Whenever I sit down to talk to a car dealer about his online presence, invariably, the topic of Social Media comes up. “How are you managing your presence on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube?” I ask them. Then I count to five, because that’s how long it will normally take them to fumble toward some sort of answer.
If it’s a larger, franchise dealership, I normally hear something like this: “Uh, well…our ad agency handles that for us.” Do they? I have a feeling that we’re about to find out that you and I have a very different definition of “handle.”
If it’s a smaller, independent store, I normally hear something like this: “Nobody buys cars off of Facebook.”
Thank you for that sterling insight, sir. I look forward to hearing more pearls of wisdom from you in whatever amount of time you’ve decided to dedicate to the “Internet Guy” this week.
Recently, I heard a perfectly frank answer from a GM that both amused and concerned me. “Who the hell follows a car dealership on Facebook or Twitter? Do YOU follow any car dealers on Twitter? Wouldn’t that be boring as shit?” Well, Mr. Dealer, based on that attitude, I’m fairly certain that I’m not going to be following you.
Without question, there are some dealers who do a good job of managing their presence on Social Media. The vast majority of them, however, are about as good using Social Media as your eighty-four-year-old grandmother, and they’re only slightly less embarrassing when they post.
What are some of the most common mistakes that I encounter? I’m so glad you asked.
- Treating My News Feed Like Dresden By Bombarding Me With All of Their Inventory
Twitter isn’t Craigslist, dude. Nobody gives a shit about that 2012 Chevrolet Impala Fleet Edition that you just bought from Enterprise. I especially don’t want to see indecipherably long links to the vehicle details page on your website for Every. Single. One.
Here’s what they SHOULD do: Give me information about particularly scarce or rare inventory. Create your own YouTube channel and give me a video walkaround of it. Put at least nine photos of it on your Facebook page, including interior shots of special equipment or features. Share the best of those pictures on your Instagram (well, first, create an Instagram account. THEN, share the pics). But do it sparingly. I don’t want to see more than one or two posts a day from you—-after that, you are cluttering up my feed and you’re just going to get deleted.
- Posting About Things That Don’t Have A Damned Thing to Do With Cars
Asking me “HOW WAS YOUR DERBY WEEKEND?” or “WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE SUPER BOWL?” in all caps really doesn’t make me want to engage with you in any way, shape or form. I get it—-you’re trying to be socially relevant. Here’s a tip: you’re not.
Here’s what they SHOULD do: Go for what you know. Find compelling reviews of new vehicles from around the web and retweet them. Link me to the latest news from the big auto shows. If you get a great used car on your lot (like, say, a 2013 Boss 302 Mustang), use the power of the internet to go back and find a review from when it was new. Just keep it relevant.
- Thinking That Going to the OEM’s Feed and Using “Ctrl+C” is Effective Social Marketing
Listen, if I wanted to read all of Nissan’s posts, I would probably, oh, I don’t know…FOLLOW NISSAN. I guarantee that they’re better at Social Media than you are.
Here’s what they SHOULD do: Create original, compelling content. Tell me what’s interesting about your dealership. Tell me why I should do business with you or, if I’m an existing customer, why I should continue to do business with you. If you don’t know why, that’s your first sign that you’re in trouble. Pro tip: Telling me how long you’ve been in business or that you’re a “family-owned dealership” isn’t compelling. Linking me to an outstanding dealer review or a service special? That might do it.
- Having This As Their Profile Picture
Is this a dealership or a gospel jamboree? I honestly can’t tell. I feel like I’m just as likely to be asked to give my testimony as I am to be asked, “What’s it going to take to earn your business today, sir?”
While you might perceive a photo of the family to bring people in to your dealer, it doesn’t actually tell people anything about the dealer. Believe what you will, but people aren’t coming to your dealer for you. They’re coming for the cars and the prices.
Here’s what they SHOULD do: Just use a good, clear picture of your dealership so that I know that I’ve arrived at the right place when I get there. If there’s snow on the ground in your picture and the calendar is currently indicating that it’s May, you might want to consider taking a new picture.
- Failing to Believe That Social Media Is Now a Thing
The number one complaint I hear about Social Media from dealers? “It’s too much damned work and it doesn’t sell me any cars.” Here’s one absolute truth about old school dealers: When it comes to the internet, if they can’t track it, they don’t believe it works. However, they will gladly experience a big ol’ cognitive dissonance clunk when it comes to traditional media (TV, Radio, Billboards) and plunk down insane amounts of cash for advertising that has no measurable impact whatsoever.
Here’s what they SHOULD do: Adjust their belief systems and begrudgingly enter the Twenty-First Fucking Century. Realize that a vast part of the game today is just making people aware of your dealership, even when they aren’t in the market to buy a car. If the first time they’ve heard of your store is when they’re searching Autotrader or Cars.com, you’ve already lost. I know it’s hard. Suck it up. Hire somebody younger than forty to run your Social Media sites and make it a real, full-time position within your internet department.
- Hoping and Wishing That Bad Reviews Will Just Go Away
This kills me. I don’t know how dealers just let reviews like this one sit there. Look at that adorable little girl! She had to sit there and watch her grown-ass man daddy cry as his new Jeep broke down. Would you buy a car from a dealership that made that little girl sad? This makes no “sense” at all.
Here’s what they SHOULD do: You’ve gotta monitor this shit, bro. Facebook, Google, Yelp—-anywhere and everywhere people can leave reviews of your dealership, you’ve got to quickly resolve any issues that people are bitching about online. Respond as quickly and as publicly as possible, and then once the problem is resolved, ask the customer to either remove or respond to their original complaint, stating that the issue has been resolved and that they are now happy as Pharell Williams before Marvin Gaye’s family sued him into the Seventies.
The moral of the story is this: Dealers need to realize that if they want to attract you, my dear Jalopnik readers, they need to get better at speaking to you in a way that you understand and appreciate. Odds are, if they don’t speak your language online, they won’t speak your language on the lot, either.
Bark M. is a digital advertising expert who happens to be the only guy we know who owns a Boss 302 AND a Fiesta ST. He’s also got a few national SCCA trophies to his credit as a driver, and he’s taken the green and checkered flags in the 24 Hours of Lemons and American Endurance Racing series. You can follow him on Twitter at @BarkM302, look at his pretty pictures on Instagram @Bark_M_302ST, and read his musings on everything else at www.barkm.com.