Best PracticesDealership Marketing

As The Dust Settles From The Social Media Whirlwind…

As The Dust Settles From The Social Media Whirlwind, Car-Selling Strategies Emerge

It’s hard to call the changes that have happened in automotive social media over the last five years an evolution. The medium was gone from promising to enigmatic, from simple to impossible. It was something that every dealer had to do before being something that many dealers ignored.

Today, the realities of what social media can and cannot do for dealers is starting to become more clear. Much of the clarification is coming through better understanding by the mediums themselves. Facebook, for example, is finally starting to understand how to let businesses leverage the advertising platform without harming their user experience.

The other part has to do with dealers. Many are hiring tech-savvy people to run their digital marketing instead of handing it off to an “old car dog” that’s willing to stop taking ups. Some are finding success getting resources, training, and support for their “old car dogs” who have learned to make the transition from old school networking and advertising into the digital age.

As 2013 pushes towards its halfway point, there are two different ideologies that are polarizing the dealer body and the vendors that support them. Technically, there’s a third camp, but it’s so small right now that it’s barely a blip on anyone’s radar. These classifications are supported by information that I’ve been gathering over the last 8 months as I interview dealers, examine their social media presence, and decipher their mindset or the mindset of their vendor.

In one camp, you have the branders. These are the dealers and vendors who play the social media game by trying to fit in. They’re posting memes and cat pictures while trying to sneak in photos of happy customers standing in front of their new vehicles. Their goal is branding and exposure. Their perspective – nobody will buy a car or get their cars serviced because of anything they see on social media, so the benefit is in exposing the brand to as many people as possible.

In the other camp, we have the sellers. They believe in the bulk aspect of social media. There’s enough people on there at any given moment to find buyers, so to them it’s a pure numbers game. It’s not that they think that any particular user is going to buy a car because they saw it on Facebook, but if one happens to be in the market, they don’t want to miss them.

Reputation management has become the primary focus for many dealers. They see social media as an add-on component of their review-acquisition strategy. It’s a throw in, a selling point that puts a mark in the social media check box. Reputation, after all, is perceived to help to sell more cars by preventing people from skipping over dealerships with bad reviews. That concept in itself is somewhat flawed, but I’ll save that argument for a different post.

The lack of attention that is being given to social media is unfortunate and in many ways it’s our fault. Those of us who have been immersed in the mediums for the last several years are all guilty of steering dealers in the wrong direction at one point or another. I look back at some of the “best practices” and strategies that I recommended back in 2008 and 2009 and I feel utter shame for giving the wrong advice. I still hear some of the same advice today and it scares me.

Here’s the thing. Social media has the potential to help dealers sell more cars and drive more fixed ops business. It doesn’t require cleverly manifested magic or complex strategies. It’s definitely not possible by being a “brander” or a “seller” on social media, though each of those strategies has other benefits. Sales can be achieved through social media by driving foot traffic and website visitors utilizing proper strategies and a tenacious focus on the local area market. It’s not easy. It takes work. Fortunately, it’s not something that requires special training or a “guru” certificate to accomplish. It requires no vendor interaction. Any dealer can make it happen quickly if they’re willing put in the effort.

DealerRefresh seemed to be the perfect venue for this series. If the interest is here as expressed in the comments below, I will submit a 4-part series to the team here to be published at their discretion. There’s no pitch. My vendor hat will be humbly removed. That’s why DealerRefresh is the right home for this content. I’ll be returning to my roots of working at dealerships and applying what I’ve learned as a vendor to show readers how to make a direct impact on their bottom line through social media.

If that’s something you’d want to see, here, let me know in the comments.

JD Rucker is the Founder of Dealer Authority, an automotive digital marketing agency specializing in social media, search, and content marketing. A ve...
  • A
  • June 14, 2013
JD = Yoda :)
Love to see this JD! Please make it happen.
JD, bring it on!!
  • J
  • June 22, 2013
JD, the winds of changes are in the air.  For the 1st time in years, I am seeing social's place in the dealer's digital marketing infrastructure. Listen up y'all, Yoda's in the house and it's time to take notes!
OMG. No more rainbows and unicorns Joe or is it in the water up there? ;)
  • D
  • June 29, 2013
JD-- I'd love to hear which dealers you think are doing this best. 
What's driving traffic and leads, instead of fans?
And how do you measure the folks coming in for a test drive or for services, since many of these don't have clicks associated with them or tell you how they heard about you?
  • M
  • July 2, 2013
I would love to hear more about your opinion on the correct outreach to social media in terms of increasing foot traffic and website visitors. Let's see that 4-part series!