I recently read an article in Automotive News that debates whether or not a Social Media presence is important for the auto industry. I, a social media advocate, have been confronted with the “Facebook doesn’t sell cars” argument on more than one occasion. And however true that may or may not be, it is almost irresponsible for a thriving business, small or large, to ignore a free marketing platform that has nearly 1 billion active users.

The primary argument is that manufacturers and dealerships are spending thousands of dollars a year on social media marketing and they feel that the ROI (return on investment) does not meet or exceed the costs. There is very little proof that Facebook or Twitter actually sells vehicles, but there are companies still spending tens of thousands on up to the millions a year on these platforms. Why is that?

The answer is brand loyalty. Every good businessman knows that 80% of their profits come from 20% of their customers and social media marketing is an inexpensive way to increase both of those numbers. For manufacturers, you get important feedback for your engineering, design, and what people do and don’t like about certain vehicles. For dealers, you get to build stronger, long term relationships with your direct customers.

Companies can learn from their customers on a whole different level than they used to be able to. Having 1,000 comments or “likes” can sway brand decisions and help them develop a product that the consumer really wants. There was no feasible way to do that just 10 years ago. And now, with the click of a few buttons, Facebook has enabled brands to engage their customers in real time.

Social Media is a double edged sword. You will invest a lot of time and money without measurable return, but the brand and image building is crucial. It shouldn’t be about selling. We already know that very few click on the ads on the right hand of the page, but Facebook and Twitter are the central news hub for our generation. Manufacturers and dealerships need to use social media as an opportunity to keep all of the “fans” informed, not to scare them away with sales.

Since cities are usually all dealerships and no manufacturers, here are a few tips on how to make your lot more social:

  1. Post informative articles about the vehicles you sell.
  2. Make a YouTube channel and post short videos every week about a neat feature of a vehicle.
  3. Inform people about special events that your dealership is sponsoring.
  4. Upload a photo of a happy customer(s) and their brand new purchase.
  5. Let people know what is on your lot and what you can order.
  6. Use Facebook questions and polls to gain strong feedback about what your customers are thinking.
  7. Use social media as a chance to respond to poor reviews.

The most important thing is to be excited about it. Social media a fun and useful way to engage with your customers like never before. So dealers, stop saying “Come and check out our great deals!” and post real, engaging content that will make your fans want to come back and do business with you. In the end, it’s about retaining your long term customers and showing them that you care.

Here are some more examples of what manufacturers are doing to keep their community engaged: 
  • Aston Martin let their followers design a car once they hit 1 million “likes”
  • Chrysler has a fan of the week where they post a picture of a proud Chrysler owner with their new car
  • Dodge does “Mod Monday” and “Throwback Thursday” which shows off users modified Dodges and classic Dodge vehicles (respectively)
  • Volkswagen created a “Beetle Shark Cage” in honor of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.
  • Ferrari gives discounts to their online gift store to make everyone, even if they can’t afford a Ferrari, be a part of the community