We live in a world of distractions. Every day from nearly every angle, there are things coming at us that can take us away from our task at hand. Even something as important as buying a car can often get drowned out in all of the noise of day-to-day life.
Social media in general and Facebook in particular have a profound hold on many Americans. You probably know some people who check their Facebook notifications or scan their news feed obsessively. It has become the most convenient method of both communication and information gathering for a large percentage of Americans. In many ways, social media can hurt business and productivity.
There's a bright side. It can act as a great reminder to those in the market to buy a car that they should probably be searching inventories rather than checking on their friends' latest activities. To do this, dealers have to be visible. They cannot rely on people visiting their pages or profiles. Those people who are visiting your pages are likely getting their through your website or through a search engine and at that point they're already in car-buying mode. To get in front of the distracted people, you have to appear in their feeds.
This requires money. For better of for worse, social media has become a pay-to-play marketing venue. Thankfully, it doesn't take a large budget in order to make a huge impact on your reach. The pitfall lies in the ease through which social media advertising can be purchased. Unfortunately, those easy methods such as "boosting" on Facebook have little effect on your ability to reach distracted shoppers.
The best (and arguably only) way to make it happen is by using the hyper-targeting strengths that social media offers. For example, you can create ads on Facebook that target only those people within driving distance to the dealership that have indicated that they intend to buy a particular make or model in the next 180 days. This buyer-intent data is available for targeting on Facebook and gives you the opportunity to put the right message in front of buyers when they're in "entertainment mode". It's very much like television advertising, only much cheaper and more targeted.
Why it Works
The vast majority of people have no idea just how much targeting data is available on social media. They don't realize that the request for a brochure they made on an OEM's website last month gives you the opportunity to target them on their news feed with your message about the very vehicle they desired.
This lack of understanding creates a moment of serendipity in the mind of the buyers. They might be surfing their news feed to see pictures of little Timmy sliding into third base or to hear the latest gossip about their high school sweetheart, but when they see the Chevy Equinox post pop up on their news feed with a link to a local dealership's inventory on their website, they often see it as a "sign" that they should probably be replacing their current vehicle sooner rather than later.
Again, it's like television. I mentioned that it was cheaper and more targeted, but it's also much more trackable. Compared to television or other types of entertainment advertising venues, social media can demonstrate tangible results that you can track and analyze.
Yes, People Click
Seeing is believing. I'll admit that I was a skeptic at first as well until I saw the numbers. We've seen an average of less than a dollar per click to the dealership's website. It is much less expensive than search PPC and more effective than retargeting, banner ads, or any other form of cost-per-click advertising.
We have seen dealers get over 1,000 clicks in a month that translated into verifiable leads and direct sales from people who most likely would not have visited the dealer's website otherwise. Don't forget, they're not clicking on search listings on classified listings that put you up against several competitors. You're grabbing them when they're in entertainment mode. It's more casual, but that doesn't mean it's any less serious. The only real difference is that you have them isolated; they aren't seeing you competitors on their news feed and they're clicking through to you and you alone.
How to Keep it Clean
"But, I don't want to pollute my awesome Facebook page with spam about oil changes!"
We've heard this type of objection many times. This is why we recommend putting out your direct marketing messages that pertain to a particular audience through Facebook's ad manager as an unpublished post. These do not appear on your page at all. They do not appear in news feeds of people who are not being targeted. It's the best of both worlds - keep your public page filled with creative awesomeness while putting the sales messages in front of people who will appreciate them.
The Bandwagon Will Come
The best part about these practices on social media is that very few dealers are utilizing them. Most are still stuck in the misconception that you can't drive traffic, generate leads, or make sales through social media. The longer they stay in the dark, the better.
Unfortunately, it won't last forever. Just as search marketing was a big secret 7 or 8 years ago, social media advertising is the secret today. They'll catch on. Big companies will figure out that social media is not about syndication but rather personalization. Until then, someone has to reap the benefits. Why not you?