Automotive Articles

Seven Social Media Trends for Auto Dealers

Everyone knows that the automotive industry runs on loyalty. 

Faced with an ever-competitive landscape, dealers strive to cultivate long-term relationships with customers to drive auto sales and increase service and parts revenue.

Dealers have relied upon direct mail and email to keep up communications with customers and prospects, but the emergence of social media has added another avenue for dealers to leverage in order to interface with customers.

This new channel looks promising for dealers.A recent study conducted by Facebook found that car owners who are fans of their manufacturer are stronger advocates than those who aren’t, and are able to share their recommendations with three times more people than the average Facebook user. That’s a powerful finding indicating a valuable avenue for dealers and manufacturers to attract potential customers and engage with existing ones. Additionally, since the fan bases of 10 leading automotive brands in the U.S. represent less than five percent of their owners on Facebook, according to the same study, there continues to be a real opportunity for automotive brands to take advantage of today in terms of customer engagement.

To better understand the social media marketing needs of the automotive industry, IMN recently conducted an extensive study comprised of 600 phone interviews and 21 extensive in-person interviews with representatives from most of the major U.S. automotive brands. The goal was to benchmark marketing priorities and identify common trends associated with emerging social media requirements.

Seven trends clearly emerged:

#1 Social is still a new frontier for dealers.

Although dealers are testing many tactics to increase their social presence, average confidence in their overall social media strategy was relatively low. Growing their social media audience was high in importance; social lead generation rated much lower. Many expressed doubt that social channels could be used as lead/ business drivers. The dealers in the study were, for the most part, pragmatic about what is feasible to measure. Most would be very interested if their tools could go beyond basic data and provide reliable ROI metrics.

#2 Dealer presence across social media has room for growth.

Among those surveyed, a good number were on Twitter as well as Facebook, but not using it regularly or, in their minds, effectively.

Very few had profiles for their business on YouTube, Google+ or other platforms. Many had not even “claimed” their business page on Yelp, foursquare, or other social media platforms that enable customer feedback and rewards.

#3 Reputation management is important—but dealers want to control customer interactions.

Of most concern to the survey respondents was reputation management. However, almost without exception, they were extremely concerned that an automated solution would not allow them to maintain control of their customer and prospect relationships. They expressed interest in gaining a better understanding of what is being said about them online, but wanted ultimate control over the conversations and relationships with both current and potential customers.

#4 Email marketing is essential.

In IMN’s study, email marketing ranked second in importance for auto dealers, in large part, because it was a well-known medium with clear metrics and the ability to provide value that they can understand. The study also indicated that while many dealers do not yet see the value in tying email marketing with social marketing, they understood the value of integrating the two and ensuring consistency.

#5 Search Engine Optimization—a marketing puzzle

Like many other businesses struggling with the complexities of the algorithms and inner workings of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the vast majority of dealers understood SEO’s value, but were unclear about how to best take advantage of this powerful lead generator. This demonstrates the need for greater education about the role of SEO in the marketing mix and how to make more informed decisions about its use.

#6 Social content—still a mystery

With the greatest cost of social media marketing being time, content generation was another factor with which dealers struggle. Most found it a challenge to create current, relevant and unique content on a consistent basis, and the content they were creating was relatively unsophisticated and not strategic in nature. Most would welcome the ability to create truly effective content across types and formats without spending a lot of time doing it.

#7 Analytics

All respondents indicated that getting help from a third party in making their social media and email marketing efforts profitable would be something on which they would be happy to spend a portion of their marketing budgets. The social marketing goal for many of the dealers is simply to create engaging content that will create interest (direct and via sharing) so consumers will come into the dealership. For many, measuring the effect of social marketing often comes down to anecdotal feedback during phone calls or in-store visits. A social solution that could provide measurable results on a consistent basis has the potential to change a dealer’s entire perception of the value of social media.

As one of the dealers surveyed said, “time is the new expense.”

Dealers want to use social media effectively, generating positive ROI in the process, but seek a way to do so that enables them to maintain customer relationships without major time investments.

Accomplishing this requires strategies that address content, distribution and analytics to enable them to use social media to become more competitive and more connected with their customers.


Yes, QR Codes Do Work

See our QR Code in action. Scan the above QR Code to visit our Digital Dealer 13 site.

QR codes are all the rage, but do they work?

According to my Cobalt client, Lezley Pumphrey, BDC Manager of Motor City Buick GMC, the answer is yes.  Her dealership started using QR codes in November 2011, directed at the Motor City Buick GMC Gateway page for GMC. To date, they have seen a total of over 500 visitors from this new marketing method, a nice bump in traffic.  

Pumphrey states, “At Motor City Buick GMC, we strongly believe in mobile traffic. Consumers no longer wait for an email response from dealerships. They grab their mobile device, research the dealership, and walk-in. The more mobile presence we can get, the better. We are always looking for ways to increase our QR code and Mobile website traffic.”

Lezley is not the only one seeing more traffic thanks to QR codes. In general, I would say dealers have gotten an average of 50-100 extra visitors per month through QR codes if they actively use them. These numbers aren’t huge, but the traffic is relevant and over time makes an impact. In addition these numbers are only expected to grow as the rise of QR codes continues.

In fact, a June 2012 Econsultancy Survey reports that 1 in 2 auto industry marketers are using QR codes to encourage customers to interact with their brand.

As with any emerging media, the big challenge is how to educate your clients and successfully incorporate QR codes into your in-store processes. Here are a few ideas:

  • Incorporate QR code giveaways at dealership events
  • Add a QR code to the last picture of vehicles details page
  • Incorporate QR codes on newspaper ads, monthly newsletters, direct mailers, etc
  • Add QR codes on vehicle stickers
  • Incorporate a QR code on signage in your service department so that people can scan while they wait
  • Place QR codes on the back of business cards for the sales staff – this way they can see a live view of inventory right away if they need it

Making QR codes a natural part of all your marketing can pay off in unprecedented ways when it comes to closing individual car sales, but you have to put in the time and effort to educate your sales staff and your clients.

Just think: a man may be interested in purchasing a car, but he needs to go home and talk to his wife first. The salesperson should have him scan the QR code for that vehicle in inventory so he can quickly and easily show his wife the car when he gets home. In essence, the dealership controls exactly what this man sees when he scans. This can have compelling aftereffects if the consumer is educated on its purpose.  The key is to ensure the sales associate informs the consumer on how to later use the QR code.

Remember, innovation and education go hand in hand. In order to be successful, you need to educate both your staff and your shoppers about how to use these new codes. Start internally at the dealership. Train your staff on how to use QR codes and make sure they are comfortable using them. The same goes for your customers; since QR codes are new to many, it helps to incorporate clear instructions like “Scan this code on your

Comment by George Nenni yesterday
Great post Jessica, you make a number of good points.  I especially like the one about adding a QR code to the last picture of vehicles details page.Of course we’ve been using your suggestion of putting them on window stickers for a few years, but just in the last 12 months the clicks have really been climbing for Dealer Specialties customers.  August of 2011 saw and average of about 8 QR code clicks per month, compared to August of 2012 nearly 28 clicks per month.  More than triple the scans on average!  Very easy to do, and solid results.
Comment by Ralph Paglia yesterday
I want to thank Chad Coates at Ken Grody Ford for turning me on to a nifty and FREE QR Code generating and usage tracking online service at – They have an interesting model where you create a microsite that displays links to your dealership website, Facebook Page, YouTube Channel, Twitter Profile and several other social media type connections.  Although I am averse to anything that requires consumers to click too many times to get to a dealer’s website, the way YouScan.Me creates a choice for consumers is interesting and worth trying to measure results.  Speaking of which, Chad sent me some screen captures of reports that I will post in a separate blog entry. The tracking and reporting capabilities of this service may make it well worthwhile to implement.%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

Are you executing your processes???

How can you make sure that the processes you have throughout the dealership are executed every time….. and with every customer?

This has been and still remains one of the toughest things to get accomplished in the dealership.

Every dealership throughout the country has their own processes and procedures when it comes to selling and servicing their customers.

Every dealership has slightly different “steps to the sale” in regards to selling a customer a new or pre-owned vehicle.

Every dealership has their own processes on what transpires in the Service lane.

Every dealership has their own “playbook” on how they want their customers handled.

So how do you get your employees to execute this “playbook” each and every time with every customer??

You need to build a “video” library of ALL of your processes so that each and every one of your employees know exactly WHAT you want executed and HOW you want it executed.

In this video library, you need to “role play” each and every scenario in every step in every process.

Take each step in the “road to the sale” and have your management team role play exactly how you want your salespeople to execute these steps!

Take all of the processes in your Service Drive and video each one so that your employees flawlessly handle each and every step.

In building your “video library” of training material, you can give your employees the confidence and competence to succeed! Otherwise you leave the employee to “interpret” what your processes are.

By having this video library you build efficiencies and consistencies throughout the customer interaction. An efficient and consistent process is very important to having customer satisfaction AND customer retention!

Once you have this video library of every step to every process, have some fun by having your employee’s video role play each step.

There is no better training tool than seeing yourself execute a process. Every professional sports team in America utilizes “game film” to help train their team to see what they executed well and where their opportunities lie.

In building a video library of your processes, it provides a tool that your employees can utilize to sharpen their skills on a daily basis. It also provides a new employee ALL of the information that they will need to succeed and “get them up to speed” in your dealership!

Build your “core” process video library TODAY!!!

Your employees, customers and profits will ALL benefit!!!!

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The Four Most Important Aspects of Dealership Mobile Websites

Posted by J.D. Rucker

There has been a lot more talk over the last several months about mobile. It has transitioned from a “check box” item where dealers ask their vendors the simple yes or no question, “Do you have mobile sites in your package?”

Today, the questions are more along the lines of, “What makes your mobile websites better than my competitors’?”

That, at least, should be the question.

The world is going mobile. There is zero doubt that mobile is growing exponentially and the activities that many people perform on a daily basis are transitioning to mobile. When people watch television, they often have a mobile device at the ready. They talk about their favorite shows while they watch them. They curse at the cornerback who just intercepted their team’s pass by posting their anger on Twitter or Facebook. They check out websites of things they see on television.

When your television commercial reaches someone who is in the market today to buy a car, do you think they’re getting up and going to the computer? Some do. Some just grab their iPhone and check out your inventory from there. What will they find?

Last month our founder and VP of Internet Marketing Richard Valenta did a webinar called “5 Mobile Must Haves.” The fifth component is about decisions rather than actual mobile websites, but here’s a quick breakdown of the takeaways from the webinar:

1. Speed is Absolutely the Most Important Thing. Period

Nobody like to wait. Some of us have grown a little more patience in the last couple of years as we know that internet connections are slower through mobile devices, but we still want a site to respond quickly.

Mobile sites MUST load quickly. Inventory must load quickly. The site must flow properly and not skip a beat. This is the number one reason why we’re still skeptical about adaptive website design. We know it’s the future. It just doesn’t work today for dealers on mobile devices because of the speed factor. The technology simply isn’t ready for this industry.

Speed can help. Lack of speed can kill.

2. Easy Navigation

This should be a no-brainer. It’s intuitively understood that the ability to quickly navigate through a mobile site is important in keeping people on your mobile site. The challenge is that even though everyone seems to know it, so many mobile solutions out there simply don’t pay attention to this fact.

Get them from your mobile homepage to wherever they want to go (especially inventory) in a couple of seconds or less.

3. Strong Mobile Inventory

The screen is smaller. It’s surprising that many mobile sites have such small images on them. That’s just one point.

The bigger point is the idea that no matter where they are on your mobile site, whether on the homepage, the inventory listings page, or the inventory details page, they should be able to click to call. Again, it’s a no-brainer, but so few have it.

4. GPS Integration

I’m not going to cover it again, as I wrote an entire article about it here. Bottom line – get GPS integration into your directions. If someone is on your competitor’s lot, don’t make them ask for the address if they want to come see you. Let them get to you straight from their mobile device wherever they are.


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