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Car Dealer Social Media Basics: Facebook

As car dealers become more interesting in using social media to promote their web presence, the first site that normally comes to mind is Facebook. With nearly 300 million users worldwide and close to 25% of ALL page views on the Internet attributed to Facebook, it's easy to see why businesses see it as a lucrative online venue for driving traffic, leads, and sales.

This is one part of a five part series that will be posted on various sites. It covers the basics: a 30,000 foot view of the various social media sites as well as easy, practical ways that the sites can be used.

Why Do Car Dealers Need Facebook?

Beyond the obvious upside of an amazing user-base, Facebook offers something that no other website in history has ever offered: truly personal connectivity. While other sites have tried to get the masses to universally accept and promote their sites, Facebook is the first to succeed at getting users to be truly passionate advocates in the millions. Many who gets started on Facebook become instantly surprised at the connections they are able to make with former acquaintances, old friends, and lost family members.

What does that have to do with the car business? I'll explain shortly.

Accounts vs Pages

An entire class could be held regarding the best ways to use Facebook to promote your dealership. For now, we'll focus on the basics. If you don't have a personal Facebook page now, it's important for you to create one now. You may feel the urge to create a profile for the dealership only. This would be a mistake.

One important rule that Facebook tries to enforce is that profiles are for real people only. Pages are for businesses. It's that simple. You register an account for yourself and you use this account to create a page for your dealership.

There are those who have registered their account as their dealership. These accounts will eventually be deleted and banned. It can happen in days or it could take months, but eventually someone will report these accounts and have them banned.

The other thought that crosses many minds is the idea of creating a business "version" of yourself and a personal "version". Facebook does not allow this either. If caught, both could be lost.

Friends, Fans, and Logistics

A blog post is not enough space to discuss the strategies behind building fans, finding friends, and the logistics involved with putting together a strong fan page. These advanced topics are best discussed one on one (feel free to contact me with questions) or in a classroom setting (such as at the Automotive Marketing Boot Camp described below).

Rather than discuss these mundane topics, let's go straight into the important aspects...

Strategies on What to Post and How to Engage

The personal nature of Facebook is both a liability and a strength for Facebook as a marketing tool. Spam is not tolerated and will result in a loss of fans. If your goal is to flood your page with inventory and specials, you won't be very successful.

Your goal should be to promote the quality of your dealership and highlight news, events, and most importantly PEOPLE. If people want to see your inventory, they know exactly where to find it. When they go to your Facebook page, they want to see humans engaging with other humans. They want to know that you are communicating with your fans, that you are posting interesting information regarding your dealership and community, and that you are offering things that are related to the humanity of your dealership.

In other words, they want to see engagement.

For some people, that makes total sense. For others, it's often difficult to get them to understand the dynamic that happens on Facebook. The best advice that anyone can get is to learn by experience. Look at what other Facebook fan pages are posting. Check out car dealers, local businesses, large corporations, publications -- those who have successful fan pages are engaging their fans.

You can and should do the same. Luckily, engagement is easier to see in practice and understand through application than most would know. There are thousands of ways to engage with your fans. Find whatever fits best with your personality and the personality of your dealership in real life.

If you are known for funny, offbeat commercials, stick with that concept. Post these videos, images, and quirky posts on your page regularly. If you're an upscale dealership and want a more corporate engagement, there's nothing wrong with that either. Just try to not let your page get too dry or your fans won't be impressed.

Reply to those who comment, like, or dislike what you post. Remember, engagement requires more than one person.

Upcoming events, industry or OEM news, local area news -- it's all fair game and can help you participate with sincerity.

Facebook is More than Just Your Page

The biggest mistake any business can make is focusing strictly on their own fan page. Remember, chances are strong that many of the people buying a car from you today are active users on Facebook. Don't miss the opportunity to let them do the marketing for you. How?

It's called pride. When people buy a car, they are usually proud of their purchase and want their friends and family to know about it.

When your sales team delivers a vehicle, they should (almost) always ask if their customer is on Facebook. Have a camera ready and ask, "If you'd like we can let your friends see your new car. I can take your picture if you want to post it to your wall!"

Guess what. Most won't, That's okay. Some will.

The goal is to get Sally to post a picture of herself smiling ear to ear standing next to her new Altima Coupe (hopefully with your sign int he background if you can easily arrange it) with the message, "I just bought this at [dealership name]. How do I look?"

When the conversation centers around Sally, when the focus is on her and her new Altima, your dealership is getting free advertising. Most dealers have heard of "word of mouth" marketing. Everyone has heard this statistic or that one about how reputations are made or broken based upon experiences and conversations.

Facebook is the new "word of mouth" that very few dealers are taking advantage of, sadly.

So Many Other Strategies

Again, this post is not the venue for the amount of data that needs to be discussed regarding Facebook. We still need to discuss getting fans, setting up a proper page, engaging with customers, advertising directly, and a slew of other strategies. The best time and place will be the day prior to NADA 2010 in Orlando during the Automotive Marketing Boot Camp being held by me, Paul Rushing, and Brian Pasch.

For now, you can continue to the next part of this series, Car Dealer Social Media Strategies.

Views: 1298

Tags: car, dealer, facebook, media, social

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Comment by James Easter on August 6, 2010 at 7:33pm
Reading this late,but Love the post J.D., and appreciate the informational reply posts from Ralph. Thanks guys!
Comment by Ralph Paglia on November 15, 2009 at 10:51am
Comment by Ralph Paglia on November 15, 2009 at 10:46am
JD - I would love to get your take on the use of DealerRater.com Certified Dealer applications built to the Facebook API and App Standards. For example, I used the DealerRater Classified Ads Facebook App to create a tab on the Mazda Community Fan page in Facebook which now displays CardinaleWay Mazda's inventory which is updated daily from the same data feed that goes to Dealer.com for the store's eCommerce site... Is this something that will be a plus, or do you think it is too commercial for Facebook and may alienate consumers?

I was hoping that since it is a tab application and does not put updates or comments into each Fan's wall page, that it would be innoffensive while providing a cool tool for the Fans that click on the "Classified Ads" tabe... What do you think?

CardinaleWay Mazda Inventory Listed in Mazda Community Fan Page Tab as Classified Ads
Comment by J.D. Rucker on November 14, 2009 at 12:38am
Thanks for all the comments, guys! Social media (and Facebook in particular) are becoming integral parts of a car dealer's Internet marketing strategy. It's something that everyone should look into if they haven't already (or of they have tried with limited success). The prospects are huge.
Comment by Keith Shetterly on November 11, 2009 at 12:40pm
Excellent post!!!
Comment by Chris Whitehead on November 10, 2009 at 12:09pm
Great Post - It's interesting how some big media are still trying to fight this groundswell. In an October 16, 2009 article in the Globe and Mail, Marc Tellier, CEO of YPG which ownes Trader.ca and Yellow Pages, speaks about social media;

The last time Marc Tellier used his directory was three weeks ago.

“Air duct cleaners,” he says, flipping the tissue-thin pages of the book on his boardroom desk. Finding someone to clean your ducts, the cost comparisons, the scent of newsprint – none of this is sexy, he admits. But it works.

“Could I have solved that problem on Facebook? I don’t think so,” he says. “This is a growth industry (speaking of print classifieds)… The business is remarkably healthy.”

So I tried this, I posted "looking for a duct cleaner" on my facebook and I'm sure you can guess what the results were. Not only did I find local duct cleaners but I was able to get recommendations from those I trust..friends and family.
Comment by Ralph Paglia on November 10, 2009 at 11:31am
Oh, one more thing, if you download my PPT file from Digital Dealer 7 you will see that there is a section titled "What About Facebook" which has a series of screen captures showing how the Facebook Advertising tool works and then the reports and campaign performance results from two actual dealership Facebook ad campaigns. Hope this is helpful!
Comment by Ralph Paglia on November 10, 2009 at 11:29am
@ JD - Great post because as Facebook becomes more and more the "Ground Zero" where so many Americans spend hours of their online time, the dealers who learn how to best represent themselves within this social network will achieve a competitive advantage. The advantage that Facebook savvy dealers will achieve could be proportionate to the amount of time that their car buyers and service customers spend within the Facebook network. I have been using both network placement buys and Facebook's own proprietary Digital Advertising tool to place dealer ads and create campaigns for over a year and have had generally good results. With Facebook, we see a much higher impact from the messaging and the advertising's designated landing page than, for example, in Behavioral Targeting campaigns across networks of several hundred websites. For example; advertising campaigns that point to a dealer's Facebook Fan page and simply ask Facebook members to become a "Fan" of the dealer so they can receive special coupons, promos, advance previews of new models and invitations to lifestyle events, such as a special "Over The Line" seating area at the San Diego Fiesta Island based OTL tournaments, work much better than traditional "Request A Quote" or "See Our Huge Inventory" types of campaign messaging...

The other aspect of Facebook Advertising Tool built campaigns is their Cost per Click (CPC) and Cost per Thousand Impressions (CPM) performance and yield, which is a lot better than Search Advertising at this time. Of course, this is probably the results of Facebook currently having less than 1% of the participation by Advertisers that Google Adwords has, so the current "bargain" that Facebook yields in advertising costs will most likely dissipate as more and more advertisers use the Facebook proprietary advertising system.

Yet, even when the time comes when cost parity is achieved, there are several advantages to using Facebook Advertising... Not the least of which is the added flexibility of two types of display advertising formats, including the ability to use an image, relative to the flexibility of Google's "Haiku-like" 25-35-35 character space text ads on search engines. Beyond just advertising format flexibility, Facebook has many more consumer targeting advantages over Google Adwords as well... It is not difficult to target customers for a specific ad by their employer, exact age, neighborhood, schools they attended, sex, marital status and income levels... We have found the employer based targeting particularly effective... AND, if you are driving Fan page members, those people who become a fan are then removed from further advertising impressions!

All together, the Facebook Advertising tools are a compelling value to most dealers... Of course, advertising is not really part of a true Social Media Marketing program, but it can be used to support a dealer's social media marketing efforts, and it is still what most dealers do to get the word out about their sales, promos, etc. and the Facebook Advertising tool is worthy of consideration when a dealer divies up their monthly ad budgets... Or, just have me and my crew handle it for them!

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