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Five Lies About Automotive Social Media Marketing

What are the Five Biggest Lies about Automotive Social Media Marketing? 


When you think back on it, the introduction of social media within automotive marketing hit our industry like hot sauce on an empty stomach. All of a sudden dealerships, advertising agencies and car companies with an appetite for "what's next" rushed to set up Facebook Pages, Twitter accounts and blogs to connect with as many automotive consumers as possible. In our rush to obtain the Willy Wonka golden ticket of automotive marketing and sales, we dropped the ball in several areas... What became roadkill along the way, were the fundamentals of public relations, marketing, communications and sales -- giving way to erroneous assumptions about how dealerships should manage their social marketing.

In my opinion, as well as the perspective I have seen expressed by several other experienced Social Marketers (SoMars), there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to managing a dealer's online positioning using social media. The inconvenient reality is that each dealership's marketing strategy should be adjusted, modified and crafted based upon specific goals, regional variations and the dealer's targeted audience.

The Five Social Media lies

What follows is an automotive social marketing cheat sheet based on one written by Mikal E. Belicove that seeks to address the dangers of absolutes, which I believe is directly applicable to automotive marketing on the Social Web:

  1. Size Matters
    Far too many dealers equate the number of "likes" or "followers" on branded social-media platforms to success, not realizing that it's the quality of those likes and followers that is important. More people signing up to view your message doesn't necessarily equate an increase in sales or even a bump in long-term or sustainable dealership brand recognition.
  2. The Medium is the Message
    Just because it's Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr or some other newfangled online or mobile-powered platform, the dealer's message still carries more weight than the medium delivering it. It's always been about how compelling a dealer's message is with car buyers. It's not about the platform or the technology. The technology is just a tool, and just because younger people were the first to use Twitter and Facebook, don't think for a moment that older dealership employees can't effectively use them just as well.  If you think Elise Kephart fits the "type" that people imagine using video messaging, imagine the car buyer's thrill and delight when car guys that look like me and Jim Ziegler use personalized video messaging!
  3. Social Media Gurus Really Do Exist
    No, they don't. Here's my advice when you run across someone positioning himself or herself as an "automotive social media guru" or "social marketing expert". Run for the exits! (take your wallet/purse with you) Everybody working in the field of automotive social marketing is practicing on the job training. Just because they've written a book like Mikal E. Belicove has, or spoken in public like Ralph Paglia does about the do's and don'ts of social media, doesn't mean they know your dealership's business and how to conceptualize and manage campaigns that hit upon your dealership's business-related goals.
  4. Social Media is 'New' Media
    No, it isn't. Media is media. Cave paintings in France from 10,000 BC are fine examples of social media... At one point or another, cave paintings, telegraph, newspapers, radio, television and the Internet were considered new forms of media and now they're labeled as "traditional" media. So "new" media doesn't mean that only "experts" or young hotshots can successfully achieve your social media marketing goals. That's hogwash. Nothing replaces knowledge of the basics of automotive marketing, combined with knowledge of your dealership's marketing goals and the need for authenticity and transparency in your socially based marketing communications.
  5. Social Media Can Be Effectively Outsourced
    Nobody knows your business like the people who work inside your dealership. Dealers can certainly work with marketing service providers (like Tier10 Marketing and ADP Social) and advertising agencies to set up and implement their social media-related efforts or to propose campaigns, ideas for contests, customized viral sweepstakes applications and the like. But when it comes to communicating your messages on a daily basis, the people working inside your dealership are in the best position to keep your community of customers and prospects up to date and informed about what really matters to them.


Inspired by and sourced from an article by Mikal E. Belicove published online at

Views: 973

Tags: Automotive, Biggest, Five, Lies, Marketing, Media, Social, about


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Comment by Ralph Paglia on July 27, 2011 at 10:28pm

Great points, and counterpoints made by all... I especially like Tim's position on achieving both quality AND quantity... Tom gets my vote for "Wisdom Personified" and Charles, the fact that i have earned a living delivering social media marketing services to dealers for the past two years would dictate that I risk being a hypocrite if I do not see the value in your commentary about outsourcing.


With all that said... I still find myself studying this space, gaining insights and learning more about leveraging social media for dealers every day.  And, I have been using social media channels to sell cars longer than anybody else i have met (since 1999).  So, perhaps you can understand my perspective on the so-called experts.  On the other hand, maybe I am simply a slow learner!

Comment by Tom Gorham on July 27, 2011 at 9:47pm
Hi Charles Kim. We meet again. And again, I disagree with your comments. But one thing you say in all your comments is that Social Media is only for "cool" brands like Red Bull, Starbucks, Ferrari, but not for dealerships, dry cleaners, gas stations. One thing you forget is that dealerships are usually one of the largest contributors to their community's taxes, events, youth programs and on and on. They develop a lot of goodwill and natural fans that way. It is natural for them to engage with those people and create online relationships with their communities and their customers. This becomes word-of-mouth-on-steroids advertising for the friends, families, and online acquaintances of these fans. Do you care about reputation management? These people are advocating for you.

Of course size matters. 3000 quality fans is better than 300 quality fans. Makes sense. 30,000 quality fans is better than 3000 quality fans. Advertising or marketing has always been a numbers game and still is to a certain extent. But we no longer have to shotgun our message out to thousands of people who are not interested. We can target the croud that cares with better quality messages and our Social Media can become both retention and conquest.
Comment by Ed Brooks on July 27, 2011 at 8:43am
Comment by Charles Kim on July 27, 2011 at 7:03am

Interesting article, though I don't agree with most of the observations.  For example...


1) Size Matters - Quality is usually always more important than quantity (depending on the marketing strategy), but to engage a few hundred "fans" (which is the case for a vast majority of dealerships, and considering a large percentage of those "fans" are employees and their friends) is a waste of time and not worth the effort from an ROI standpoint.


2) The Medium is the Message - Obviously true, be it newspaper, magazine, TV, direct mail, digital media, or social media.


3) Social Media Gurus Really Do Exist - Half true.  The trick is telling the difference between someone that knows how to functionally or conceptually execute individual elements of a social media strategy (which is the majority of "gurus" out there), and a marketing strategist that knows how to integrate a social media strategy within a broader digital and traditional marketing strategy.  Big difference.


4) Social Media is the 'New Media' - Totally is just another medium of marketing, and while it remains overall a tiny fraction of total marketing expenditures by companies today (about 3 to 5%) because it still has a low ROI for a variety of reasons, "cool" brands (i.e. not dealerships, dry cleaners, gas stations, etc. but brands like Red Bull, Starbucks, Ferrari, etc.) can leverage this medium to market to consumers with a positive ROI.


5) Social Media Can Be Effectively Outsourced - ANY marketing can be effectively outsourced, including social media.  And since 99.9% of people inside a dealership are terrible marketers and marketing strategists, and because #2 above is also true, I would always recommend outsourcing this unless it is a large company with significant scale that could possibly do it internally...and even then, you still need outside help to execute various elements of a social media strategy.  I've had the fortunate opportunity to work with some of the greatest brands on the planet, and as cool as those brands are and as large as those companies are, they all still outsource every aspect of marketing because are are smart enough to know their limitations when it comes to marketing capabilities.

Comment by Kathi Kruse on July 27, 2011 at 6:48am

Wow, Ralph, I am so honored you would share my book with your talented team. Thank you so much! If I can return a favor for you, please let me know....I'm there dude.

Tim: I have to stand with Ralph's opinion about quality over quantity. I love that you guys have so many fans--that many people liking your content is fantastic! However, may I ask how many leads you get per month from that?  The strategy of playing the "game" to win fans does hit it's goal. Some dealers and staff new to Social and Facebook believe that is the only goal.  Do you guys have a way of measuring how many leads you're getting from FB?

Comment by Timothy Martell on July 27, 2011 at 6:21am

Ralph, all of this is correct in theory, however, I don't believe anyone is in position to say that size does not matter in social media. This just seems to be a common warning from people who haven't figured out how to create large followings. Yes in theory quantity over quality is not a good thing, but this just doesn't translate with social media - particularly with the mediums you listed. And let's not forget, this is STILL the car business. It has and always will be a numbers game. The more ups, the more demo drives, the more write ups, the more sales, the more UIO, etc... Some of the highest volume, most profitable dealers in the country have horrible reputations and no clue what social media is.


If someone is making the conscious decision to like your brand or message, how could this be bad?


As of this morning Marlboro Nissan has an audience on Facebook of 99,790 likes among our many fan pages. 27% of these likes are monthly active users. The National trend among pages is 7-8%.

Secondly, as a whole there are only a handful of dealers in the country with a following substantial enough to be in a position to worry more about quality than quantity.


You say that it is just a media and that dealers should use their good tried and true common sense when managing media... Well common sense tells me that you could have the best quality message in the world, but if only 150 people may ever have the chance to see it, that is a lot of wasted effort for something that can NEVER hope to provide a return.


I guess I just don't understand this false presumption that a compromise must be made. Maybe it's because I believe in Franklin Covey's 7 habits. Maybe it's because I believe in a Win-Win mentality. But why must quality suffer in order to achieve quantity? Why can't you have both?


I understand most dealer's still think posting "0% financing" and "$12,995 for that great used car they just took in on trade" are good things to post on their walls. But creating one false mindset to combat an already existing poor one is not the solution.

Comment by Rob Fontano on July 27, 2011 at 5:39am
Spot on Ralph. Just remember that whoever is doing the talking on any of your social channels they should have a firm grip on the "culture" and "voice" of your dealership / business.
Comment by Tom Gorham on July 27, 2011 at 5:19am
Great post.  Thanks Ralph.  There has to be a strong set of "best practices" for experts to arise in a field.  Right now the best practices seem to be flexibility and adaptability.
Comment by Mark Tewart on July 27, 2011 at 1:43am
Very true. People preaching absolute truths about social media are only giving opinions and those opinions may not be right for everyone. Nobody really knows so "Get in the flow of I don't know" and do something. Eventually by doing you will figure out what works for you.
Comment by Jason Manning on July 26, 2011 at 11:27pm
Very true Ralph.

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