The Social Media Landscape for Car Dealerships
While social media marketing has been around and popular for years now, auto dealerships are uniquely positioned to leverage it. The auto market in the USA might be witnessing a slowdown due to obvious reasons (COVID-19 and its subsequent shutdowns).
But, as 2021 progresses, the market is rebounding with growth – there is unfulfilled demand from the previous year and the ongoing demand for the forthcoming year.
This is perhaps why the automotive industry is collectively increasing its digital ad spends for 2021 by 21% on an annual basis.
As one drills down further – this makes sense. Over 30% of car buyers are not aware of the exact model they would want to purchase when starting their buying process. Moreover, 95% of prospective car buyers will conduct their research online. So, it makes sense to invest your marketing budget online – because that is where a large proportion of your prospective leads are. That said and done, how do you as an automobile dealership create an impact with your online efforts when every other major brand is trying to do the same? This is where a strategy that dictates social media marketing for automotive dealerships can help you.
How Do You Define a Social Media Marketing Strategy?
Defining your social media marketing strategy can be the first step towards allocating your marketing dollars more efficiently. Hootsuite defines a social media marketing strategy as a document that details every primary goal, plan to achieve the goal, and metric to measure the goal for a given period.
Alongside these goals and the plan, you should have a detailed list of people and their responsibilities throughout the plan. This will save you from internal conflicts and execution problems.
You would be surprised to know how many campaigns are derailed because the right person with the right information was not available at the right time! That was easy.
Now, how do you get a preliminary idea that your strategy document is complete? It should have these traits:
- Long-Term: Generally, a strategy operates on a high level and instils some form of change in your planning. That is why it cannot last for a day or a week.
- Data-Driven: Lock the metrics of measurement and performance benchmarks before you roll out your strategy. This will help you revisit the plan and make iterations.
- Goal-Oriented: You can throw in all the buzzwords that you find. But, if your auto dealership social media marketing strategy is not yielding the results your business needs, it has no utility.
- Backed by a Budget: Once you have done the homework and laid down the foundation, make sure you can have your management team endorse the plan by approving your budget with enough room for revisions or scaling.
- Decisive but with Room for Adjustments: Your social media strategy should not be too broad or too specific. Fix the goal, the plan, and the budget to a large extent but have enough space to improvise and make tactical decisions.
Social media marketing is such a noisy topic that there is a lot of misinformation to sift out. None of these ideas, moves, or suggestions constitutes a social media marketing strategy. Do not confuse them for one.
- Using an up and coming social media platform.
- Hiring influencers.
- Conducting competition research.
- Boosting your campaign on social media.
- Using cookies on your website.
- Inorganic and Organic orthodoxy.
Some of these ideas are too basic and should be done within your preliminary planning for crafting a social media strategy. Now that we have cleared the air out on a strategy for social media marketing in the automotive industry, we can start building on the foundation with some tested ideas.
10 Automotive Social Selling Strategies for Results
Here are some recommended ideas. These have worked for other automotive brands and companies from similar product categories. You do not have to execute each one of them. Just find the one that fits your goals, optimize it, and scale it.
1. Annual Branded Content Calendar
Branded content is different from talking about offers, or scale of your products, or your after-sale services. The idea is to define a distinctive brand for your auto dealership. Several auto dealerships are nearly overshadowed by the brand they are selling. This works for the automotive brand, but the local buyers buy your brand as much as they are buying the globally recognized automotive brand you are selling.
So, begin with defining your brand’s distinctive but complementary qualities that can help your automotive dealership stand out. For instance – are you a third-generation family-owned business that has been in the same industry for decades? If you are selling a relatively newer brand, this can add tremendous value to your overall appeal. Or, do you offer great financing options for an inexpensive auto brand? It can help your buyers get the car for a meager actual cost.
Branded content should first establish what is your brand all about. Then, you can disseminate the idea with visually engaging mediums like videos, images, Google Display Network, etc.
2. Testimonial-Based Stories
A prospective buyer will spend nearly 14 hours online to conduct research before buying a car. You can provide her with brochures, offers, and every other major marketing collateral you have produced. But, alongside the raw data, buyers are also looking for social validation – that buying this car from this dealership is the conventionally right decision. And testimonials can be a great way to address this latent need.
All you have to do is hire some freelance video producers and ask some of your most loyal customers if they will be comfortable in sharing their experience on camera. Structure a questionnaire that highlights your USPs and get the videos edited. You can do this every month and build a compounding repository of trust-establishing testimonials.
3. Leverage Buyer Personas
If you have been running marketing campaigns for a while now, you must have worked on buyer personas. While these are used only to brainstorm and leverage the historical buyer data, they can help you find other similar profiles. And one place where people actively engage and provide more accurate information about their background is LinkedIn.
You can use the buyer personas and start focusing more on LinkedIn alongside other social media channels. If you have a large employee base, you can amplify the impact of this strategy by focusing on social selling for car dealerships. All you will need is a marketing platform designed to help you organize your messaging, and as soon as you post it on LinkedIn, you can get reposts, reactions, and shares from your employees.
You can also produce more organic content on LinkedIn and disseminate it using your employee’s profiles. You might be surprised to know that over 76% of your employees will be more than happy to do this for your dealership!
You might think – why put so much emphasis on LinkedIn? This is because the social media platform has exponentially higher conversion rates, even for inorganic content. LinkedIn conversion rate can be around 6% compared to the average conversion rate of approximately 0.7% on Google Display Network.
4. Multiplatform Distribution, One Message
From a distance, this strategy might seem like common sense. But, as you peel the layers, you will see the magic. The idea is to create one marketing message and keep it consistent across channels. However, you can change the order, timing, and frequency of posting to not resemble a spamming brand.
For instance – start communicating your offers on the platform where you have the widest audience. But, when you want more conversions, focus on a channel that helps you narrow your audience. This way, you treat each social media account as a separate entity.
5. Populate Search Results on Branded, Category, Problem, and Intent-Based Keywords
While Google Display Network is great only for brand awareness campaigns, the Google Search Network is an excellent option for providing critical information when prospective leads are still in the research phase.
Your goal is to be visible across the Google Search results whenever someone searches for your brand, the category, a problem that your dealership can solve, or even transactional information like pricing of a certain model. Most dealerships stop here. What you can do is – expand the content across other broad social media channels.
For instance, you can create posts on Facebook and Twitter providing information on search queries trending for the month in your vicinity. This way, all your automotive social selling can be based on relevance.
6. Video-Based Solutions
This particular strategy is more towards a pull-based marketing paradigm, unlike the other ‘push’ strategies. It means that you are trying to produce collateral that works like a magnet and attracts leads instead of pushing it through paid media spots. You can do this by focusing exclusively on the most significant and challenging problems faced by your customers.
Here is an example of how you can execute this – Dummies has posted a blog on how to change your car oil. The blog details a lot of information and tells people how can they save money with this DIY hack. Now, think for a minute – why can’t you produce a simple video where an engineer or mechanic from your dealership teaches people how to change engine oil?
If people are watching your videos when they are in dire need of changing engine oil, your strategy has worked since you have established trust.
7. Offer-Focused Campaigns
This is a plain-vanilla strategy but often does wonders for affordable, entry-level, and sometimes even mid range vehicles. Instead of looking at the product and trying to negotiate a price with the company, look at the total cost of ownership and provide offers to help people reduce such costs.
This video details how much a Lamborghini costs in a Canadian province. The overall costs can be as high as $3k to $4k a month in lease payments, servicing, and fuel, even as the car depreciates. Can you offer any value-added services that help your prospective owners lower the cost of ownership? For instance, if they take a longer lease, you can throw in free servicing, provide 24 x 7 servicing assistance, etc.
8. Freebies and Giveaways
The more you start focusing locally, the more value you will see in freebies and giveaways. The difference between the two is that freebies focus on ancillary products that might not be related to your core offering, whereas giveaways literally mean giving away your product to a few chosen customers.
Some car dealerships run elaborate contests and ask people to share posts across their profiles for a chance to win. This often is an ineffective strategy. Instead, focus on offering just one giveaway but make sure you document the process to the winner’s reaction. That way, you can earn more organic traction in spurts instead of getting it all at the beginning of the campaigns.
In terms of freebies, target them on small influencers who have started trending instead of giving them out to prospective customers on social media. Someone looking to buy a car might not be interested in a free bag, but giving a free bag to a small influencer can help you get more eyeballs, resulting in more sales.
9. Focus on Online Reputation Management
Does your escalation matrix include social media? Or are you redirecting everyone to book a call every time they face an issue? Solving customer problems as they occur is the first step towards comprehensive online reputation management. Instead of being dismissive or absent when customers complain on social media, make sure you appoint some employees every month to focus on such issues. If nothing, your employees can just focus on documenting all these complaints so your team can later look into them.
All you will need are a few extra hours and a tool to help you coordinate employee responses. And you can show prospects that you actually care about the customers, even after the car is delivered.
10. Become a PR Engine with a Vlogger Network
Vloggers and influences need more content, and you need more traction. When you mix both of them, you get the advantage of getting more brand mentions. Google’s research shows that test drive videos, in particular, have witnessed over 65% more traction in the last 2 to 3 years than in previous periods. People want to have precursory experience even before they take a test drive. Make sure you are well-connected with the local influencer network and providing vehicles to produce test drive videos.
In Conclusion: One Secret for Amplifying Your Social Media Strategy
There are some hygiene practices like maintaining consistency, using professional designers, and measuring success – but those are the basics you can easily cover. Whenever you focus on the strategic front, make sure you balance between simplicity in execution and memorability of the campaign. At the end of the day, your goal should be to lower the cost of acquisition or augment the LTV of each customer.
One secret that can help you achieve this is an employee endorsement on social media. People trust others who are closer to the matter and do not have a conflict of interest. If your employees can even tacitly talk about your dealership, you will keep getting mentioned on social media networks. While you focus on this, it is critical to maintain consistency across your narrative on social media. This is what leads to authentic and effective automotive social selling. With Inrelay, achieving this consistency has become easier than ever.
Inrelay lets you:
- Create different content categories that help you disseminate branded content and help employees share content with one click.
- Invite your employees in bulk and save time & resources that would otherwise go in emailing, responding, and tracking their shares.
- Schedule your posts across social media platforms in advance to maintain your content calendar without having to allocate manual person-hours.
You can build a trustworthy and humane automotive dealership brand trusted by your target audience and leverage the most important element of your marketing capital – your employees.