The experts agree: a good social media strategy promotes your dealership’s image as a friendly neighborhood store. Right? Or maybe it displays all of your most recent offers with complete vehicle information. No, the absolute best strategy boosts helpful content to show that your staff are experts in the automotive field.
The truth is, all of these conflicting opinions are correct. Social media, in all of its forms and presentations, has the power to speak to all of your shoppers, whether they are narrowing down their search to one or two dealerships, or barely even began thinking about their next car. The ever-growing capabilities of social media provide dealerships with the opportunity to create content that will engage shoppers at all stages of the funnel.
Is social media all it’s cracked up to be?
In short, yes. Almost one quarter of car buyers used social media as a shopping source. That number is only rising, with the growth of other social media channels including Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. According to one study commissioned by Twitter, 1 in 4 new car buyers used Twitter during their buying process.
And dealerships can get a lot out of social media– according to Unified, the click through rate on automotive ads is double that of the average Facebook ad. This means that car shoppers are even more receptive to advertising than shoppers in other industries. Above advertisements, car shoppers also rely on online reviews more than the average shopper. 72% would even drive 20-60 miles to a dealership with good reviews on their social media pages.
Facebook recently went so far as to announce that it would be creating a dedicated section of its Marketplace to car sales. The company recognizes that customers are turning to social media not only for information on cars, but actually to find their next purchase. While most shoppers have not moved to social to complete their purchase, and those who have are predominantly looking for used cars, there is a shift occurring towards a greater use of social media during the buying process. And as the power of social media continues to grow, dealerships must harness it to reach shoppers wherever they are.
The many faces of social media shoppers
There are so many different platforms, features, and tools contained within “social media” that it can be difficult to identify the most effective way to use each. There is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, Pinterest, and more. Some of these are better-suited for content, some for images and videos, and still others for real offers. When approaching each platform and its different tools, you should always be asking yourself: what customers am I trying to reach, and how can I do so most effectively?
Let’s look at shoppers at different stages of the buying process, and how you can use social media to reach them.
These shoppers have barely even begun to think about buying their next vehicle: they peruse social media several times a day, but not for the expressed purpose of buying a car. Your dealership can engage them early, so that whenever they do begin their buying process, they recognize your name and have an initial level of trust in you.
Facebook advertising comes in very handy for this “awareness-raising.” There is a lot written about Facebook targeting, and the importance of defining your target audience cannot be overstressed. Facebook allows you to target an ad to individuals in certain demographics and locations, based on interests and buying habits, and more. So, if you are a luxury dealer, you might want to target individuals whose income is above a certain amount each year. You should utilize Facebook’s wealth of knowledge to find the types of people that are most likely to come into your dealership.
What should these ads look like? They certainly should not be too heavy on the sales language, as Stans haven’t even begun thinking about a purchase. Pushing helpful content about car buying or identifying service problems, for example, will help you build trust with early stage shoppers. Funny, viral content is another way for these people to learn your name and engage with you.
The next group down the funnel do know that they want to buy a new car. They broadly know what type of car they’d like, but might not be sold on a specific OEM or model, let alone a dealership. They are in search mode, trying to become as informed as possible.
Videos are an excellent way to reach these people. According to Google, over half of auto shoppers watch 30 minutes or more of videos online during their buying process. 65% of shoppers said they narrowed down their options by watching videos. Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube are both helpful places to market to people who are looking to watch videos. These videos can display the exterior and interior of a vehicle, or just provide helpful tips and guides, to guide these shoppers to the next stage of their buying process.
Shoppers who are closer to the bottom of the funnel, and are interested in your dealership, want personal attention. They want answers to their questions. Providing a chat bot or text us option on your website is not enough for today’s shoppers– your business page on Facebook should utilize Facebook Messenger to provide customers with a convenient way to communicate with you. Make yourself available where they are, instead of making them come to you.
In terms of content, these shoppers want real information. They want to see offers and vehicle descriptions. They will probably participate in a sweepstakes or contest. They are looking for reviews on all of your different channels (many of them offer a review option in-page, like Facebook and Google Plus). Social proof is extremely important to today’s shoppers– car shoppers are 5.3 times more likely to convert on a lead from a dealership with positive online reviews. To reinforce these reviews, be sure to respond to each of them, even the negative ones.
Having a complete business listing on Google is yet another way to appeal to later-stage customers who are ready to come in. To an online shopper, the more information they can find about you, the better. By providing them with an address (that they can access through Google Maps), a street view photo of your dealership, a virtual tour inside of your showroom, and reviews, shoppers feel that they know your dealership, and are more likely to visit your store.
Is it possible to sell cars on social media? Most experts agree– not yet. Although the term “social selling” is brought up in the auto industry, it is generally used to describe the action of gaining leads through social media. Laura Madison, a social media expert, has said that she prefers to refer to “social selling” as “social lead gen” or “social prospecting.” Social media should be used to push customers down the funnel, and create a personal relationship with them. The actual sale will still take place in your showroom. Facebook can’t replace your sales team, at least for the time being.
As with every aspect of your marketing strategy, your social media plan should be flexible and adaptable. Whenever a social platform rolls out a new feature or tool, you should ask yourself– how can my dealership leverage this to reach more customers, and at what stages?