is because we as an industry have not provided the right content.  Maybe customers don’t care about our storytelling, delivery photos and testimonials we have been sharing on social? [] 

Or maybe, we are simply using social media incorrectly?

i Chicago Tribune: Auto Sales Not Influenced by Social Media:

ii Automotive News: Even Millennials Bypass Social Media During the Buying Process:

What are your thoughts? Are the stats correct? Are you going to do things differently? Share your comments below!

Droppin' Baums








Robert Karbaum arguably has the best name in the automotive industry. His combined experience over the past decade in E-Commerce and the automotive industry has allowed him to master the art of “AutoSpeak”; the ancient language that bridges the gap between internet geeks, the showroom floor and everything in-between. He manages the E-Commerce, Social and Digital Marketing operations at Weins Canada Inc. (formerly Don Valley North Automotive Group); a prestigious automotive group in Canada which includes the #1 volume Toyota and Lexus dealerships in the country. 

Catch him on Twitter (@karbaum) or

Lauren Moses
Robert, Great read! Favorite quote "I Bought a car because of a tweet was said by no one ever." It's so true. When we did our sales event last month I was on the floor asking all of them that I could where they had heard about us. Most of them sadly had never heard of us before our mail outs. And they were a short 30 minutes away. It says something for todays world that even with the internet they don't know where we are. I think it's time to break the mold of internet and social media to show that it is still very valuable you just need to find the diamond in the rough that your customers want to see!
Dustin Lyons
Nice article Robert and a good and fair question. I for one don't think that I would follow any car dealerships Facebook page, because for the most part, I am only thinking about a car dealership once every couple of years when I am actually in the market. The rest of the time my car sits in the garage until I use it to get me from point A to point B, and thats pretty much it, and I don't really care if my social feed has articles about cars etc... because they are not top of mind. There are a few examples however of how social can be beneficial to the car industry, but it may not be the way most dealers are doing it. The first example comes from a couple of friends of mine who are no longer at the dealership but have since moved on and started their own accessory company. When they started they had a third party Facebook page that filled the social world with really cool pictures of really big lifted trucks and dead animals (and the occasional attractive woman). They were marketing specifically to the hunting industry, and they generated a lot of interest and quite a few leads that led to some very good car deals and a great following. They created a loyal following within the hunting community that drew in leads from several states and again led them from being sales people at a dealership to now having their own accessory company and selling the leads to the dealers that they work with. The lesson here is that if you narrow down your social activities to a specific target and post things that that group cares about (which in this case is big lifted trucks, slaughtered game, and a hottie or two), then you can create a loyal following that will decide they want to be as cool as the people you are posting, and in this example, that actually does result in deals. The other way that I think social can help is not on the dealership level, but on the actual sales person level. And I don't mean your desperate status update on the last day of the month saying you "just need three more cars so please friends come in and see me!". But what I mean is developing relationships with your customers and maintaining an overall awareness within your sphere of influence and your friends sphere of influence so that when the time is right and people are in the market to get a new car you are the one they think of. This requires a different strategy than what most dealers are currently doing for social and actually requires a disciplined, and determined sales person who wants to build a long term pipeline.
Lauren Moses
Dustin, love the lifted truck and slaughtered game, and even the occasional hottie (so long as it's not me..joking). It does help narrow down who your customer base is. That is something that we can really market on here since we are prime country boy territory. For us it's the rig workers that come home from a two week haul and have money burning their pockets. It's just a matter of getting them attracted to our page. One thing that I see a lot of from a few dealers close to us is the constant posts of "funny" meme pictures. Most of the time the Memes include some thing along the lines of "you mean to tell me you didn't go see (insert salesmans name here) at (dealership name)! That's why you still drive the hooptie!" To me that drives the wrong kind of attention and to me is almost offensive since it's saying the customer has a crappy car. It's definitely time for dealerships to start thinking outside the box and push to find what works best for them. I don't think it's so much about posting all of your inventory and getting someone to buy straight from social anymore. And even just being the voice of knowledge for your customers obviously isn't cutting it since how many likes, post clicks, and shares do you get from sharing links to helpful pages about touch screen radio, onstar, xm radio and such.
Robert Karbaum
Thanks for the comments! I'm preparing an article for the fall that will go into great detail about what social really is, and how we as dealers should approach it. When I saw the Trader study this week, I knew I had to post a blog about it. I think we have been collectively drinking the social kool-aid for too long. It's time to be honest with ourselves and ask: is social really worth the investment of our time.
Robert Karbaum
Dustin, the analogy I use is, "Would you follow your Mortgage Broker on Facebook?"

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