Automotive Digital Marketing

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Social Media Marketing for Car Dealers; Inhouse, Outsource or Hybrid?

The argument for social media as a highly effective automotive marketing tool is not new and I'm certain we don't need to waste energy or bandwidth defending it. The prediction that Facebook will be the most dominant online property of 2018 - even more pervasive than Google - should tip you over the edge if you're still pessimistic.

The discussion you should be having is who should manage it...

  • Should you attempt to do it in-house at the dealership level?
  • Should your dealership's advertising agency drive it?
  • Your OEM's PR agency?
  • The OEM recommended digital/social marketing services provider?
  • Your 19-year-old nephew and entrepreneur?


Social media and integrated programs that have a large social component became a key focus for the team I built and launched in 2010, ADP Social Media Reputation Management. The focus was so acute that we refined our structure and costing systems to accommodate the future waves of automotive social media marketing and reputation management innovation... Which has since proven to be a successful strategy for the car business.

Social media programs do not command the same budget allocations as larger advertising programs, but they have high value for automotive marketers. In response to this, we created new jobs for Social Media specialists that understand social platforms, PR and each dealer client's brands and marketing objectives. Our social media team managed all social-media channels for our clients that included constant monitoring, copywriting and specific online daily practices.

Social media also demands fast, inexpensive - and authentic - content different to traditional marketing communications. Production values are not as refined. The point of view has moved from corporate to sociable. It happens in real time and is ongoing. In many cases, this work doesn't require a creative brief or the scrutiny of a creative director. Social media content also requires the ongoing production of cost-effective video and audio that is then syndicated across multiple channels and may have a short lifespan.

Social media strategies require writers comfortable with generating lots of content in a short time - unlike the traditional copywriter who is strong on concept, headlines, and short punchy copy. Video and audio producers who can record, shoot and edit independently with a minimum amount of creative and administrative support are also vital suppliers. In addition, many dealer groups and car companies still require the input from a creative director, strategist, and strong OEM agency account people that provide smart strategic direction based on brand values and automotive consumer insights.

The challenge with new digital strategies is maintaining your OEM and dealership brand values. You're mistaken if you think you can apply everything you know about branding to social media. So much information about your brand and the behavior of your target communities is visible online…and it's never static. Being brand focused means providing the right space, information, and experiences - aligned with both your brand values and your target audience communities. And then be vigilant in observing what happens next. The courageous automotive social media marketer will engage and interact with authenticity and a massive focus on speed.

Important tips to remember when planning an automotive social media strategy and implementation:

  1. Be clear about your objectives
  2. Be clear about your measurables
  3. Select the right suppliers and partners who understand your dealership's regional brand, can generate fresh content and are comfortable in the social media environment
  4. Strive to include a mobile component remembering that Facebook has over 100 million mobile users
  5. Remain dealership focused while letting go and enabling the community to take a life of its own
  6. Be actively involved and respond in real time all the time.
  7. When selecting a marketing services provider to lead your social marketing program, be sure they have a good understanding of the methods, technology, and that they are devoted brand ambassadors with an in-depth understanding of your overall marketing and communications plan. Best is an agency that integrates PR, media planning, and online marketing as they will be well equipped to handle all social media activities and empowered to act with authenticity and immediacy.

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Tags: Car, Dealers, Hybrid?, Inhouse, Marketing, Media, Outsource, Social, for, or

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