Fast-Lane Social Media Strategy for Car Dealers. 

Did you know that seventy-two percent of Americans use at least one form of social media? If you’ve ever wondered why a digital marketing strategy is important, that right there is around 237MM reasons why your car dealer marketing should include social media. 

First, we’re going to define social media and the two main forms of social media marketing. From there, we’re going to cover why having a social media marketing strategy matters, cover the basics of automotive social media content, take a side trip into YouTube, and say a few words about user comments and reviews. 

 

Why is automotive social media important? 

Social media is becoming an increasingly important part of the modern car buyer’s journeyAccording to a Facebook-commissioned study seventy-eight percent of all car buyers consider social media useful in choosing their next car. Our commissioned research indicates that the most popular social media platform for exploring dealerships and brands is Facebook, and that forty-seven percent of car buyers spend time on Facebook Marketplace. Google has found that YouTube is very useful in getting car buyers to the lot. 

Social media allows you the reach a broad cross-section of users. What’s more, these platforms generate a lot of user data, allowing you to target specific audiences in a pretty precise way. 

 

General social content strategy. 

A common piece of social media marketing advice is to sure that your content fits the platform in question. These platforms can vary wildly: 

  • Facebook is a wide-open platform where you can post pictures, videos, links, heartfelt essays, you name it. The average user has around 155 friends, and the platform’s design and ways of being used makes it easy for someone who posts too frequently to overwhelm his friends’ and followers’ feeds. For that reason, many experts recommend you only post to Facebook once or twice a day. 

  • Instagram is built around pretty pictures and videos, and to succeed here you need to post pretty pictures and videos. Estimates vary on how often you can post, but a common piece of advice is to stick with the same cadence, be it twice a day, three times a week, what have you. 

  • Twitter is a fast-paced microblogging site where you can run all types of content, the only catch is that you are a limited to 288 characters per post. Shorter content and a faster overall tempo means that you get away with sharing more often per day than you can elsewhere. 

Most dealerships will want to repurpose automotive social media content, making minor adjustments to fit the platform in question (for instance, shortening a Facebook post into a 288-character tweet). It’s a valid strategy because a great picture, cool video clip, or link to a useful piece of content on your website should work equally well on any platform that can support it. Some may want to explore specific social initiatives that require a modified automotive social media strategy, like targeting Snapchat users with 10-second content that would be out of place anywhere else, but situations like these will be the exception rather than the rule. 

Most dealerships will want to repurpose automotive social media content, making minor adjustments to fit the platform in question (for instance, shortening a Facebook post into a 288-character tweet). It’s a valid strategy because a great picture, cool video clip, or link to a useful piece of content on your website should work equally well on any platform that can support it. Some may want to explore specific social initiatives that require a modified automotive social media strategy, like targeting Snapchat users with 10-second content that would be out of place anywhere else, but situations like these will be the exception rather than the rule. 

As far as what types of social content will give you the most bang for your buck, this can vary. Some dealerships might succeed with off-the-cuff video content featuring their sales staff. Others might do well with straightforward messaging about prices. Content that connects with the modern car buyer’s journey – high-quality pictures and videos of inventory, links to helpful car resources – is a safe bet. Dealerships are local businesses, so community-oriented posts are good to toss in too. Many dealerships will incorporate posts about local event sponsorships and charity donations, jokes, and other types of content that isn’t necessarily automotive social media content. In most cases, dealerships have leeway to mix up and experiment with their social media account content, as long as they don’t go too far off brand or try something absolutely regrettable. The closest thing to a hard rule is that you’ll want your social media content to position you as the right place to buy a vehicle. A thoughtful approach grounded in local market understanding – which you can achieve in large part with consumer data insights – should prove useful. 

Another factor to keep in mind is how specific platform algorithms work. For instance, Facebook structures user news feeds around “meaningful interactions” – meaning content that draws more comments as likes, as well as posts that come from the user’s friends and family. Twitter places higher emphasis on the time something was posted and its relevance to the user; while Instagram emphasizes content popularity. The key, then, becomes putting up content that speaks to the algorithm. Take a typical piece of automotive social media content – an exterior shot of a car. On Instagram, the picture’s primary job from an algorithm perspective is to get likes. Usually it will do this by being a stylish, interesting, or otherwise engaging image that gets users to click on the like button. On Facebook the algorithm is looking for likes and comments. In this case, you might want to accompany the exterior shot with a conversation starter like “Got any great Ford F-150 stories?” 

You can also see how the algorithm ties back into the recommended number of postings per day. If people are on Facebook for meaningful interactions, a business might hurt its position with the Facebook user by posting too often and crowding out other people on her feed. Since Twitter’s algorithm is more directly connected to time and relevance, businesses can get away with more tweets on a given day. Studies vary on the optimal number of posts per day a business should make on this or that platform, but if you read enough of them you should be able to find a workable pattern. 

Many car dealerships will de-emphasize the posting side of social and devote more resources to social ad campaigns, which is valid.  

 

YouTube 

YouTube is a unique and very important social media platform, and therefore we’ll want to treat it as a special topic. 

Dealerships have two pathways on YouTube. They can be content creators, where they post videos they have created themselves; or they can invest in YouTube ads and run these around other people’s content. 

If you’re interested in content creation, we cover several key points under video and content strategy. A lot of dealerships will focus on YouTube ads instead, so let’s cover a few fundamentals here. 

There are five basic types of YouTube ad: 

  • In-stream ads – These are the thirty-or-so-second ads that play before a piece of content. You can set these ads up as “skippable,” which allows the viewer to skip the ad after it plays for five seconds; or “non-skippable,” which forces the viewer to watch the entire ad.  

  • Discovery ads – Discovery ads are thumbnail ads that show an image and up to three lines of text. These show up when a user conducts a search, and if the user is interested enough to click in it the ad takes him to a YouTube Watch or channel page. You can see versions of these ads here

  • Bumper ads – Bumper ads are six-second, non-skippable ads that play before, during, or after a YouTube video. 

  • Standard display ads – These are static display ads that come up on a YouTube page. When the user clicks on the ad, it takes them to an outside website. 

  • In-video overlay ads – Here a banner appears at the bottom of the video the user is watching. If you’ve ever watched sports on TV, it’s a bit like the banner that shows scores for other games. The difference is that the banner is never animated and YouTube lays it directly over the bottom of the content, rather than sizing it in the way that ESPN would. 

Each ad type has its own unique advantages, and the key is matching the ad type with your primary goal. 

Once you settle on an ad or ad format, you’ll want to match it with the most suitable users/content types. On YouTube you can design your ad campaigns around:  

  • Demographics like age, gender, and household income. 

  • Detailed demographics like college students, homeowners, and new parents. 

  • Interest in specific topics like travel, dance music, and Dodge trucks. The interest category also covers life events that typically shift consumer behavior, like graduating college or getting married. It also touches on “affinity audiences.” These audiences share a potential affinity with an ad even though they may not be viewing content about the product specifically. YouTube allows you to select lists based on purchase intent, a range of factors that connect your ad with people whose viewing activity indicates that they play on buying a car soon. Dealerships generally find that purchase intent is the most useful type of “interest” and structure automotive social media campaigns accordingly. 

  • Remarketing based on past interactions with a brand. If a user has clicked on a dealership’s YouTube ads in the past, this customer may be a prime candidate for additional ads. 

Google (who owns YouTube) can only estimate demographic information and interests, so not every customer who receives the ad will be a bullseye. Still, the company’s data learnings are strong enough to justify an investment. 

 

Comments and Reviews. 

Social media gives the consumer the means to publicly engage with your dealership on his or her own terms. On balance, this is a good thing. For instance, Hispanic buyers regularly use Twitter to interact with car brands and dealerships; giving automotive businesses that use the platform an edge with a young, dynamic market. On the flip side, it can mean that anyone with a social account can rake your dealership over the coals. 

This is a daunting problem for car dealerships because consumers, especially young ones, are leaning more and more heavily on customer reviews. Your dealership could consider investing in a review management solution, which keeps you in the loop concerning social media feedback. If your social accounts are being managed by a digital marketing partner, they should be able to guide you through a negative interaction should one arise.  

 

Ready to step up your social game? 

That’s automotive social media strategy in a nutshell. If you want more specific help, reach out to the LOCALiQ AUTOMOTIVE team. We know our way around the platforms and are ready to help you start winning the likes you’ve been hoping for with car dealership social media best practices based on thousands of campaigns for dealers like you. 

 

Contact us to request a free Dealer Scorecard analysis for your dealership or Auto Group. 

 

Related Content: 

 

Resources: 

Let's get started.

Every great partnership starts with that first email, phone call, or meeting. So what are you waiting for? Simplified local marketing is just a hop, skip and a click away.