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How Car Dealers Can Get The Facebook Fans That Matter

How Many Fans Does Your Dealership Facebook Page Have?

The number of Facebook fans your dealership can claim is an important number... Right? The customer behind each "Like" your dealership Facebook Page gets is more valuable than your typical customer, generating more than average gross profits and making a positive impact on your dealership's financial statement... Right?

Hopefully, you haven't drank the Kool-Aid being served by some social media pundits who like to hang their hat on getting more Fans for a dealer's Facebook Page without qualification of who those Fans are... Let's rethink the whole Facebook Value Proposition for car dealers.

The basic concept that all Facebook fans are of equal value, or that simply more is better, is a myth.. Fan count envy is perpetuated by many social media service providers selling their wares to car dealers.  The confusion that some dealers and General Managers have experienced as a result of this misleading hype is one of the reasons why social media channels (Facebook, YouTube) have yet to achieve the same levels of success as their mobile marketing and search engine counterparts.

Far too many social media marketing service providers to car dealers are confusing correlation with causality. They believe enticing a customer to become a dealership Facebook fan will somehow make that customer more likely to spend more money at the dealership buying cars and getting them serviced there. What comes next is a gimmick driven, cash or gift giveaway, sweepstakes or advertising campaign designed solely to pull in new Facebook Page fans for that dealership from wherever they can find them... Outside the dealer's market area, maybe even in other states, foreign countries, employees of the service provider, other dealership employees, you name it, if they can get a "Like" it is considered a "Win"... This is not only a mistake, it can actually diminish or destroy most of the value a dealership can get from a strong Fan base attached to their Facebook Page.

Think of it this way. think back to the days of dealers spending a good portion of their advertising budgets on Direct Mail Campaigns... How important is the quality of your dealership's customer data base? How expensive would it be to send 20,000 direct mail pieces out to a customer list where 19,900 of those addresses were more than 500 miles away from your dealership?


If you had the opportunity to run Cable TV commercials on a station serving a market area on the other side of the country... For a 90% discount on the media buys, would it be a great deal? Not for YOUR dealership! 


Make no mistake, your dealership's Facebook Page Fan list is a marketing database... The quality of which is determined by the likelihood of those Fans doing business with your dealership.


Which brings me to my next recommendation for changing the way we look at each dealership's Facebook Fan base... It's sort of the old question about the chicken or the egg, which comes first?  


Here is the point I would like to make: On a hot summer day in Arizona, my neighbors flock to the multiple Coldstone Creamery Ice Cream shops around where I live in Gilbert... Especially my many Mormon friends, they love to eat ice cream.  It is clear to see that there is a direct correlation between the outside temperature and the sale of ice cream. When I visit a Coldstone Creamery any time between May and September, I always see a line of customers waiting to be served.  


However, none of us (above the age of 12) are foolish enough to believe that the more people who go to a Coldstone Creamery, the hotter the weather will get. That would be as foolish as believing that becoming a dealership's Facebook fan will cause that person to buy more cars, parts, accessories or even get their vehicles serviced at your dealership. Do you believe that compelling somebody to become a Fan of your dealership's Facebook Page will stimulate that person to buy your products, services and become a passionate brand advocate?

Now, let me be as clear as possible in stating that I am NOT suggesting that car dealers shouldn't strive to build their Facebook fan base.  What I am suggesting is that "How" you build your Facebook Page Fan base is as important, or even more important than the number of Fans you have amassed 


There are many ways to grow a dealership's Facebook Fan base, some are more productive in driving the count, but less than effective at getting the right people. Then there is always the cost and time factors to consider. Having done this longer and for more dealers than most people in the car business, I can attest that there are many short cuts that will adversely impact the quality of your Fan base. The problem with those approaches is that once your dealership's fan base is polluted with irrelevant people who will never spend money at your dealership, it is VERY difficult to get rid of them.  Hazardous waste removal is a lot more expensive than not polluting in the first place... So, don't fall victim to the temptation to pollute your Facebook Fan base in the quest for bigger numbers. It is not worth it and destroys the value your Facebook Fan base can provide by targeting the friends of each fan with offers and advertising.


Like others have written about on ADM, I agree and we all should know by now that driving customer loyalty begins with matching customers with the right vehicles or services, along with a flawless and repeatable customer experience, is what works the best.  So, let's apply that thinking to your marketing tactics... Why wouldn't we portray how we operate our dealership by marketing in a similar manner?  


Prospective and existing dealership customers should experience certain things in your marketing activities. For example, we may want to consider the following recommendations made by Yuchun Lee in his article at Advertising Age:

"Personalization. Customers are no longer receptive to the spray-and-pray marketing tactics of old. With that in mind, are you using the information your customers give you to get to know them as individuals? What devices do they shop through, what deals are they most interested in, and when they don't complete a purchase, do you know why, so you can fix it the next time? As a marketer, I know that forming a personalized snapshot of each customer is not as easy as creating a Facebook fan campaign. But as a consumer, I know that I am far less likely to buy from a business that doesn't know me as a person."

"Devices. Shopping is no longer just an in-store or PC-centric experience. We witnessed this during last year's holiday season, when a record number of customers shopped through mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. Customers demand a mobile experience that isn't just compelling but consistent across all devices."

Whenever your dealership in any way meets a customer's needs, you have put that customer in a position to become a Facebook fan, if they aren't already. And THAT is the moment when you should ask, or make it easy for the customer to become your Facebook Fan. This leads to the growth and development of a Facebook Fan base that is far more valuable than a Fan base of people who either don't live close to your dealership or don't have any type of interest in the brand of vehicles you sell and service.


What about Facebook users who are prospective dealership customers, but have never done business with us?  If you want to drive PROSPECTIVE customers to your Facebook Page and have them become Fans, then you must construct and launch the right Facebook PAID ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.  

What? You did not know why Facebook gives away free Fan Pages to car dealers and other businesses? That's right, the ONLY way you will have any degree of cost effectiveness in acquiring Facebook Fans from among Facebook users that live near your dealership and own or may consider the brands of vehicles you sell and service is to construct Facebook Advertising campaigns.  This is not a mistake, it is exactly the way Facebook has been designed and why the company makes money.


Facebook Advertising allows car dealers to target the exact people that are most likely to do business with their dealerships.  Dealers do not pay to show ads to people outside the area, are too young or too old, or are not educated and employed, or do not work in the right professions that match up with your dealership's targeted customer demographics and geography.


Fortunately for Ford Motor Company, General Motors has proven itself incapable of understanding how to use Facebook advertising effectively... GM claims it is a waste of money, and Ford is scooping up the Facebook ad inventory.


The reality of how effective Facebook advertising can be is quite the opposite of GM's ill-advised conclusions: done correctly, combining Facebook advertising campaigns with your dealership's Facebook Page provides you with a customer-engagement channel populated with people who you can entice on a daily basis with deals and personalized information... At the lowest cost and greatest communication efficiency ever offered to automotive retailers.

Perhaps more importantly, dealership Facebook fans can be developed into the ultimate marketing prize -- dealership advocates who are willing to put their reputation on the line.  Dealers who are willing to commit resources can build an entourage of fans that not only proactively recommend your products and services, but also your dealership's overall value beyond discounted pricing. Think about this opportunity in the context of recent research by the Nielson organization showing that 90 percent of automotive consumers trust peer recommendations more than dealership and car company advertising.

Now... THAT person who is a potential dealership advocate is exactly the type of Facebook fan all car dealers and management teams should be targeting. 


EDITOR's NOTE: This blog post was inspired by and cites Yuchun Lee and the following source:

Views: 1883

Tags: Advertising, Car Dealers, Facebook, Facebook Fans, How To, Marketing, Social Media, That Matter


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Comment by Timothy Martell on October 18, 2012 at 7:57am

Ralph, good content curation. I don't completely agree with many of Yuchun Lee's assertions, however. Also, I think that a lot of questions are raised without providing any real solutions. The idea that a Facebook fan outside a dealer's market has no value is simply ludicrous. What if someone from Phoenix, AZ just moved to Los Angeles? Most of his friends and family didn't move with him right? Won't he want to stay connected to people back home? Maybe he likes the interesting content shared by the Chevy dealer in Phoenix. And wouldn't that dealership want someone connected to so many people in their own backyard to share their content?

What if someone didn't just move? How many people in how many different parts of the country are you connected to, Ralph? Do most people who know you consider you an authority on the automotive community? Shouldn't every single dealership in the country want you as their fan?

The problem with trying to fit general Facebook strategies in to use for local car dealers is that they're just not like other businesses that use Facebook. They do not sell daily consumables. Facebook is a dream come true for Starbucks... Not so much for caterpillar heavy machinery...

You reference GM's inability to utilize the Facebook ads platform but you do not address the main reason for their abandonment of the platform which is click fraud associated with the near 90 million fake Facebook accounts. Some have even alleged that a group of rogue Facebook employee's played a role in that click fraud that lead to generating millions of dollars in revenue for Facebook while doing nothing for their clients.

Facebook's own statistics show that the overwhelming majority of users who like local businesses don't live in the market area of the local businesses they like. We live in a global economy. People know and influence people they've never even met in person. This old school 1960's thinking of putting up white picket fences just doesn't play out in the digital world we live in. 

My feeling on this post is that it smacks more of nostalgic politicking; appealing to the common sense thinking of the old guard rather than providing a solution that makes Facebook a more profitable platform for businesses.

Yes, it would be great if we could draw a 25 mile circle around the dealership and get everyone who lives their on Facebook to like us. Facebook Ads can be a tool to help facilitate that. Should dealers utilize an Ad's strategy? Maybe. It is relatively cheap and in spite of click fraud, most of what a dealer will get out of it are hyper relevant fans. 

It is when we speak in absolutes that we get ourselves in trouble. Your point doesn't only win if you find a way to completely discredit someone standing on the other side of the fence. There is value in what both approaches provide. But standing on a soap box and proclaiming that a person living outside the market area for a dealership has absolutely no value to that dealership just impugns the credibility of the rest of the argument, because it is simply untrue.

Comment by John Sternal on October 18, 2012 at 6:14am

Great insight, Ralph. Facebook will continue to evolve and be a powerful strategy for dealers but they absolutely need to think beyond the "like". It is so very compelling that a billion people are now on Facebook. Making it easy for them to get to know their dealer via their Facebook experience will prove to be a winning execution for dealers. Black Book has taken this to heart which is why they work with dealers to offer tools and information available on Facebook, mixed in with the right level of interaction, to show that higher sales and deeper relationships can be realized.

John Sternal

Comment by Tom Gorham on October 18, 2012 at 6:08am

Great article Ralph and so true.  Local reach is key.  If fans don't live within 100 miles of you, they are not good candidates for purchasing from you or using your service department.  When we started building our fan base, we did it using our own database and initially got about 2,000 fans.  I felt that was a good beginning.

I do like doing occassional sweepstakes for our fans because it creates excitement.  Some of those prizes are local in nature (White Sox tickets) and some are not (iPod Shuffles).  I don't mind sending a prize to someone in another state occassionally because their presence helps to creat more excitement on the page.

I also like what you said about Facebook targeted advertising.  It all makes sense!  Thank you!

Comment by pam myszkowski on October 18, 2012 at 4:57am

Great article

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