Industry News & Trends

Does Social Matter?

I know this is DEALERrefresh.  I get that.  But the guys are nice enough to allow me the floor from time to time and I’m very appreciative.  In my opinion this is the forum where people are open and honest.  Refreshing really.

There are some basic expectations I have after doing this for for a while:

  1. No one will believe 100% of what I say
  2. People assume I’m always selling

So what does that mean?  It means that the best way for me to be sure I”m taken seriously is to present 3rd party data. partnered with GfK Automotive and DriverSide to study the impact of social on the purchase process.  If you don’t know GfK, Search “Automotive Purchase Funnel”.  Good chance they come up first because they created this term.  They call nearly every OEM a client, and provide research and training based on the funnel model.  They’re a global research firm specializing in automotive data.  Another way to say it: They go out and actually talk to auto consumers.  Pretty good idea.

So What??

I am a social networker.  Have been for years.  The result is a lot of “gut instincts”.  Relying on gut instincts is many times the same as assuming.  We all know what happens when you assume…

Here are some things that I learned from the study that I think you’ll find valuable too:

Don’t think Social Media is used to research cars?

38% of those interviewed in the study indicated that they would be using social resources to research their next purchase.  What kind of research?  Everything from price to features to finding a dealership.

Be that consumer for a second.  Can you find any of this info on your own facebook page?

The benefits far outweigh the risks

Why would I get a facebook page?  That’s just another place for people to talk trash about me.

Ever heard someone say that?

27% of those surveyed said that they used or will use facebook specifically as part of their purchase process.  Of that 27%, 44% said that they had personally posted a comment about a brand or model on facebook.  And guess what?  82% of the content they posted was positive.  That’s right, people can be nice too.  Lesson:  The benefits far outweigh the risks.

The little things make all the difference

In the group who said they used facebook in their buying process:

  • 57% said that seeing an ad or promotion for a brand or vehicle “liked” by a friend or family member would impact their consideration of that brand or vehicle
  • 52% said that just seeing someone check in on a location based service (foursquare, Gowalla, facebook places etc..) would impact their consideration.

What does this mean?  It means that we are quickly moving beyond the days when having a facebook page is enough.  Believe it or not, we are in an age where you do have to manage many channels in order to be an effective marketer.

People who are loyal use social media more

Create more loyal customers.  Why?

– Those who are dealer loyal are 14% more likely to use social media as part of their new vehicle ownership experience.

  • 70% of folks who are brand loyal use facebook weekly compared to 60% of those who are not brand loyal.
  • 49% of those who are dealer loyal indicate they will use social media to research their next vehicle vs. 38% of the overall base.

So.  Want more people out there saying great things about you?  Want to earn more referral business?  Ready to try a new conquest strategy?  Put more money into the post-purchase experience than you do today.  How?

Some dealers have owners’ clubs.  A BMW dealer might have an open invitation for a quarterly 3 series owner get together.  Drivers come to the store for a BBQ, swap stories, learn a bit about their cars, maybe drive the new 3 series… this is the type of stuff that drives social content.  There are a million ideas like these out there, just ask around.

Finally, this one is a heartbreaker

Only 17% of the folks interviewed said they had been asked to “Like” a dealers’ facebook page.  81% of those people followed through.  Tell me again why your fan acquisition strategy costs so much?  Couldn’t your salespeople just ask every buyer?

Ask yourself  Download the study and find the info that matters most to you.


  • K
  • February 2, 2012
Nice piece Matt. As an early player and long time player in social media, we have learned many things. One in particular is how many people reach out to us via Facebook now to share positive experiences with us, or to bring a problem to us that we need to address. I believe our customers see social media as a more personal way to interact with us.

I think most dealers struggle with social media as they want to see measurable results, which is very difficult in this area. Ultimately, your true success in social media will be what you never see - other people talking to their friends online about the great experience they had at your dealership. Technology has changed, but the fundamentals of sales remain in place. Provide excellent value and service and your satisfied customers will spread the word...
  • K
    Kyle Suss
  • February 2, 2012
Haha sweet bio. One thing you didn't touch that i would like to see -- what exactly people want to see on a dealer fb page. I get people all the time trying to sell me social media products that attempt to sell a vehicle through facebook. We have our inventory on there (mostly because it was easy and dealer specialties provides that for free) but I have a hard time believing that people are using fb to actually 'shop' for a car. My general opinion is that they use it to build a relationship and try to get free stuff, but I'm cynical so who knows. Dig deeper into that data!
  • M
  • February 6, 2012
@ridederty Thanks Craig! @dealerrefresh
  • V
  • February 7, 2012
@Kyle Suss Consumers don't go to Facebook to buy a car; they go to Facebook to learn about a car, talk to their friends and family about a car, and find out about specials a dealer has, in particular about service. Here's a link to a previous post on DealerRefresh by axsnyder .

Another great reference is the ZMOT Automotive vertical study. Two points of interest: car shoppers reference 18.6 sources, including social media/Facebook, before actually visiting a dealer. And a car shopper only visits, on average, 2 dealerships. This reflects they are doing their homework. Facebook is part of this homework. Here's an article of interest published on dealerdotcom blog last year:

Hope this helps!
  • A
  • February 8, 2012
@vickioneill nice!
  • J
  • February 8, 2012
One thing that always struck me as interesting about our stores' FB pages was the daily and monthly visits statistics. So while our hub page had 1100 or so "fans" or "likes" or whatever they are this month, we would still get upwards of 100-200 visits a day. So while dollars are hard to measure, some type of engagement was taking place, surely. And that in a very old -- demographically speaking -- kinda "backwater" market.
Great post Matt! The ActivEngage staff loved it enough to place it on our our weekly list of top 10 auto blogs - check it out here:
  • M
  • February 13, 2012
@Kyle Suss Hey Kyle, thanks for the comment. If you get your hands on the study at you'll see that we did take a look at what people actually want to see on the FB page. They said "Save me time, save me money". My take from the data (which by the way is more detailed than my paraphrase) is that we DO have an opportunity to sell through our FB page and other social media channels. it just has to be relevant to the audience. Who is the audience? Primarily folks who purchased from you already... that means its a fixed ops opportunity.

Now that doesn't mean I'm saying all dealers should go out and push an oil change special every hour through their news feed, but I am saying that these channels are a way to merchandise our services and "humanize" our dealership.

One other thing to note - the numbers are relatively low, 38% saying that they'll use social to research their NEXT purchase. That means that we've landed on an early trend, and perhaps have a chance to get out in front of the consumer's next move. I'm with you that some of the things in the study don't match with "gut instincts" but that's the beauty of actually doing the research, we get to learn something new. Can you imagine if website providers built their sites based on what they "think" a car shopper does? Scares me just to think about it.

  • M
  • February 13, 2012
@KevinFrye Love this Kevin. You're absolutely right. Can you imagine if we spent all of our time trying to pin down an exact ROI on word of mouth advertising?

  • L
  • March 15, 2012
@dealerrefresh Disneyland! Your best choice for vocation! Check out here and grab its free ticket now: @FreeDisney