One of the universal truths I’ve found in auditing the digital advertising budget for dealers is that they overspend in many areas (third-party classifieds, paid search) and underspend in paid social media (Facebook).
There are many reasons dealers underspend in social…It could be that they’ve had agencies take a cookie-cutter approach with poor results. It may also be that the dealership doesn’t understand or buy into the idea that Facebook can drive shoppers to sales or service. It is around this latter point that the education process begins. I help the store to understand the way the platform works, and show them success metrics other dealers have experienced.
But what do you do if the General Manager or decision-maker at the dealership doesn’t have a Facebook account, has never used the platform, and can’t begin to understand what a newsfeed or Facebook retargeting ad is?
Unfortunately, I find this to be a problem at a surprising number of stores.
I usually discover this when explaining to the dealer what a successful paid Facebook advertising campaign looks like. The general manager begins to give me a blank stare. I finally get to the bottom line question, “Do you have a Facebook account yourself?.”
The answer is no, and here is where the challenge really begins.
The agency is asking the general manager to approve spending thousands of dollars on paid advertising campaigns on a platform they know nothing about and don’t use. Of course, this same problem doesn’t exist with pay-per-click search, retargeting campaigns, or email blasts since if the GM uses the internet at all, they have experienced these products. However, there are many working adults who either don’t like social media or feel they don’t have time for it. The table below shows that depending on the age and sex of a dealership general manager, 22% to 35% of them are not current users of Facebook (even less on Instagram). I would argue that without direct experience in the social media platform, the general managers are putting themselves in a position of weakness in decision-making around these paid campaigns.
So, as an owner or a reflective general manager, what should they do?
For the dealer principal, I feel they need to require their decision-making-managers to set up their own Facebook account and get comfortable with it. For the GM, they need to recognize that they must use and be familiar with the platform, or they are doing their store a disservice. That doesn’t mean they need to create a massive circle of friends, or create any of their own posts, or feel that they’re giving up some of their privacy. A GM can certainly create a profile with the minimum required information, little or no photos or private information, but at least they have an account so they can begin to see how the platform works. The GM can experience ads in the newsfeed, retargeting ads, etc. Within a very short period of time, they’ll grow to be a better decision maker on these campaigns, as they will have direct experience on how the messaging reverberates.
I would also recommend the GM should find their competitors and “like” the competitors’ pages. This way they can start seeing their competitors’ ads and get an idea of the messaging and approach. GMs should also periodically visit the actual competitor pages and observe both the posts and comments, observing the way the competitors engage with visitors and the “personality” of the page.
The bottom line is, if a dealership manager doesn’t understand or use a media platform, then how can they effectively make advertising buys on that platform. Without the required understanding, the manager is forced to simply trust the vendors recommendations and success metrics. As with all things technology, if you don’t understand it, you must immerse until you do. General Managers at dealerships need to use the internet, own a smartphone, and yes…set up and use a Facebook account so that they understand the platform, lingo, and methods for delivering paid advertising to shoppers.