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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: 1022

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


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Comment by Amanda S. on August 3, 2011 at 3:05pm
Want some great (FREE) ideas of how you can take advantage of social media marketing for your dealership?  Download this free guide!
Comment by Tom Gorham on July 30, 2011 at 8:01am
Thanks Kathi, I really liked the video!
Comment by Kathi Kruse on July 29, 2011 at 6:02pm
You all might enjoy this: Social Media ROI - video comedy from my friend Erik Qualman (@equalman) at Socialnomics
Comment by Tom Gorham on July 29, 2011 at 11:08am
Kathi, you're absolutely right.  A friend of mine, Keith Shetterly likes to say the "I" in ROI stands for "Investment" and there's not always an immediate return on investments.  You need a long term strategy that embraces Social Media because it is an investment.  You are investing in your customers, your reputation, and your future.  Word-of-mouth advertising takes an investment and you don't always see the immediate and measurable return.  Social Media is not the large investment people used to put into traditional advertising,  it's just one more piece of customer service, customer relations, customer retention, and reputation management.
Comment by Mark Tewart on July 29, 2011 at 8:13am
I agree with everything you say Kathi except for the why the emphasis on ROI now part. The agencies never mentioned ROI because they did not want to be held accountable. It was super important then but it wasn't being done. That was a mistake then and now. Every channel of marketing could and should contain ROI and or an ROI mindset. Having an ROI mindset does not mean that you don't engage in social media it just means that you do it with a plan and use it with intentional congruence. ROI and social media do not have to be mutually exclusive. Think about how you can build in measurable components to your social media and what the "NEXT STEPS" are. Social media just for the sake of being social will not bring the the best results. Once again, this all just opinion. NOBODY has the sacred key for social media. We are all just learning. If someone professes to have all the exact right and wrongs about social media I would suggest you run for the hills because they are getting ready to take your money. Great comments and ideas folks. Best wishes and good selling!
Comment by Charles Kim on July 29, 2011 at 7:56am
Great points Tim...that is the point I raise time and time again...ROI, be it brand awareness, brand equity, or quality sales opps. A dealer has so many dollars available to spend in marketing and advertising in a given months, and (hopefully) a well-thought out marketing and brand strategy. They have to spend it on the highest ROI marketing opps available to execute their plan/strategy. Social media is a low/negative ROI opp...not just for dealers. And regarding a coffee pot, that is not a marketing/advertising expense. However, you actually can calculate an ROI for it (I actually did this at our store for a specific reason) and trust me, it has a very high ROI for such a small expense...=)
Comment by Kathi Kruse on July 29, 2011 at 7:42am

I have to chime in here one more time just to speak to the subject of "Social Media ROI". I have spent career in the Southern California car biz, 95% of that time managing dealerships. I can tell you that the phrase "ROI" never came up before about dealership marketing where I come from.  Mostly because you sat with the rep, figured out what cars you were going to put in the ad that week, and then promoted the hell out them.  You had sales meetings to pump everyone up and then worked every deal that came through the door.  On Monday, you looked at your numbers and tweaked your next week's ads.  Trying to get my staff to source where people heard about the store was like asking for their first born child.

So, why is ROI such a sticking point now? Because it's an excuse to discount Social marketing. Those that fear something always come up with their "good reasons" not to go further. I say go for it guys and gals--stay where you are and become extinct.

Here's the thing peeps, people don't want to buy cars the way they used to. They like referrals from their friends and family. They spend 11 hours online researching and they go to Social networks to start conversations about where they'll buy their next car.  They visit ratings sites (some of those are Social too!) and see what others say.  It's how the customer is buying today.  Not meeting them where they are (online, Social sites) is the equivalent of watching them walk on the lot and not upping them.

Social Media is simply a tool. It's up to you to supply the strategy. If you're not where your customer is, starting conversations around your brand, then someone else will be. Like Brian Solis say, "Engage or die".

Comment by Mark Tewart on July 29, 2011 at 6:54am
Social Media is a communication and marketing channel that has the potential for interaction which makes it potentially very strong. Everything we do can and should have "Intentional Congruence" to other things we do. Everything we do should have an ROI mindset. Good post and comments by everyone. Good job!
Comment by Timothy Martell on July 29, 2011 at 6:41am

Tom, I agree with most of your rant, but when it comes to Social, it seems NO ONE wants to talk about ROI. Except me... I guess because I have it. I agree with the coffee scenario and that there are many things we do because it is the right thing to do and we can't put a hard number to them in terms of ROI. But Social isn't one of those things.


With ANY form of media, you will never have 100% accurate ROI. There will always be some gray area and just because there is gray area doesn't mean you shouldn't participate. But most of what I have heard from early social disciples amounts to kumbayah and fairy dust. I half expected a return of the hippie movement they way many of these "social guru's" talk about how to "do social".


It's one thing not to worry about the ROI on coffee, and quite another when it comes to something that requires the time, commitment and resources to run an effective social media campaign. It isn't free. And something that demands the attention and payroll of someone with the skills to understand how to effectively execute and maintain a successful ongoing social media strategy DEMANDS at least SOME level of accountability. Not s'mores and kumbayah...


Tom I'll see your rant and raise 1 soap box!

Comment by Tom Gorham on July 28, 2011 at 5:37pm

I love talking about ROI because I love talking about customer service and retention.  What is the ROI of a coffee pot in your waiting room?  Coffee's not cheap.  What is your rate of return on each pot of coffee?  Do you have those figures handy?  Do you spend more than $100 a month on coffee?  Why do you do it?  Do you give away a free oil change when someone buys a car? 


It's nice to measure things, and you do when you can.  Some things seem ephemeral but you know they have a return.  I remember when every salesperson joined the Lion's Club or some similar club.  What was the ROI?  And what's the ROI of good will or supporting the local Little League team?

Having an occassional sweepstakes, and I'm not talking big money here, is not a slippery slope.  It creates excitement among your followers.  If you give away a $30 iPod Shuffle, do you really need to demand an ROI?  Maybe you have the wrong idea as to how to create relationships.


I put up a photo of a new customer and their new car and immediately get others telling that customer congratulations.  I mention that customer's salesperson, and I see remarks like "There's Dan the Man, the best car salesman ever!"  No these are not people who work for our company.  These are customers... friends.  And when they offer such comments, they are boosting our reputation and spreading the word to their friends and family.


Can you get sales from Social Media?  You not only can get referrals, but direct results.  Can you source it? Sometimes.  I was asked to get rid of a New Commercial Vehicle that had been our lot forever.  I posted it as an Xtreme Deal on our blog, then as a link on Facebook and Twitter leading to the blog article.  The article linked to the detail page for that vehicle on our website.  That vehicle, which had sat on our lot for almost two years, sold within a week.  My friends, you have to learn the art of being subtle if you want to sell socially.  Don't you think?


I know that Social Media is new and there are no experts to guide us (although some very knowledgeable people like Ralph).  Best practices seem to be in the eye of the beholder in this new media.  ROI seems elusive.  So it did for the Internet 10-15 years ago.  There are still those who would bemoan that the Internet has destroyed the auto business, rather than look for new ways to be successful.  Borders is out of business but Amazon rules.  Sometimes it feels that history is repeating itself with Social Media.  Sorry for the rant.

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