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Car dealers are not known for being early adopters of platforms or technology, but they do eventually catch up to industry norms and standards. Social media is no different for dealers, and of the 18,000 new car dealerships in the US, many of them still struggle to understand the role of social media in their business and how it should be managed.

Dealers today are asked to wear many hats, and while social media started out as an interesting early version of “Web 2.0” technology, it is today a robust channel for marketing and communication. It’s no wonder then that car dealerships have for the most part not been able to keep up with social media; its value proposition has shifted dramatically over the past ten years.

It is against this backdrop that we examine how car dealers tend to handle social media for their stores today. Here are the four basic categories of social media “managers” in use by car dealers and the pros and cons of each strategy.

The Volunteer Employee

Ah, yes, the receptionist, the “guy in finance” or the “service technician with the good iPhone.” These are the common day jobs of the volunteer employee who many dealers task with double duty in managing their social media.

The challenges with this strategy are plentiful, but the bottom line is that social media is often the lowest priority for folks who have another job at the dealership, and their lack of time and attention to social media means that the dealership’s audiences lose interest in their accounts and the social media platforms themselves start to penalize them algorithmically. Moreover, these volunteer employees often lack the creative skills necessary to be effective or competitive on social media meaning that their efforts – however well-intentioned – are often more damaging to the dealership brand than they are beneficial.

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • In-house
  • “Someone’s doing it.”

Cons:

  • Inconsistent
  • Ineffective/Low quality
  • Unfair to employee and dealership

The Dedicated Employee

Dedicated social media managers can be an asset to a dealership, and their presence is often a sign that the dealer “gets it” when it comes to digital marketing. The role of a dedicated social media manager for car dealers often encompasses photography, photo editing, copywriting, content scheduling, community management and digital analytics. If that seems like a lot of different skills to find in one reliable employee, that’s because it is. While it’s possible to find a creative marketing savant who can take world-class photos, write witty social posts, analyze metrics and talk to people online, it’s likely to be a very long job search.

There will most likely be some sacrifices that a dealership GM or hiring manager will have to make in terms of skillset in hiring for a dedicated social media manager. Very, very few people do all of these wide-ranging tasks well, and when faced with the monetary expense and time investment required in supporting full-time employees, many dealers will find that they simply cannot afford to have a dedicated social media manager.

Pros:

  • Authentic content
  • Single point of accountability
  • Consistency

Cons:

  • Expensive / Requires management
  • Gaps in skillsets
  • Investment in technology & training required

The Marketing/Advertising Agency

Many dealership marketing agencies make the claim that they “do social media,” but what does that mean? In many cases, that means they will post manufacturer-supplied or “repost” third-party content to your social media accounts every once in a while to keep the GM and the algorithms happy.

Many agencies will also provide retargeting and inventory advertising campaigns that pull from a dealer’s inventory and display cars on Facebook. They call this “social media management” instead of what it really is “pay-per-click” or “performance marketing.” While these services can be valuable, they do not leverage the inherent benefits of social media in terms of two-way communication with customers. They are also inauthentic; they simply invade social media feeds with content that many followers have already seen before and add little value to the viewer’s experience.

Pros:

  • Consistency
  • Single point of accountability
  • Drives some digital traffic

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Inauthentic content
  • Limited value of mobile traffic from inventory ads

The Posting Service

As social media has matured from walled-off, single-purpose websites into fully-built, API-accessible platforms, many marketing automation tools have popped up purporting to “handle” social media for dealerships. While it’s true that certain tools do increase efficiency in some of the more mundane social media tasks such as scheduling and posting to multiple accounts at once, the biggest things that are missing from all of them are unique content and ongoing communication.

Dealership social media posting services make their business model work by leveraging digital tools and generic content at scale. While typically in abundant supply (save for newly-released or limited-production models), OEM-supplied content is not unique to any dealership and is therefore already all over the internet by the time it makes its way down to dealer-level social media accounts. This limits the “wow factor” and dopamine rush that accompanies the discovery of new, high-quality content and accounts on social media, and therefore limits its virality and discoverability.

Additionally, even if their generic content were to generate engagement from the dealership’s followers (it rarely does) posting services generally don’t communicate with followers or respond to comments, and this leaves neglected and lost the biggest opportunity and the whole purpose of today’s social media platforms: the ability to communicate directly with customers.

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Consistent
  • Single point of accountability

Cons:

  • Inauthentic content
  • No communication with leads
  • Limited channel growth and engagement from stale content

Social Media Options for Car Dealers

The truth of the matter is that car dealerships are actually local businesses at their core. They are bright, modern facilities that serve a role in the community that is much more important than the sign on the door would indicate. New cars make people feel good, and so should their dealership experience, and today that starts on social media. Dealerships win at social media with good, local content. Period. General Managers and Dealer Principals need to make effective social media management a priority in their growth strategy. Social media does its job of driving leads and store visits with great content, consistent presence, and meaningful conversations.

car.media is a social media BDC for car dealerships. We combine world-class, custom photography and social media management in unique 1, 2, or 4-week per month plans that any car dealership can subscribe to directly from our website. Within days of being hired, we transform dealership social media channels into engaging, authentic and lead-generating digital experiences.

Image credits: Unsplash