Still Indispensable: Why Now is Always the Right Time to Adopt a Social Media Marketing Strategy
I’m sure you’ve heard the adage that “social media doesn’t sell cars.” Even as dealers are reporting their positive results with social media marketing, the perception persists in the automotive industry.
It’s true that social media doesn’t sell cars for dealers directly – not yet anyway, although the digital marketplace is expanding and headed in that direction. But then again, neither do any of the other advertising channels dealers regularly use.
The importance of social media is not in selling cars directly; it’s in enticing customers to walk through your door. It does this in a way that is unique from all the other traditional advertising outlets: it does it by engaging customers interactively on an individual, personalized level. It allows the savvy dealer to cultivate relationships before ever meeting customers face-to-face.
When you think about it, this is a strategy that is both revolutionary and extremely basic in its approach: Selling is about relationships, so why shouldn’t your marketing be relationally focused? Not only that, but social media is geared toward not just making a single sale, but repeat sales, driven by lasting relationships.
In addition to building stronger relationships, social media marketing makes it easy for dealers to gauge and eventually influence the online conversation surrounding their store and their brand.
It’s no secret that customers no longer rely on dealerships for information on their next vehicle. The internet can quickly provide everything they want to know, not only about the vehicle itself but about the options for where to buy and how much to pay.
Thanks to Google’s analysis of micro-moments, we also know that every step of a customer’s search for information has taken on an enhanced sense of urgency in the digital age, and that each of those steps provides an opportunity for dealers to shape the conversation.
That conversation, based on customers’ past experiences, the perceived quality of the brand, and an endless list of other pros and cons, is where a dealer’s online reputation lives. If dealers don’t have an active voice in that arena shaping customers’ perceptions of them, then other voices will fill that void.
But before a dealer can even begin to influence the conversation, they have to be found online. Social media is an excellent tool dealers can use to improve brand visibility.
Specifically, social media can help dealers get found through organic search, social site search, and local search.
Search engine algorithms are about relationships, too. Search engines are looking for the most trusted and authoritative content to present to users.
Using social media to share relevant, authentic content about the dealership, the auto industry, and the dealer’s local market are all ways to be regarded by the search engines as more trustworthy and authoritative. The reward is higher organic search rankings that increase the likelihood the dealership will be found by customers.
In addition, sharing relevant, engaging content on social media helps dealers get found in social site search, not just in traditional website searches.
Finally, thanks to social media sites’ location-based components, local search results are one more tool helping customers make informed choices about which dealership to visit.
So beyond building lasting customer relationships and influencing the digital conversation, what other benefits does a sound social media marketing strategy offer? Perhaps the most prominent is access to customer data not easily obtained elsewhere.
One of the primary reasons customers will like, comment, or share on social media is because they expect to get something in return. For example, 41 percent of people “like” a brand on Facebook to receive regular updates from the brand, and 42 percent “like” to get a coupon or discount.1
With that in mind, dealers encourage engagement with their brand through the types of status updates they post on social media.
Over the past several years, however, brands have found that organic engagement has declined as social media channels seek to become profitable through charging brands for advertising on their sites.
While it may seem like social channels are trying to nickel and dime businesses, those sites have an important commodity to sell: customer data.
Those sites also continue to innovate how marketers can use that data to more precisely and cost-effectively reach customers. For example, Facebook Custom Audiences allows dealers to tap into lists already in their customer database to make successful connections on the site. Facebook then serves up targeted ads to those matches to inspire action.
A comprehensive social media marketing strategy provides a powerful tool for dealers to connect with their communities and begin building a rapport beyond brand recognition.
Even when social media isn’t directly responsible for the sale of a car, it can play an important part in the sales process as well as the set-up for the next sale – with that customer or with someone else in that customer’s network. This is what proactively building customer loyalty looks like in the digital age.
When dealers invest in social media, they gain a voice in how their brand is perceived in the market, they more effectively reach their audiences, and they build connections that provide long-term value.
Social media doesn’t sell cars? On the contrary, put a robust social media marketing strategy to work for you, and watch as your sales process improves at every level.
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Chris Walsh is vice president of sales at Naked Lime Marketing. His knowledge of market strategy, competitive analysis, and the sales process fueled his success in previous positions with the company, including regional sales director and vice president of business development. Walsh holds a bachelor’s degree in business from Ohio University.