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How Dealers Can Succeed with Social Marketing

Social media is not social marketing

For a lot of automotive dealers, social media marketing can make them feel this way. It can seem like a necessary evil. For good reason.

The industry is using the right tool for the wrong job.

Whether it’s low value, cookie cutter posting services or a distorted definition of social media success, the automotive industry has been approaching it from the wrong direction.

We are going to help you re-envision your social media marketing, so you can create a social marketing machine for your dealership.


Social Marketing Definitions

Social media are computer-mediated tools that allow people or companies to create, share, or exchange information, career interests, ideas, and pictures/videos in virtual communities and networks.

Social Media Marketing is the process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media sites.

Social selling is the process of developing relationships as part of the sales process. Today this often takes place via social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, but can take place either online or offline. Examples of social selling techniques include sharing relevant content, interacting directly with potential buyers and customers, personal branding, and social listening.

Social marketing seeks to develop and integrate marketing concepts with other approaches to influence behaviors that benefit individuals and communities for the greater social good.

I want you to embrace a hybrid concept of social selling and social marketing.


Social Media Marketing Expectations

Ask yourself the question, “What is more likely to sell a car; an ad or a relationship?” Don’t expect your advertising to sell cars. Expect your people to sell cars! Expect your advertising to create opportunities.

Use a tool for its strengths. Don’t expect social channels to thrive as a direct selling tool. When you use a tool for its strengths you can create incredible results.

Social Channels have the unbelievable ability to let you find, connect and engage with people in a very personal way. You can seek out groups and communities of people that deeply care about people, places, things, events, causes, etc. and connect with them. Instead of something that could be considered creepy, it is accepted, welcomed and encouraged.

There is no other marketing tool known to the universe that would allow you such a privilege. Why wouldn’t you want to use it in such a way?


Start with a Strategy

The key to a successful social marketing campaign. Five words.


If you get the urge to directly promote your business, products or services. Stop. Take a deep breath, and remember, you will get 10x the amount of return for promoting everyone else.

Imagine being at a party. Will you make a better impression talking about yourself, or being more interested in connecting with others?

The intent is to integrate with the community, not try and selfishly interrupt it.

1. Think of your business as a person. Interview yourself. Develop a list of likes and dislikes. From there you can begin to personify your business. (picture taking selfie)
2. Research Your Market
3. Create an editorial calendar
4. Promote, Promote, Promote


Research Your Target Market

1. Ask your customers. Quite literally, this is your target market. Be interested in them, and keep good notes. This is the best way to learn about your community.
2. Ask yourself. This is the second best way. Be local.
3. Research hashtags.
4. Social profile research. Snoop around. See what other people like. See what they are discussing.
5. Trial and error. When all else fails. Put something out there and track the response.
6. Use Facebook Graph Search. You can learn a lot using Facebook’s native search functionality.
7. Google Analytics will tell you a good bit about who your audience is based on their search and browsing history.
8. Research local blogs and news sites. Weekly publications are an ideal source of information. They can give you some insight into the community. Especially on news sites that show view counts on articles.

Content Planning & Scheduling

With the copious amounts of research you just collected it’s time to start planning your content.

If you haven’t already it could help to create some customer profiles. Here is an example.

Using an editorial calendar, plan content out for an entire month, for each profile. You don’t have to overwhelm them. Keep in mind the different demographics and content limitations on different platforms when planning content.

Using a software tool like Buffer, Hootsuite or Sprout you can schedule your posts for each platform.

Content Promotion and Cross Channel Marketing

This is where you can take your social marketing to the next level. Planning and scheduling posts is great. But, it’s only white noise if you don’t get it in front of the right people.

Social Platform Promotion

Use hashtags to make sure your content is being categorized and found by interested people. #dont #go #overboard #using #too #many #hashtags


It’s always a good idea to direct mention or @ mention the people or businesses directly related to your post. Reciprocity really works. Better yet, if you are following each other, direct message them so they know you are promoting their interests.

Because of “social noise” and platform algorithms, you almost have to use paid ads to promote your content. The good news, they are highly targeted and relatively inexpensive.

Cross Channel Promotion

Don’t make the mistake of thinking your social marketing efforts should be mutually exclusive to social channels.

I wouldn’t say it’s a good idea to start your content marketing on your blog. It’s required. Blog posts have a much longer shelf life than a social post and help you increase website traffic.

Email marketing is a powerhouse multiplier. You already have an incredible email list…Let’s put it to good use.

As long as your content follows the framework of social marketing, your audience is going to respond.


Proven Social Marketing Executions

Be Local

The best advice I’ve heard on the subject of local marketing is to Be Local.
It becomes extremely easy to create good local relationships when you are a local.

Pictures & Videos

There is almost no limit to the number of pictures and videos you can find in the internet. Whenever possible you should include rich media in your posts.
That said, if you make your own, you will be able to share something truly unique.

Social Listening

Several social media platforms give you the ability to “listen in” on the conversations about your brand and targeted keywords.
Social Listening

The best part. You can join the conversation. Play by the rules, and you could create a lasting impression to earn current or future business!

New Local Business & Product Launches

Take every opportunity to give a shout out to another local business trying to make a dollar. You will be incredibly surprised by how much this is appreciated both with fellow business owners and customers.

Host an Event or Fundraiser

Social Fundraiser

A great way to get some engagement is to help promote an event or raise money. Rather than just a single post on Facebook, host an event at your dealership.

Create a Sponsorship

Sponsor something your audience really wants to do.
Movie night in the park. Sponsor a Cub Scout retreat. Create a local adventure race.
The options are limitless.

Contests and Giveaways

People love contests and coupons. Spend a little bit of money buying tickets to a local event or dinner at a local restaurant. Promote through social channels and have an enter-to-win contest.

Social Contests

DISCLAIMER: Make sure you check all local laws concerning contests and giveaways before you launch.


Social marketing could be the most cost effective marketing channel you have at your disposal, when deployed correctly.

Take the time to consider how you could affect the hearts and minds of your target market with a little community love.

Start small and don’t forget that this will take some time to build.

John Paul Strong

John Paul Strong combines his two decades of automotive marketing experience with a team of more than 150 professionals as owner and CEO of Strong Automotive.

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