Professional Community for Car Dealers, Automotive Marketers and Sales Managers
A couple of years ago, Susanna Gebauer was a total social media fool. I mean, she registered on Facebook because her brother Jonathan and her founded an online based company – everybody was already there and talking, and she did not know how it all worked. She got a personal Twitter account to give their newly created company account a first follower; She had no clue that her personal account would fast outgrow her company's Twitter account and become one of their most valuable social media assets.
April Ancira, of the Ancira Auto Group based in San Antonio, Texas had a similar experience, which began in 2009 when Ralph Paglia was brought in to help her 9 dealerships create a well defined and implemented social media marketing strategy. During the process that Paglia helped to implement, April had the usual and prerequisite Twitter account in her actual name, as did each of the Ancira General Managers, but April wanted a Twitter account that nobody would know was her... So she could be herself, without the mandatory political correctness normally required of a GM and member of the owner's family. So she created "GirlWithAHemi" since she was the GM of Ancira Chrysler at the time. Her "nom de plume" became her primary activity profile on Twitter and has since led to many sales, an avid fan base, free advertising deals and being invited to host her own radio talk show on a local San Antonio radio station about social media for small business owners.
Susanna Gebauer and her team desperately lacked knowledge, so they talked to many people, who they admired and thought had it all figured out, that way, what she should do and how on social media would be done right. That was in 2010. She got some great tips and funny hacks, like clicking on user profiles in XING (the German language equivalent to LinkedIn); that one really worked because Xing shows their users the visitors to the profiles, people got curious and we got their attention. Not a real strategy but it got us some first users for our startup.
But between all the crazy, sometimes working and sometimes total screwed advice, there were some social media tips that are still floating around today, years after we all first started hearing them. Somehow, many self proclaimed "social media gurus" and experts keep these tips afloat and listening to them can easily break down your dealership's social media efforts, resulting in nothing gained and sometimes plenty lost.
1. Your Dealership Needs to be Everywhere!
When we did not know how to do it right and we had no knowledge about specific characteristics of each social network to focus upon, we tried that: "Being Everywhere". The result is inevitable: Nothing... (crickets)
Instead of trying to be everywhere all at once without getting at least one social network right, your efforts are not going to pay off. But the advice still runs around that more networks also mean more success. The problem with this type of social media marketing strategy for a car dealership, is that you have limited resources and there are a never ending supply of social networks online and more popping up daily. With new networks and channels springing up from the ground everywhere you will soon feel like a hamster in a wheel and still not see results.
I have even seen these so called "experts“ recommending tools they learned I had used to secure dealership names on multiple social media networks, and advised dealers to signup and participate in "all“ social networks at the same time... Sorry, but that is total bullshit advice! Each and every network has its own strengths, areas of focus, tweaks needed and member specialties, none of them "work“ simply by being there and starting to post random content.
I have also been asked by dealer participants in one of my workshops, why we would not work more with videos on Facebook. While we would love to do that, and really hope to find the time for doing so, the question in itself is a bit like going around and asking a lawyer why he is not taking more cases to the US Supreme Court or any other random legal matter. The answer is simply: Because dealers and their people can’t be everything or everywhere at the same time.
If you are responsible for social media marketing for a car dealership, then you need to focus on your dealership's objectives and set result priorities. Then, identify the top ten social media venues relevant to your region, brands and targeted demographics. Without this degree of conscious focus, your efforts are doomed to fail.
Bad social media advice: "Put your dealership everywhere".
2. The More Your Dealership Posts... The Better
While many social media newbies struggle to find enough stuff to post in social media the advice is still out there that you need to post as often as possible. Then followers, fans and subscribers see their accounts spit out seemingly random updates in high frequency, and followers simply have to mute them, or they will drown in the superfluous and uninteresting updates being posted.
Know what you and your dealership is about and what topics your audience is primarily interested in, before you go for posting more and more "stuff". And when you have your topics straight, measure how many updates your audience likes. There is definitely a “too much” at some point.
Bad social media advice: "The More You Post, The Better"
3. Automation is Always a Bad Idea
We have all been warned at some point, that we should not automate our social media accounts, or people would not follow or respond. Interestingly enough, most of the time this kind of advice comes from accounts with a few hundred followers. They have no clue what it is like to handle several accounts with thousands of followers. They have no clue how it is to run social media accounts besides a full-time job. For many car dealers and the marketing professionals that work for them, social media post scheduling and engagement automation seems like a gift from automotive marketing heaven!
Social Media marketing automation can be the solution to many of a car dealership's marketing problems. If your dealership has an active blog, Facebook Pages or Twitter profiles and you have other tasks to do, like selling cars and you want your social media accounts to stay active, that's when automated and scheduled posts can really help.
The challenge that dealership resources have is that you should never automate just because you can, even though you do not know why you are automating. Figure out what works best for your dealership's social media accounts and then look for a reasonable way to use the automation available in that specific network to free up your time for all the other tasks you must get done.
Bad social media advice: "Automation is always bad"
4. Automation is the Solution to Everything
Yes, it is true that automation makes life easier after the initial pain that setting it up entails... It can be very tempting to automate everything that has the capability to be automated, and you can do so much with automation. But there are many pitfalls unforeseen in the beginning, and actually some automation comes with genuine dangers from liability and security breaches. Automating anything before you have done it manually or fully understand the feature, can easily result in a disaster that makes all your efforts elsewhere seem meaningless and trivial. Advising newbies to automate as much as they can is such bad guidance that it leaves us speechless. To harvest the fruits of social media, you have to understand, try things, measure and constantly adjust what you do. Automating may sound like a good idea (and often times it truly is), but it will backfire if you do it blindly at every opportunity without walking through each step and assessing the risk points.
Bad social media advice: "Automation is the solution to everything"
5. Connect All Your Dealership's Social Media Accounts
If you have ever had to respond to complaints from your friends and business associates about receiving the same posts over and over again, then you already know that connecting various accounts and profiles can be like automation run amok... Recently, I thought the times of spam from connected accounts with an endless mix of tweets, pins and Instagram posts were long over. But NO... there recently seems to be a revival of this irritating and counter productive behavior. Be careful with which accounts and social media profiles you connect, don't make the mistake of punishing those who follow or friend your dealership.
All networks have their own posting schedules and formats for a reason. If I want to see your tweets I will follow you on Twitter and if I love your pictures I will find you on Instagram or Pinterest.
If you are not willing to invest the time in all the networks, simply focus on one or two. Tweets on Facebook will simply not do the trick.
Bad social media advice: "Connect all your accounts and save time"
6. Hashtags, Hashtages and More Hashtags!
Again, before hashtagging everything, make sure you understand how to use them in the different networks. While Instagram will certainly need some more hashtags, a tweet with more than one or two hashtags becomes more or less unreadable and will get you less attention.
Hashtags are a clear case of "more is not necessarily better“ and “know the rules before you start.”
7. Never use DM s on Twitter in Marketing
(Automated) direct messages seem to be more of a "create hate“ factor than supportive of a loving relationship. But declaring them spam or something you should never do is simply short-sighted and limiting.
I have been told a long time ago that I should not use automated direct messages because people would not follow me if I do. Interestingly enough that happened when I was nearing 100k followers on Twitter and usually the people telling me this had a couple hundred followers.
The truth is while we were still running exploreB2B, Twitter direct messages where an awesome marketing channel for us. We obviously found a message that people did not see as spam, but we gave them something they were looking for and our conversion rates were outstanding.
Direct Messages can work wonders as a marketing channel but you have to be careful with the messaging or your message will drown in all the other sales messages. Any automated DM that you put into place has to deliver "Value" to the intended recipient... If the value delivered is questionable or relevant to a small minority, then don't set it up to be sent.
The same goes for a lot of other “never do this” advice. It may just be the solution to all your marketing questions if you get it right. Never say never too fast!
8. Tag the Automotive Influencers in Your Region
Yes, influencer marketing is one of several new hypes and buzzwords being used by various solution providers when they visit your dealership and pitch their wares to you. But there is certainly more to influencer marketing than tagging people in your tweets or images on Facebook.
To be honest, if you tag me in your spammy messages the best that can happen is that I ignore you, I may even take the time and report you as what you are: a spammer.
9. "Always Respond to Negative Comments" or the equally ridiculous "Do Not Respond to Negative Comments"
In the past, I have tried to take social media trolls and haters seriously, do it long enough and you will come to realize that it is a bad idea. Don’t do it! You can never win the debate. The thing with negative comments is: You can take them seriously and sometimes you should. But there also are times when it is better to ignore them. In the end, it is a gut feeling that will help you decide how to react. Yes, there are times when you should, maybe even must respond to negative comments and posts, but use your head and the instincts that got you to where you are today in determining whether or not to respond to post, negative or otherwise.
You can never get it right when you make an "always" or "never" recommendation for everybody. That is life!
10. Get Started Now, Your Strategy Can Come Later
Starting social media marketing without the slightest clue about how and what you want to achieve means you are headed straight for huge frustration. Believe me, we have been there.
It’s not that your strategy needs to be absolutely right on and goal-setting-getting right from the start, but you need to be clear about what you are doing and where you are headed in order to figure out if it works for your dealership and when exactly is it not working. Only then can you analyze, adjust and eventually achieve what you are looking for.
Starting without a strategy makes it virtually impossible to achieve anything worth your efforts.
Bad social media advice: "Get started, strategy comes later"
11. Get an Intern, no need for an expert
I know that money is scarce when you are starting out. But I also know that you need results – fast. Hiring someone who knows the same, or less than you (=nothing) is dangerous. Yes, it can work in the long run if the person is willing to learn. However, for a car dealership to hand over their marketing execution to an intern is a very dangerous move. Because once your intern knows what he/she is doing, you will be left right where you started, when your intern leaves for a better job.
The nice thing about social media marketing is: You can learn it, too – and you can achieve something with social media even if you do not have the time to do it full time. Plus your dealer's personality and reputation in the community has the power to give your social media marketing and branding an extra push.
You need to pay respect to your marketing...
You need to pay to respect your marketing!
12. Social Media Is Facebook, Everything Else is Redundant
This may not be an automotive industry problem, but I see this and similar strategies all too often with dealership clients. Everybody who knows how to set up a Facebook fan page and a Facebook ad campaign calls themselves the dealership's Social Media Manager. They openly admit that they "don't get Twitter“ and that "Pinterest is only for businesses that work a lot with pictures, right"? Yes, there are people responsible for, and getting paid to manage dealership social media marketing initiatives who don't have a clue what social media marketing entails...
What a Bummer.
Facebook may be a great component for your social media marketing, but so may Twitter, Instagram, Slideshare, Blogger, YouTube, Vimeo, Wordpress or many other social media channels you can name drop.
For many of us, it was not Facebook in the beginning; it was MySpace or Twitter. If we had followed advice we would have wasted a ton of money on acquiring Facebook fans for nothing – we did some of that anyways before we figured out that our money was better spent elsewhere.
Social Media equals Facebook, everything else is for p****** – really?
13. Social Media is the new email
Have you heard recently that „email is dead“ and social media is the new email? Well, whoever told you that is an idiot. Social Media is great, and it is especially great to get subscribers for your email list.
We are social media marketers, but marketing does not stop at social media. You need to put it in relationship with your other marketing assets. And sure one of your most valuable assets is your list of targeted email subscribers.
It still holds true: The money is in the list – at least if you did not buy it but earned it.
It still holds true: The money is in the list
14. Keep your personality out of the equation
This advice is kind of contradictory in itself. After all social media is about being social even if we use it for marketing. Once you have a huge audience, you may get off with being automated and neutral, but to build it you have to show who you are and build a relationship.
Many social media mrketing newbies are afraid of showing personality, because it makes you vulnerable. But it is also what makes you unique and stand out. Simply keep in mind, that social media is kind of a smaller picture of the world. You will never be friends with or liked by everyone. If you come across people who do not like your personality, move on and connect with people who appreciate who you are. But a lot of people will like your BECAUSE of your personality.
15. Post great content and get people to engage with your updates and you will get more fans/followers
We have been there and done that. Posting great content and trying to engage with people – and waiting for some followers and fans to flock to our accounts. Most of the time, it will not work like that simply because when you are starting out, your following is by far too small to make it spread and no one will see all your efforts to connect.There is some bad social media advice out there. Some so called experts keep these social media tips afloat, listening to them can easily break your success
You have two options: either actively make your account being noticed on the social network – it can be but does not have to be via ads – or get famous in another way outside of social media and use your fame to grow your accounts – that is what celebrities do.
16. Only post once a day (Twitter) or three times a week (Facebook)
Most people who cannot make social media work for their business post not often enough. One tweet per day is almost like not tweeting at all which is as good as invisible. And posting every other week on Facebook is basically the same.
It is not all about posting more and more all the time. You have to figure out what your audience wants – and find stuff to post that your audience likes. If you have nothing to say, then do not say anything. If you have value to share, your audience is going to like some more of it.
17. Be very careful what you say – it never gets deleted
We have heard this often, and we have seen what comes of it: People who are too afraid of saying the wrong thing so they end up saying nothing.
You are allowed to have an opinon and a voice in social media, simply keep in mind that you are still talking to people. They have feelings and a right to their own opinion. Stay polite and do not get offensive – and you will be ok. You got along all your life outside of social media; you know how to talk to people!
Susanna Gebauer started this post as a small piece for that weekend – obviously, she got a lot more bad social media advice along the way than she expected.
The main thing you should take away from this post is:
Listen to advice, but do not believe everything. Some advice is simply bad and some tips may be right for some situations but may not apply to you.
If in doubt, just try it out and measure your outcome. That is the best answer you can get to the question: should I or should I not.
This article was proofread and edited by Susanna Gebauer with the help of software from Grammarly. She recommends that if you are blogging in English and cannot afford a professional editor, Try Grammarly Now! It rocks.
Written by Susanna Gebauer and edited by Ralph Paglia