Social media marketing in the automotive industry is evolving at a rapid pace. What was working yesterday might not work today. Why? Because the industry itself is changing every year. Even before the pandemic came across, the writing was on the wall – some tactics and practices adopted by car dealerships had to be changed. The dealerships that stick to legacy practices will be fast overtaken by contemporaries ready to take risks.
That said and done – marketing is not supposed to be risky. On the contrary, intelligent and customer-centered marketing mitigates the risks in the business. And that is what the industry experts are observing across social media.
2021 Industry Update: National Automobile Dealers Association
Marketing goes hand in hand with strategy. And the strategy is dependent on how the industry is performing. That is why we should have a closer look at the big picture. National Automobile Dealers Associate is one of the most trusted authorities on industry data. Here is what it is has published thus far in 2021.
- Demand Resilience: When the pandemic hit the USA automobile markets, most people thought private transport would take a hit. People would not want to buy cars since they would want to stay home. Contrary to that, demand was considerably strong even during the pandemic. The real problem was on the other side of the spectrum – the manufacturing units were shut, which had a deep impact on available inventory. March 2021 recorded a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 17.75 million units – the second-highest sales recorded in March ever!
- Decreasing Cost Per Acquisition: Since the natural demand is growing, the need for incentives is decreasing. Relative to March 2020, the incentives have shrunk by over 20% on average for the industry. This would be a good time to check your marketing budget. If your budgets have increased in the last year, you must either have a very different rationale, or else you might have to adjust it to reflect the industry trends.
- Used Vehicle Sales: The demand for new cars has not taken a plunge. But the inventories have been decreasing because of production and chip shortages. For some industry experts, this is the perfect situation for used-vehicle sales to grow. And the industry data seconds that idea. Used-vehicle sales have been consistently growing over the last year and are forecasted to grow well within 2021.
The industry data might have given you some fascinating ideas on approaching auto dealership social media marketing. But, here are some latent insights you should not miss:
- Marketing strategies have to change. For most dealerships, the CPA has lowered. This means that you cannot rely on the muscle of paid ads to make profits higher than the industry average.
- If your sales are not growing at the industry average, there might be a loophole in your marketing strategy. However, over the last year, the demand has been quite consistent. So, if you are not getting the required leads or conversions, you should evaluate the entire lead acquisition to conversion roadmap.
- Understanding customer needs has become more important than ever. Who would have thought that people would not mind going for a used car when new cars are not easily available! Such insights are already available to car dealerships actively using social media.
It is clear – social media is the way to go. But how do you get started? Most brands use influencers to make a splash on social media. Is it the best way to proceed?
5 Mistakes that Might Damage Your Social Media Game
Here are the 5 mistakes you have to stop making to better see your social media marketing efforts.
1. Ignoring User-Generated Content.
Read this and see if you can find a pattern:
- Thank you for reaching out to us. Your question is important to us. Ben from our team will shortly reach out to you.
- We feel the same about XYZ!
- No response.
The common pattern is – there is no clear direction. Since the dealership has not established guidelines to interact with user-generated content, the social team’s responses are reactive, deflected, or non-existent.
2. Not Boosting Posts or Boosting the Wrong Posts.
Not boosting the right posts is a cardinal sin in social media marketing for the automotive industry. Organic content gets picked up by social media algorithms based on the varying user behavior. That is why you cannot base your entire social media strategy on organic growth.
Whether you are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest – boosted posts can get you in front of relevant target audience members. Focus on the posts that are organically generating considerable engagement. Calculate the average engagement for your posts on the platform. As soon as this threshold is crossed, you will know a post will soon be ready for the boost.
3. Not Including Curated Content.
Let’s assume you are posting 3 days a week. That means you will have 12 posts in a month and 156 posts in a year. Even for professional content creators, generating 150+ ideas can be a nightmare. So how do you plan to achieve it with limited resources? The answer is – you don’t.
With social media marketing in the automotive industry, your goal is to be a positive part of each relevant conversation. If there are relevant updates about your community, industry, or any other topic relevant to your target audience – feel free to post them on your social media handles with the reference links. Shift your lenses from pushing marketing content to building an audience.
4. Not Adhering to Platform Layouts.
If you are uploading videos, there is a high probability you are uploading them in 1024 x 528 pixels. While this is great for laptops and desktops, most social media users are browsing with their phones. And with the black gaps on the top and bottom of your video, your post will cover nearly 75% of real estate space on the user’s screen. So the solution is pretty simple – use square posts for Instagram and other popular social media platforms.
5. The ‘All Content, All Platforms’ Approach.
Auto dealership social media marketing is tricky. So, when you have created a good post, there is a high chance you would want to put it across your social media profiles. Now imagine, you have a true fan following you on every social media account. She will get a notification for each post that says the same thing.
Instead, understand the purpose of each platform. For instance, if Pinterest is for ideas, Instagram is for product exploration, Twitter is for customer feedback, and Facebook is for community development – then stick to the plan. Upload posts on each platform only and only if it fit the targeted purpose.
5 Secrets of Social Media Marketing for Car Dealerships
Now that we have covered the ‘not-to-do’ list, let’s dive into what should you do. Here are the 5 secrets you can adapt and transform your results with the efforts you are putting in for auto dealership social media marketing.
1. Employee Advocacy
Employee advocacy is the most underrated and underutilized channel on social media platforms. Pick up any automotive dealership account on any social media platform. Unfortunately, even the best-performing ones do not use employee advocacy to its full extent.
Employee advocacy is the process of engaging your employees with your auto dealership brand. Instead of paying out influencers, you work with your employee base of 50-100 people and push relevant content on social media. While people can love brands, they tend to engage more with professionals on social media since that is where the ‘social element of social media marketing exists. With the right tools like Inrelay, you can structure your employee advocacy program by:
- Inviting the right employees.
- Giving them the right content templates to be posted.
- Measure the results
2. Dealership Branding: Employees, Services, and Facility
Let’s play a game. If you are a BMW dealership, what are you selling? Hint – you are not selling a BMW. Over 340 dealerships are selling a BMW in the USA. Your customers choose you either for the proximity they have with your dealership or the unique set of services you provide. And that is where you can find the brand identity for your dealership.
When focusing on social media, focus on these three frontiers:
- Employees: Let John from financing make a video on how to choose the right financing structure. Or let Jacob from the mechanical team show people how to change engine oil. Your employees are the first point of contact at your dealership. By making them the face of your brand, you make your dealership more hospitable and familiar for prospects.
- Services: Make services and the benefits they provide a key talking point on social media handles. Offers are common in social media marketing for the automotive industry. But people care about the benefits you can provide. So show them the services you provide such as temporary car insurance and the benefits they deliver. For example – we provide one-day servicing, so your car is always safe and available for your use.
- Facilities: Some dealership owners and managers believe customers care only about the benefits and not what goes behind the scenes. But, if your dealership has some unique facilities available that are not common in your geography, make sure they are highlighted on social media.
3. Support Local Businesses.
As far as you do not have conflicting interests, supporting a local business can be a good idea. But why would you want to send outbound links to other companies? Because that can build engagement for your dealership.
Your dealership is eventually a part of the local business community. When your customers discover a value-delivering business because of your referral, you are earning their trust. At the same time, by partnering with local businesses, your dealership can stand out.
For example – you can partner with a local Airbnb. For customers looking to take a day trip over the weekend, they can use your referral code and get a discount. Additional discount if they are using a car from your dealership.
Such activations ensure that your dealership’s brand is visible even in unconventional places where your target audience exists, but you have no channel for approaching them.
4. Industry News, Updates, and Opinions.
Avoid political opinions. But, other than that, everything is on the table! Social media marketing in the automotive industry can be a very monotonous exercise. Look at the social media pages of most dealerships. They are flooded with product images and offers. While this helps, it also creates inertia among people who regularly engage with your content.
Getting an offer for free servicing when you need it is great. But getting the same offer, again and again, will turn people away from your brand. So instead, aggregate key points that will have an impact on your industry and your target audience. That will make sure your content calendar is not too narrow or too broad.
For instance – #ChipShortage has been trending for the last few months now. How is your dealership dealing with the inventory shortage, and what is the industry outlook? It will help you get more visibility with a relevant but ancillary hashtag.
5. Promotional Posts: Deals, Discounts, and Announcements.
Finally – the bread and butter of auto dealership social media marketing! As far as you do not overdo it, you should get some traction as you post deals and discounts. First, however, make sure you follow these best practices:
- Include the terms & conditions in the post. It helps with better compliance and transparency.
- Make layered offers that help you and your prospects. For instance, instead of giving away a free service to five random people who comment on this post, ask people to share the post with their friends, and five of the highest referrals will get a free service.
- Create a separate hashtag in the lines of #OffersAtXYZCars. Use it across all promotional posts.
- Follow up with each offer. After the offer’s tenure has ended, create & upload a follow-up post that shares the reach and engagement of the post. This validates your offers for your prospects.
3 Platforms You Cannot Ignore for Auto Dealership Social Media Marketing
Now that we have covered the best practices and the not-to-do list, we should be able to generate great results on social media, right? Well, kind of. These tips and tricks work great in isolation. But, if you can use them with the right social media platform, you will start witnessing exceptional results.
Here are 3 tools and platforms you must be used for social media marketing in the automotive industry.
1. YouTube: When Video Hosting Meets Social Media.
While Instagram might sound like the obvious choice for auto dealership social media marketing, the winner of this content is YouTube. It acts as a visual medium that can be used as a social media platform for hosting your videos.
First and foremost – if you are running any SEO campaigns, make sure you include the keywords even in your YouTube videos. Use the keywords in titles and video descriptions. Try thinking like your prospects and identify the search terms they are frequently using. Even if some of these search terms are already populated with videos, your video can stand out with small adjustments like better thumbnails and relevant content.
After you start using search queries, create well-organized playlists. This ensures that the benefits of one good video are extended to other related videos. It also ensures people spend more time on your channel to watch your content and not browse between videos. If you have guessed the game by now – you are right. The goal is to make playlists focusing on different niches. And this would mean shorter videos because one long video can be equal to several short videos. But, people are not looking for 30-minute documentaries on how to service your car.
Instead, post 5-minute videos loaded with just the necessary information. When you start writing descriptions for such videos, make sure you add a CTA that redirects to other social media handles or landing pages for your website.
Once your channel has a few videos, go to forums like Quora and Reddit to locate common queries about buying, maintaining, or even selling cars. Answer these queries and post links to the explainer videos on your channel. You can also push the content on Instagram and LinkedIn to drive more traffic within 24 hours before and after uploading the video.
2. Inrelay: End-to-End Employee Advocacy and Program Tracking.
Yes, we have some bias for our platform! But, we are confident, you too will have some positive bias for it. Inrelay is helping auto dealerships utilize the most underused marketing resources they possess – their employees.
If you have 50-100 employees, that’s a group of potential opinion leaders who can establish your dealership as one of the key brands in your geography. And Inrelay helps manage this with a structured employee advocacy program:
- First, you send out requests to your employees to join the employee advocacy program. Our research shows that over 70% of your employees would be joining the program if nudged right away.
- Now you can create content categories. For example, there can be content for the different stages in the customer lifecycle – education, awareness, conversion, and advocacy. You can then distribute this content to relevant employees who are positioned to post content with some expertise.
- As you expand the employee advocacy program, you can even measure the success and results of the program.
If you need help with creative production and monthly strategy – you can work on that too. Just click here and select the Ultimate subscription. In essence, Inrelay helps you do the work of a spreadsheet, email, creative production, post scheduling, and tracking – all on one platform with one subscription.
3. Google My Business: Dominate the Local Search Market.
Real estate was touted as the industry where ‘location location location’ made all the difference. In the last few years, all the businesses have understood that their location’s visibility is what drives leads to the store. And that is where Google My Business or GMB comes into the picture.
GMB is much more than just a tool for showing directions to your dealership on Google Maps. It can be the first and most prominent snippets that show up on the SERP when people search for your dealership. Moreover, website links and ratings can create a great starting point to generate leads for your auto dealership’s social media marketing.
GMB also has a material impact on your organic and inorganic rankings on the SERP. So, whether you are running Google Ads or sticking to organic SEO, GMB optimization should be on your radar. Make sure your number, website, and other contact details are always updated, and answer the reviews on your GMB as soon as possible.
Auto dealership social media marketing can seem daunting at first. But, with the right focus on platforms, tools, and tactics, as mentioned, you can maximize the chances of attracting relevant leads. Inrelay can be the centerpiece of your social media marketing strategy by helping your dealership brand get a more trustworthy appeal on social media. Click here to connect with one of our experts and learn how Inrelay can support you with employee advocacy.
- My dealership already has a social media agency. Can Inrelay still add value?
Yes! Our research shows that most social media agencies are not focused on employee advocacy as a route to increase brand awareness and build opinion leadership. Inrelay is a platform designed to enhance the results you can get with your auto dealership’s social media marketing efforts and not compete with your social media agency.
- We have a small marketing budget. How can we afford Inrelay?
The average automotive dealership spends nearly $3500 on incentivizing customers. On top of that, it spends a lot of resources on running ads. Inrelay reduces the need for running expensive campaigns, helps you utilize your employee strength, generates organic growth, and even helps you with creative production & strategy – all for the cost of incentivizing less than two leads.