Dealers must make the most of all social-media options without necessarily being on every social-media website, says ad agency executive Amy Fulford.  

 “We’ve evolved from thinking social media is used only by the Millennial generation to realizing it’s where adults 25 to 54 are, and it’s very important for dealers to reach those eyeballs,” says the vice president and director-social media at Agency 720, a Detroit agency that serves Chevrolet’s local marketing associations.

She recommends bypassing hundreds of social media sites and instead focus on Facebook and Twitter.

“Do those two, and do them very well,” Fulford says. “Some people try to be everything to everyone across all sites, but if you don’t do it right, it’s better to not do it at all.”

For a Facebook page to be effective, dealers must be authentic and personally involved in its content, she says, recommending assigning one staffer to oversee it or manage the vendor providing content services.

People typically visit a dealer’s Facebook page to get a sense of the store’s personality and whether the dealership is relevant to their needs, communicates in the way customers prefer, includes customer reviews and provides staff biographies, she says.

Facebook is also the place where the dealer can connect with the community by showing support for local sports teams or charities.

Once the dealership begins to collect “likes,” it can build relationships by offering things of value such as free date-night car washes every Friday, shopping classes, service clinics and vehicle news.

“You have to have something to say and usually a sweepstakes, contest or ticket giveaway is a fun way to engage current or new customers,” Fulford says. “This is a great way to launch a program. You should have a strategy to do this every couple of months.”

Through its relationships with industry data sources, Facebook also offers several paid products.

“A dealer can place an ad on Facebook that targets customers in its own database and invites them to like its Facebook page,” Fulford says. “Facebook also offers a custom audience option where dealers buy ads that target in-market prospects that are within a certain radius of their store. It’s hyper-local, hyper-targeted.”

Fulford says many dealers underuse Twitter, but it’s still a good way to locate prospects. “There are lots of free services (such as HootSuite, TweetReach, and Social Mention) that monitor tweets around a certain radius of a dealership. You can search for key words like ‘new car’ or ‘Chevrolet’ and talk to people who are in the market for a new vehicle.”

Traditional marketing is “push” messaging that often shouts, “Sale! New vehicle! Come on in!”

With social media, dealers can join an ongoing conversation with people who are already in the market for a vehicle.

If a monitor picks up a tweet from someone who is complaining about a vehicle or a bad dealer experience, a store can respond and offer assistance. It’s more of a conversation than a hard sell.

Engaging customers on social media “takes a lot of planning, diligence, and content and it’s not necessarily cheap,” Fulford says. “But it’s a good way to build your dealership’s reputation.”