For the auto industry, Facebook marketing is no longer the novelty it was when Ford used the network to catapult a youthful Fiesta campaign in 2009.
Automakers have gotten more creative with their social outreach in the years since then as Facebook expands the marketing tools it makes available to advertisers. But it's dealerships, which are on the front lines of the daily sales grind, that are the target for many of the new tools designed to help move consumers down the purchase funnel.
While a growing number of stores have been able to attribute sales directly to Facebook promotions, others still believe that Facebook ads can't move cars. And some that are willing to give Facebook a shot never get off the ground because they lack cohesive strategies.
That's frustrating for marketing consultant Kathi Kruse, who calls Facebook "a fabric of our lives."
With Facebook ads, "the opportunities there are so huge if you know what you're doing," says Kruse, founder of auto retail consultancy Kruse Control Inc. "It's really frustrating to see people not adopting the idea of it at all. When I speak [to dealers], I see a lot of blank faces."
Kruse said some dealers are held back by fear of failure or not knowing what to post. Others may think they don't have enough time to devote to Facebook outreach.
Kruse, whose grandfather was a car dealer in Los Angeles, warns dealers to avoid these common mistakes of Facebook marketing:
- You try to take off without a runway. Launching a Facebook presence without a plan won't get stores anywhere. Kruse said stores need to have strategies around content, promotion and conversion in the beginning. "A lot of people don't have a plan. They think they shouldn't put money towards Facebook or social because they can't quantify why," Kruse explained. Dealers will say, ""Oh, it doesn't sell cars.' Well, it does if you know what you're doing and you do it right. If you have a plan, then you can set your goals and you can work back into those goals with strategy."
- You make it all about you. Kruse said a consumer will look at a dealership's Facebook post wondering: What's in it for me? She said dealers should apply that thought process to their strategies by asking themselves before posting, "What attracts your audience to you?" and "What can you do to attract them to your brand?"
- You have no content strategy. To generate leads, Kruse said stores need to know who their customers are and what's relevant to them. "Content could mean you want to create more engagement with your brand or more interest with your brands," she said. "Or it could mean more advertising content."
- You make no meaningful investment. Facebook isn't a free ride. If a dealership is posting content without boosting it, then it's likely no one is seeing it. "You have to have a budget for content creation and you need a budget for Facebook ads -- and someone to manage those ads."
- You don't regularly conduct a social-media audit. Some stores can't figure out why their strategies aren't converting consumers. That might be in part because they don't take an occasional deep dive into what's effective and what isn't. "They don't look at how they stack up against the competitor," Kruse said. "An audit will give you what best practices are. It will give you some guidance on if you're going to hire somebody to do social."
- You have no conversion strategy. A dealership could be posting content on Facebook and even promoting it with basic ads on the platform, but Kruse said some stores don't realize they can take their Facebook outreach to the next level. Dealerships can do that by crafting special landing pages on their sites to which they can draw specific consumer groups from Facebook through newsfeed ads. "The goal of a landing page is to take them from where they are, click on a link, go to your website and further down the sales funnel," she said. "It guides them along to do the things you want them to do."
- You fail to identify and achieve return on investment. Some of the metrics stores can observe to gauge effectiveness include content reach, audience growth and engagement. Another key performance indicator deals with whether organic leads are being converted. An organic lead, Kruse said, may come to a dealership's Facebook page asking whether the consumer can make an appointment for an oil change. The person monitoring the page should know how to convert organic consumers without the dealer spending a dime.