With 80% of car buyers using some form of digital technology to research their options before entering a car dealership, auto dealers face an extremely competitive market.

To top it off, they’re tasked with a new challenge: selling to the millennial buyer. According to research done on Millennials, this generation is a lucrative target predicted to spend $138 billion on light vehicles this year.

So, how do dealers tap the massive spending power of these individuals? First, they need to understand their spending habits and how they make purchases. It’s no surprise Millennials are technology dependent. They grew up using computers and cell phones and are more accustomed to having information on demand.

As such, they’re known to do extensive online research before making a purchase. AutoTrader.com reports Millennials spend more than 17 hours researching their vehicle before buying. So it’s imperative dealers have a strong online presence.

To do this, marketers need to meet Millennials where they are. In the U.S.,  Millennials spend about 30 hours a month on social-network sites, 26 on Facebook alone, according to ComScore.

It’s clear this tech-savvy generation’s behaviors are deeply rooted in social media, making it a prime channel to reach them on – but how?

Collectively, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat offer a sea of advertising capabilities to enable hyper-personalized targeting.

Facebook, for example, does this by giving dealers the opportunity to reach local car buyers with location-based targeting, making promotional messages more relevant. However, with such a vast range of social media and targeting options, how can dealerships effectively leverage these channels to achieve maximum ROI?

The key to tackling this behemoth is to start slow and to focus on the basics. Within an ecosystem of “likes” and retweets, these tools should be treated like a digital-marketing platform.

While most people have their own personal Facebook page, Instagram account or Twitter handle, using social media for business is much different. Dealers often confuse social-media advertising with content management, assuming daily posts or tweets will help them reach the same local audience as a paid social-media campaign. That’s not the case. A paid campaign reaches a larger group in a different way.

Understand target demographics. What social-media platforms are they already using? What are their likes and interests?

Focus on five or six known traits of an ideal customer, such as gender, age, location and yearly income.

Dealers can refine this further. For instance, they can target interests or affiliations, such as a local university or sports team one might follow or engage with on social media.

While Facebook maintains a lion’s share of the market, it is but one player in the social-media ecosystem. Snapchat and Instagram tends to attract younger consumers.

Visually oriented Instagram, for example, has 400 million active users and shares many of the same targeting modules as Facebook. Though it may not be the best fit for a stand-alone campaign, it’s a nice option to use in tandem with other social-media marketing tactics.

Snapchat is quickly emerging as a key player with users sharing more than 400 million Snaps a day, garnering 10 billion Snap video views daily. Using precise location data, there’s a huge opportunity for dealers to use Snapchat Geofilters to engage and activate local customers.

After setting up and launching a campaign, monitor the native analytics capabilities to gauge how a campaign is doing. That lets dealers optimize, adjust and reach the target audience.

Millennials don’t want to engage in a long negotiation process when purchasing a car and instead come to the dealership well versed on models and prices. As such, auto marketers need to ensure these consumers have several engaging online touch points with the brand before they step on the lot.

Gary Galloway is Netsertive’s automotive digital marketing evangelist. He’s also an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he teaches digital marketing and communications.