LOS ANGELES – Social media works for dealers, but they must work at it.

So says Alexi Venneri, CEO of marketing firm Digital Air Strike, during a presentation here on using the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to connect with customers and sell more cars.

“Dealers and automakers are leveraging the social networks to get real results,” she says.

But not all are social-media mavens. Many dealers just dabble in it, Venneri says at the 2014 Automotive Social Media Summit. “And there’s a misperception by social sites that all dealers know this stuff.”

She offers these tips for scoring with social:

Know what customers are seeing. “Find out what they see when they type in your dealership’s name.” Car buyers use multiple portals to find information. “Know what they will find.”

Fix what’s broken. It may be a non-functioning app link, duplicate listings or missing photos. “Or the receptionist may sit at the dealership tweeting that she hates her job.”

It’s OK to brag. “Put positive feedback and reviews on your website and Facebook page.”

Offer specials and coupons. “People search for deals.” Surveyed on what makes them “like” a business on Facebook, 52% of respondents cited coupons and offers.

Include local content. That’s especially true of community programs a dealership participates in. Paragon Honda in a Hispanic section of Queens, NY, ran items on Carnaval de la Cultura Latina. Honda of Ocala (FL) posted photos of Boy Scout Pinewood Derby winners. Norm Reeves Honda in California touted its sponsorship of a drag-racing team.

Photos are important. Plus, Internet users love videos. “Leverage dealership videos across your social platform, not just YouTube.”

Show winners. “Contests are great, but make sure to reward your followers with social proof that the contest was fulfilled.” So, post photos of happy prize recipients. 

Train the staff. “They don’t need to be experts but they should know the basics.” 

Set realistic goals. Measure success with tools tracking such things as leads, website traffic, reviews and star ratings.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com