2. MAY 5, 2014 ❙ 3
Your guide to driving car,
truck sales via social media
W E L C O M E
e talk with dealers across the
country on a regular basis as
part of Ally’s “all in” approach
to serving our customers. A
topic that comes up often is the use of social
media, and we have found that dealers fall
into two pools. While many dealers
have begun to truly embrace the technology and use it as
a tool to boost their businesses, some still think they
lack the resources or expertise to pursue a social
It’s hard to believe that social media outlets
weren’t even on the radar for most of us a few
years ago. Today, they’ve become an important
and nearly inseparable part of our personal and
Social media provides a new dimension for
customer engagement — and dealers are finding that
more often, that’s the way their customers want to be
engaged. A robust online presence can show prospective
buyers what a dealership has to offer, and can even build trust
and relationships long before a customer walks through the
Forecasters say that in 10 years, the tech-savvy millennial
generation — the largest generation in U.S. history — will be
responsible for nearly 40 percent of all vehicle sales. But even
beyond millennials, the 55- to 64-year-old age group is now the
fastest growing demographic on Twitter.
The fact is, the game is changing and social media is no longer
a piece of the puzzle that dealers can ignore. That’s why we’ve
dedicated this issue of Ally Auto to exploring social media to
help dealers understand their growing importance to our
industry. I hope you find the issue a valuable resource.
Tim Russi, Ally Financial president of auto finance
SPECIAL ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT
5 Social media: By the numbers
6-7 Your guide to social media platforms
8-9 Q&A with Ally’s Andrea Riley
9 How Connect4Content helps dealers
10 Dealer profile: Holman Automotive
11 Dealer profile: Crotty Chevrolet-Buick
12 Dealer profile: AutoNation
13 Social media checklist
14 Best practices
15 How automakers can help dealers
STORIES WRITTEN BY JULIE LIESSE
3. 4 ❙ MAY 5, 2014 SPECIAL ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT
ocial media is not just about Facebook
posts, tweets and YouTube videos.
Yes, social media is how Americans keep
in touch with friends and family online.
But social media also, increasingly, is how
people find out about businesses and brands, how
they form opinions about what they might buy, and
how they gather information as they shop.
Nielsen estimates that more than 20 percent of the
time people spend online on their computers is on
social media sites — and that number rises to about a
third of their online time on mobile phones. Consider
that 90 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds-moving into
their prime consumer years use social media.
For dealers, social media represents a new way of
communicating with car buyers, and a new way of
doing business, because social media can help
■ Stay in touch with past, current and prospective buyers
on a personal and daily basis.
■ Provide information to car shoppers who are using
computers and mobile phones to search for a dealership
— and craft a positive impression even before a customer
walks through the door.
■ Target advertising to consumers using sophisticated
geographic and demographic breakdowns, as well as
■ Generate service business.
■ Share news and expertise: Showcase automakers’
brand information — including new product launches and
ad campaigns — and offer tips and knowledge about car
and truck operation and maintenance.
■ Build a strong online reputation by listening to what
people are saying about their dealerships, and responding
quickly and professionally to customer complaints.
■ Celebrate when someone gets the keys to a new car,
creating brand advocates who will spread the word about
good purchase and service experiences.
■ Connect with car enthusiasts.
■ Engage younger consumers in a way they prefer and be
part of their conversation.
■ Highlight community involvement and shine a light on
their staff’s work on and off the job.
The bottom line? Social media is essential to reaching
consumers in the competitive world of selling cars and
trucks. Learn how to use it to your advantage.
“Social media is that direct dialog you
can have every day with people. It’s the
opportunity to talk to your most
important customers every single day
— something every dealer would love
Mark Aikman, Mercedes-Benz
“I say to everyone that my first job is to
sell a car. If you put something out on
social media, you don’t always
immediately know the effect it is going
to have. But you have planted a seed.”
Mary Henige, General Motors
“Social media is a must. You need to
be relevant and top-of-mind —
especially considering today’s
connected consumer spends a great
deal of time on social media.”
Kate Alini, BMW of North America
“Although it’s nice to share content
with our followers, the real gold is
having our customers share positive
content with their own social networks.
It exposes us to a whole new
population of potential customers; it’s
word of mouth at its best.”
Jeremy Paolone, Holman Automotive Group
“The framework of how much
information people have access to
now, and how they can get opinions
has changed the way people shop for
and buy things — especially cars.
People are experts before they get into
the real negotiations, and digital has
Kass Dawson, Facebook
4. 6 ❙ MAY 5, 2014 SPECIAL ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT
■ What is it? Facebook is an online so-
cial networking service. A user creates a
profile for a Facebook page and can add
other Facebook users as friends, allowing them to view
each other’s posts. Users can also “like” pages of other
users such as celebrities, social causes and businesses;
postings from those pages appear in the Facebook user’s
■ How many people use it? Facebook has more than
1.2 billion users worldwide and more than 170 million in
the United States.
■ Who uses it? Facebook is the most popular social
media platform, used by 57 percent of American adults in
all demographics. Excluding American adults who don’t
go online, the share rises to 71 percent. And that’s just the
consumer audience. Companies and brands also create
Facebook pages to share information and engage with
consumers. More than 15 million brands are on Facebook.
■ What do users do? Users post status updates, pho-
tos and videos. They send messages to friends and post
links to other online content. Each user’s news feed al-
lows the user to look at the content and links from the
user’s and the user’s friends’ pages, as well as the brand
or business pages they have liked.
■ What makes it unique? It reaches the largest num-
ber of social media users and spans all ages, regions and
lifestyles. Users sign on to Facebook more often than any
other social channel; 63 percent of Facebook users use
the site daily, and 40 percent log in more than once a day.
Visits to Facebook are longer than visits to other social
■ How can dealers use it? Dealers can create a deal-
ership page for customers, employees and friends to
“like” and post comments and questions. Dealerships
can then share their content as well as links to other con-
tent to engage those who like their pages in conversa-
tions, build consumer confidence and help drive traffic
to their Web sites. They can buy Facebook ads to pro-
mote their pages and individual posts. Posts are a great
way to introduce special offers for sales and service.
■ What is it? Twitter is an online social
networking service that is often called a
microblogging site because users com-
municate through short messages. Users create Twitter
names, or “handles,” with brief profiles, then can “fol-
low” the posts written by other Twitter users — the posts
appear in users’ timelines — as well has have their posts
■ How many people use it? Twitter has 241 million
users worldwide, and more than 50 million in the United
■ Who uses it? Twitter has strong appeal among
younger adults, urban dwellers and nonwhites. Of 18- to
29-year-olds who go online, 31 percent use Twitter.
Many corporate executives, celebrities, government offi-
cials, pundits and reporters have personal Twitter ac-
counts. More than 46 percent of Twitter users visit their
Twitter feeds at least once a day.
■ What do users do? Users send tweets — messages
limited to 140 characters. Tweets can include photos,
videos and links to Web sites. Tweets can also include
hashtags, which use the # symbol to mark keywords and
topics. Twitter users can search for hashtags such as
#RedCross, #FinalFour and #AutoMarketing to find in-
formation and follow users of interest.
■ What makes it unique? Users can read tweets di-
rectly from celebrities, corporate executives and sports
stars. Nearly all news outlets use Twitter. Often, because
of its quick and simple format, Twitter is the fastest way
to break news and share announcements.
■ How can dealers use it? Dealers can create a Twit-
ter account and handle (@CarDealer, for example), and
post tweets to followers, follow others and reply and
retweet content from other handles. Twitter is a great
way to create and take part in conversations with cus-
tomers, potential customers and auto enthusiasts. Deal-
ers also can buy advertising on Twitter to boost their
■ What is it? Pinterest is an online
scrapbook-style tool that lets users collect
and organize such things as images,
videos and quotes.
■ How many people use it? 70 million users
■ Who uses it? Women are four times as likely as men
to be Pinterest users; 33 percent of adult women who go
online use Pinterest. Pinterest users tend to be more
highly educated and more affluent than the general pop-
■ What do users do? Users create collections by
“pinning” items to personal pinboards — sort of like on-
line bulletin boards. Users also can “follow” other peo-
ple’s boards, which will feed postings to the user’s board.
Boards can be owned solely by the account holder, or can
be a “community” board that allows multiple people to
pin to a board. Pinterest uses hashtags, similar to Twitter,
making it easy for users to find content.
>> CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE
5. ■ What makes it unique? Pinterest is highly visual
and is effective in driving traffic to Web sites. It is also
seen as a strong lead generator; more than 47 percent of
U.S. online consumers have made a purchase based on
recommendations from Pinterest.
■ How can dealers use it? Dealers can create a Pin-
terest account, create a set of boards and start pinning
and sharing other users’ original photography of vehi-
cles, special cars for sale, vehicle tips and more. There is a
great deal of vehicle-related information on Pinterest,
and a category solely on cars and motorcycles makes the
tool a natural fit for dealers to generate leads.
■ What is it? Google+ is a social net-
working service operated by Google that
is part of a connected suite of Google ap-
plications such as Gmail and YouTube.
■ How many people use it? Google claims 540 mil-
lion users, but many mainly use other Google applica-
tions. Some surveys estimate that 16 percent of American
adults use Google+.
■ Who uses it? Google+ users tend to skew toward
younger men, especially those who consider themselves
■ What do users do? People and businesses can use
Google+ as they use other social media tools such as
Twitter and Facebook. They can send messages, photos
and even video chat with other Google+ users. They also
can use Google+ to search for things such as restaurant
and retail recommendations.
■ What makes it unique? A Google+ user’s public
profile contains information and photos that appear
when someone conducts a regular Google search. If
someone with a Gmail account searches for an auto deal-
ership, a Google+ profile is displayed if the dealership has
created one. It would be the consumer’s first touch point.
■ How can dealers use it? Dealers can create a
Google+ account and profile. Because so many people
use Google to search for information, a Google+ profile
can enable a dealer to share information about the deal-
ership and create an immediate personal connection; it
also allows the dealership to be readily accessible to mo-
■ What is it? Instagram, owned by
Facebook, is a simple way to share photos
■ How many people use it? Instagram has 150 mil-
lion users, with more than 90 percent under age 35.
■ Who uses it? Sixty-eight percent of Instagram users
are female, 57 percent of Instagram users access the site
daily and the average Instagram user spends 257 minutes
a month on the site.
■ What do users do? Instagram users take and up-
load images and videos, add visual filters to enhance the
photos and share with friends. They also follow their
friends, brands and other users that catch their eye so
they can “like” and comment on each other’s images. In-
stagram can be easily connected to Facebook and Twit-
ter, making it easy for users to share images and videos
across other platforms.
■ What makes it unique? Instagram is an easy-to-
use platform that can be used only from a smartphone or
tablet. Instagram focuses on providing a platform for
users to showcase their creativity.
■ How can dealers use it? Dealers can create an In-
stagram account and snap photos and take videos of
anything visual at the dealership — vehicles, promo-
tions, signs — to create a pictorial dealership experience.
■ What is it? Yelp is an online guide to
help people find businesses such as
restaurants and retail stores. Customers
review businesses and rate them based on their experi-
■ How many people use it? Yelp had 100 million
unique visits to its Web site in January. Yelp users have
written more than 53 million reviews since the guide was
started in 2004. There are 1 million businesses with active
■ Who uses it? Seventy-eight percent of users have
gone to college or graduate school, and more than a third
have incomes of more than $100,000. Fifty-nine percent
of searches on Yelp are conducted on mobile devices.
■ What do users do? By typing in a business category
(such as “restaurant” or “auto dealer”) and a neighbor-
hood location, users can search the database for local
businesses, learn about companies and view what cus-
tomers had to say about them. Once people have regis-
tered with Yelp, they can sign in and post reviews.
■ What makes it unique? Customer reviews are the
heart of Yelp. Although online consumers can post re-
views and opinions in many places — including Face-
book, Google+ and others — Yelp was created specifically
to help consumers find local businesses.
■ How can dealers use it? Yelp can help dealers
manage their stores’ reputations. Dealers can “claim”
their business on Yelp by personalizing their pages with
extra information such as business hours, photos and a
link to the dealership Web site. They can also monitor
what customers say about them and, when appropriate,
send a public or private response to a reviewer.
Sources: Company Web sites and press releases,
VentureBeat, eMarketer, comScore, Pew Research Center,
Automotive News social media experts
MAY 5, 2014 ❙ 7
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SPECIAL ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT
6. 8 ❙ MAY 5, 2014
Why should car dealers pay attention to so-
Social media has grown over 800 percent in the
last five years. It has become a very viable chan-
nel for consumers to shop not only for vehicles, but to
shop for dealerships, shop for service and shop for fi-
If you had talked to dealers 10 years ago and said,
“You’re going to need an entire Internet department and
that’s going to be the No. 1 source of your leads,” proba-
bly nobody would have believed it. That’s really the same
thing that we’re saying about social today: It’s become
kind of the new norm and dealers absolutely have to pay
attention to it.
Social media have changed the idea of word
of mouth, which has been an important part
of buying a car. Talk about the role that social media
play, from start to finish, for consumers looking for
Several years ago word of mouth was really
asking a friend, having a conversation face-to-
face with a colleague or an associate or a family member.
Now what people do is they activate their social armies.
We see example after example of people writing a
message on their Facebook page with a post saying,
“Hey, I’m thinking about getting a new car: What should
I get?” Or, “I’m thinking about getting a new car,
anybody know any dealers that I should go to, or any
dealers that I should stay away from?”
We know that five years ago the average customer
physically shopped eight different dealerships before
buying a car; today they’re shopping one dealership. And
that’s because of the advent of social media, and the fact
that they can do their own research online before they
even walk in the door at the dealership — not only about
the vehicle that they’re going to buy and where the in-
ventory may exist, but about the dealership, about the
reputation of the dealership, and about the deals and fi-
nancing options that dealership has.
How should dealers get started in social me-
Start with the basics. Dealers should go and make
sure that they know what conversations are hap-
pening about their dealership and their brand. So they
should be looking at things like Yelp and Google+, and
understanding what kind of reviews they’re receiving. Is
the address for their dealership correct or incorrect? Will
people know how to find their dealership?
They should go and do simple searches on Google and
other search engines and find out, where do they pop up?
Are they popping up in top positions or are they buried
on second or third or fourth pages? What kind of conver-
sations are happening about their competitors?
And then I think table stakes these days are for dealers
to have a Facebook page and think about opening a Twit-
ter account, and think about having something like
Andrea Riley has more than 20 years of automotive marketing experience.
Riley, chief marketing officer for Ally Dealer Financial Services, also headed Chevrolet’s
ad account during nearly two decades in the Detroit ad business. She spoke with writer
Julie Liesse about how social media can help auto dealers build brands and drive sales.
“Start with the basics. Dealers should
go and make sure that they know
what conversations are happening about
their dealership and their brand.”
>> CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE
SPECIAL ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT
7. MAY 5, 2014 ❙ 9
It sounds intimidating, but many third-party
resources are available to help dealers popu-
late their Facebook pages and their Twitter feeds.
Dealers don’t have to start from scratch, correct?
Absolutely not. There are a lot of resources that
exist for dealers today. Automakers are probably
a great first stop for many dealers. We’re doing the same
thing at Ally. We’re giving dealers access to Ally content
through our Connect4Content program, where dealers
simply have to accept posts that we’re pushing to them
as we’re creating and curating content.
Is a social media presence a “nice to have”
thing, or should social media be part of deal-
ers’ marketing efforts and regular budgets?
I would say it’s way past the point of “nice to do.”
It is a staple and a mainstay that is not going any-
where. As you look at millennials and the future buyers
for dealerships, it is their primary source of conversation;
it is their primary source of information. And so, if a deal-
er isn’t prepared for that customer or that buyer that’s
going to be coming into the dealership down the road,
they’re going to be missing out on a lot of busi-
It’s something that isn’t that expensive to do,
and that’s one of the things that is very
nice about social media. There’s no
cost to create a Facebook page or a
Twitter account; there is no cost
to participate in Yelp; there’s
no cost to blog; there’s no
cost to push content out to
your customers, most of it is
just human capital.
If dealers aren’t paying atten-
tion to it they’re missing out, not
only on conversations that are happening about
their brand, but opportunities for plus sales, not only
from leads that are coming from social, but customers
that are looking for service information, and customers
that are expecting answers from dealerships.
The average customer expects an answer within one
hour of posting something on a dealer’s social site, so
dealers that aren’t responsive to social media are going to
What are the keys to making social media
work for dealers?
The first thing is, be honest in social. You should-
n’t hide from bad reviews. You shouldn’t hide
from hard questions. The way that a dealer takes on a
conversation in social will go a long way in shaping a cus-
tomer’s perception of their dealership. You can take a
very negative and horrible situation and turn it into a
very positive situation that not only pleases that cus-
tomer, but also is an example to other customers — that
you do the right thing when asked to do so.
I’d say the second thing is, pay attention to social on a
very regular basis. It’s not the kind of thing that you can
just launch and leave.
And lastly I would say, experiment and try things
out. We do that on a very consistent basis at
What you want to do is to get
your customers to engage with
you. And the more they can
start to think about your
social space as a destina-
tion that they want to go to
because there’s something
in it for them, the more
you’re going to see a happi-
er customer and a more en-
gaged customer. So keep in
mind those simple three things and you’ll be very
successful with social media.
Ally’s Connect4Content is there to lend a hand
ealers looking to enhance their Facebook
pages have a new, easy-to-use source: Ally’s
Following a successful test in the fall, Ally is
making Connect4Content available to all Ally
dealers. Dealers can sign up for the program,
which will send out Facebook wall posts. The posts will
arrive via e-mail for participating dealers to review before
Typical content will offer consumers ideas about saving
for a car, financing a car purchase and maintaining a ve-
hicle, as well as potential special offers and promotions.
Each week, the dealer can decide whether to use the pro-
vided post. If a dealer clicks on “approve,” the post will be
published automatically on the dealership Facebook page.
If the dealer clicks on “deny,” the post will not appear.
SocialDealer, which has teamed up with Ally, will pro-
vide training and enrollment support for dealers.
“Dealers want to be involved in social media but a com-
mon roadblock is that they don’t have the expertise or re-
sources to develop content,” said Andrea Riley, chief
marketing officer for Ally Dealer Financial Services. “Ally
recognizes that dealers need high-quality content for
their social media channels, and this program will help
dealers build rapport with consumers, with a goal of driv-
ing more business to their dealerships.”
To read more about Ally’s Connect4Content and to
sign up, visit socialdealer.com/ally.
SPECIAL ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT
>> CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE
8. 10 ❙ MAY 5, 2014 SPECIAL ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT
n February, a Holman Ford Maple Shade service tech-
nician was doing a routine check to find the cause of
a power steering glitch in a customer’s Ford Fusion.
When he found that the problem was a lop-eared rab-
bit that had chewed through the line — and was still
snuggled in the car’s underbody — Holman’s social
media team hopped on the story.
The bunny’s photo and the ensuing search for its own-
er were posted on the New Jersey dealership’s Facebook
page, where fans ate up the story and shared it with their
“From the beginning, what intrigued us most about so-
cial media was the opportunity to leverage that viral ca-
pability. We have advocates in all of our stores, people
who feed us stories and let us know what’s going on lo-
cally,” says Jeremy Paolone, who as director of IT and re-
tail strategy for Holman Automotive Group oversees digi-
tal media for the company’s 16 dealerships.
A six-person digital marketing staff maintains Hol-
man’s corporate Web site, its presence on Internet re-
view sites and a Facebook and Google+ presence for each
of its Florida and New Jersey stores. The staff does this, all
while working to “be vigilant about our digital presence
on the Internet, making sure the information is clean —
that addresses, names, phone numbers are all up-to-
date,” Paolone says. “So many times old data persists out
there. We want to make sure our online shoppers can
find us easily, see why they should do business with us,
and start the conversation.”
Holman uses the HootSuite social media management
system to keep content posted on multiple digital plat-
forms. In addition to local items such as the bunny story,
Holman relies on the automakers for content, as well as
information from third-party sources such as auto maga-
Proprietary customer review and referral systems are
crucial to Holman’s digital efforts. Each customer who
buys a new car or uses the service department receives
an e-mail asking for a review of his or her experience.
Once the customer completes the review, he or she is
asked to share it on sites such as Edmunds, Google+,
Facebook and Yelp.
Customers are also encouraged to sign up for Holman’s
referral program. By clicking on a link, they can share
their experiences with friends and family through Face-
book, Twitter and Google+ and via e-mail. If a friend or
family member comes in to buy a new car, the reviewer
Last year, Holman paid the $100 reward to nearly 2,000
customers who made referrals. “Now, some of those re-
ferrals would have happened anyway through word of
mouth,” Paolone says. But he points out that 70 percent
of customers who join the referral program write a post
to share with friends and family. Shoppers who visit a
dealership on the recommendation of friends or family,
he says, represent “the kind of business you want — not
the price-shoppers but people who will be your repeat
Paolone says Holman’s view is that “social media is defi-
nitely important for consumers during any purchase con-
sideration. We hope that by providing engaging content,
showing our dedication to community and being avail-
able, our followers will be more inclined to come back to
us and recommend us to their friends and family.”
D E A L E R P R O F I L E
Rascally rabbit: A story that helped
make Holman Ford the talk of the town
9. MAY 5, 2014 ❙ 11
D E A L E R P R O F I L E
How Facebook helps rural dealer reach
consumers more effectively than TV
SPECIAL ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT
ike many parents, Robert Crotty started paying atten-
tion to social media when he saw how his own kids
were using them.
Crotty, the co-owner of Crotty Chevrolet-Buick in
rural Corry, Pa., noticed that his teenage son wasn’t
watching TV. He was spending his time on
YouTube, Facebook and other digital me-
dia. Crotty decided to create a Facebook page for his
dealership in 2010 and since then has ex-
perimented with a YouTube channel,
Google+ and Pinterest.
He augments his Facebook page with
paid ads. Crotty, a dealer in a small market,
has a limited ad budget. “Facebook ads al-
low me to put my message out without
spending a lot of money,” he says. “I can’t
compete with a bigger dealership by buying
ads on a TV station 45 miles away; it’s a
waste of my money because my message is
trying to reach maybe 10 percent of that
With Facebook ads, Crotty says, “I like the idea that we
can use their demographics and target a specific group of
people in a specific market.”
Crotty does the majority of his Facebook posts in-
house, although he also uses corporate and Chevy-spe-
cific content provided by General Motors and another
He says he tries “to have fun with it. If we have a sale go-
ing on, we might hit that on Facebook for a week, but in
between we are posting local information, fun posts. We
want to be entertaining so that people don’t get annoyed
when we pop up in their news feed.”
He says 25 to 30 percent of the traffic to his dealership’s
Web site is being generated by his Facebook presence.
Does it sell cars and trucks? “I think it does, though I
can’t necessarily put a number on it,” he says.
“People walk in here and say, ‘You
cracked me up the other day on Facebook,’
so I know I am keeping my name in front of
people in a positive way. Or I’ll see that a
person has liked things on our page a few
times, and then I’ll see her in the dealer-
ship. How else did she get here?”
Crotty stresses the importance of being
relevant to the local market. For instance,
he says, “Facebook is big in my market, but
we can’t really get a following on Google+
or Yelp; people out here just don’t use
them.” Similarly, he found that his
YouTube channel attracted viewers from around the
world — not particularly useful in selling cars and trucks
He advises fellow dealers to figure out how they can ap-
propriately use social media. “I would tell them that they
are ignoring the market at the peril of someone like me
coming in and picking off their customers,” he says. “You
have to be in social media today.”
allow me to put
my message out
spending a lot
Robert Crotty, left, and John
Crotty, co-owners of Crotty
Chevrolet-Buick in Corry, Pa., use
advertising tools on Facebook
to target customers.
10. 12 ❙ MAY 5, 2014 SPECIAL ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT
D E A L E R P R O F I L E
s part of its rebranding campaign, AutoNation Inc.
early this year rolled out a corporate social media
strategy across all its dealerships.
“We have aligned our strategies across all of
our digital media — including search, e-mail
and social media,” says Christina Mandich,
reputation and project manager for the na-
tion’s largest auto retailer.
AutoNation’s focus has been creating a consistent digital
look for its more than 250 dealerships, with Facebook and
Google+ pages and content. AutoNation decided to stick
with just Facebook and Google+: “At a scalable national
level we are new to the social media space, and we wanted
to focus on the platforms that would provide the most
benefit from an SEO [search engine optimization] and
customer engagement perspective for us,” Mandich says.
“Consumers do a lot of research online about where
they are going to buy cars,” says Ryan Porter, director of
content for AutoNation.
“Reputation is important, and we are working hard to
get great, transparent feedback for our dealerships. We
also want to bring our dealerships to life with videos and
in-store images. From a customer’s perspective, how
does the dealership look online? If I am going to service
my vehicle with you, do you have a waiting room I feel
like sitting in?”
Mandich agrees. “We have spent a lot of time and
resources working on our reputation management pro-
gram, and peer recommendations and endorsements
about where to shop for a car is something we can take
advantage of. Fan actions on social media — likes,
comments, shares — are all expressions of consumer
endorsement for a brand.”
AutoNation’s corporate social media team is currently
managing all the dealership Facebook pages, using some
content from automakers but primarily content pro-
For instance, AutoNation conducts approximately 120
vehicle test drives a year
that provide great con-
tent for posts.
In addition, Porter says,
the team has told its deal-
ers to “keep your eyes
peeled for remarkable
things happening in our
stores” — those mo-
ments when the staff goes
above and beyond the
call of duty or the dealer-
ship gets involved with
the local community.
In February, the com-
pany conducted a two-week nationwide campaign invit-
ing consumers to submit “selfies” — photos of themselves
with their AutoNation vehicles — to Twitter, Facebook
card or a grand prize trip to an IndyCar race.
“It was one of our first big social media campaigns, and
we got very good traction on it,” Mandich says.
“Social media allows you to have so many touch points
with such a broad group of consumers,” says Kim Costel-
lo, corporate communications specialist. “From our per-
spective, the more times you can have a positive interac-
tion with these customers and potential customers, the
better for your business.”
on the same page
“We have aligned
across all of our
digital media —
e-mail and social
MAY 5, 2014 ❙ 13SPECIAL ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT
Reporter Julie Liesse compiled ideas from a variety of sources and experts in the automotive,
marketing and social media worlds to help you keep your social media efforts on target — no matter how
experienced your dealership is. You can tear this page out for future reference.
If you are new to social media
■ Look from a potential customer’s view at
how your dealership appears online,
particularly Yelp and Google+. Google your
dealership. Search for dealers in your area
on Yelp. How does your dealership look?
■ Make sure your dealership Web site is up
to date. Check contact information, photos
and staff listings.
■ “Claim” your business on Yelp; make sure
all business information is correct. Choose
high-quality photos. http://biz.yelp.com/
■ Create your dealership’s presence on
■ Start a Facebook page.
■ Join Twitter. Tweet your own messages
but also retweet information from auto
executives, brand experts, magazines,
reviewers and car celebrities.
■ Connect all your social media content
back to your Web site. Add buttons on your
Web site that send customers to your
Facebook or Google+ page.
■ Display customer ratings on your Web
■ Post content that would be valuable to
your customer or potential customer. Look
for content that you can share — whether
it’s from automakers, magazines and
newspapers, auto supply companies or
finance companies such as Ally.
■ Grow your audience by following and
“liking” others on Facebook, Twitter and
>> FOR BEGINNERS >> STEP UP YOUR GAME
If you have some experience
■ Stay on top of your posts. If someone comments with a question,
complaint or compliment, respond.
■ Encourage customers to review your dealership, share photos and
comment on their experience. Promote the positive and work to solve
■ Measure your social media activity. Look at your previous posts and
see how they’ve performed to guide your content strategy. Do images
seem to get more engagement? Work to incorporate more images into
your posts. Test posting at different times of the day with different kind
of content to see what performs best.
■ Consider amplifying your social media presence by exploring social
■ Boost engagement with a contest, sweepstakes or giveaway. Make it
■ If you tried social media before and were disappointed, try it again.
>> BECOME A MASTER
If you’re a social media pro but
want to expand your experience
■ Try a more visual platform, such as Pinterest or Instagram. For
instance, if you have special, vintage or collector cars for sale, “pin”
them on a special Pinterest board.
■ Consider a YouTube channel for your dealership; post videos of new
arrivals, test drives, events at the dealership and more.
■ Shift into a higher gear by buying advertising on social platforms such
as Facebook. Target a local audience, a specific demographic group or
potential buyers based on the platform’s data. Even a small investment
could potentially reach your target with surprising efficiency. Experts say
it’s better to consistently advertise with a small budget over several
months, rather than simply spend one time.
■ Use user-data analytics tools such as Facebook Insights
(https://www.facebook.com/insights) and Twitter Analytics
(https://analytics.twitter.com) to track how many people you’re reaching
and how often they’re engaging with your social media accounts, plus
their interests, locations and demographics.
...for using social media in general
■ Always be authentic. Speak in a voice that your
consumers will relate to.
■ Keep it short. Twitter imposes a 140 character limit,
and while the others don’t have a character limit, it’s best
to keep it simple.
■ Listen to what your customers are saying on social
media and join the conversation.
■ Respond quickly to reviews and comments about your
dealership. If it’s a negative comment, research the
situation before responding. Use a bad review as an
opportunity to improve and show how your dealership
handles a customer’s problem.
■ Stay relevant to your community; remember that you
are talking to your neighbors and friends. When you
support local schools, teams or events, or when your
employees are involved in the community, post about it!
■ Consider at least a small budget to advertise on
Facebook to support your dealership’s presence — pay
for visibility for the content you already are producing.
■ Don’t be afraid to experiment a little.
■ Remember that you are in it for the long haul, not the
quick deal. Social media builds relationships. Every day
you may plant a seed that ultimately leads to a sale.
...for setting up your social
■ Don’t just leave social media to the intern; make sure
your social media leader understands customer service
and can make decisions for the dealership.
■ Devote time each week to maintaining your social
media channels. Divide the work into small, manageable
■ Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Can customers
use your social media pages to find the information they
need about your dealership, including your inventory,
store hours, location and contact information? Can they
access this information on their mobile phones — when
they are on the road and ready to visit your dealership?
...for producing and managing
■ Plan your posts ahead of time and stick to a calendar.
Make sure you refresh your content to keep it interesting.
■ Provide useful, relevant, timely and entertaining
content and information.
■ Do you have a blog? Make sure you are promoting
your blog posts on social media.
■ Carefully choose photos. Make sure the photos are
high quality and show only images related to your
business: your showroom, your staff, your service and
waiting areas. Look for photos or information that show
how your dealership is unique. Ensure you have the
rights to use these photos and that people in the photos
have given you permission to use them.
■ Re-post content from your manufacturer; a consistent
brand message helps you sell cars.
■ Leverage available resources, including automaker
content and social media training. Cross-pollinate. If you
post a special offer or photo on Facebook, also make
sure you use that content on your Web site and other
social platforms. If you have a special offer or campaign
on TV or via direct mail, make sure to reference it on your
social platforms, too.
■ Measure the response you get
from your social media efforts.
Learn to use Facebook Insights or
create your own tracking system
(for instance, create a discount
code only for Facebook fans).
■ Look for opportunities to ask
your customers to post their
photos and comments about your cars and your
■ Don’t just post content. Engage with your fans and
customers, and reinforce their good feelings by
commenting, “liking” and sharing their posts with others.
■ Ask your followers to share, repost or retweet your
content with their own friends and family. 28% of all
retweets happen because the tweet includes the words
■ Share positive reviews of your dealership sales and
customer service teams to create advocates of your
dealership. Keep your eyes peeled for those moments
when salespeople and service team members are doing
something remarkable for their customers or in the
community; take a photo if possible and share it on your
■ Although it’s OK to give your fans and followers special
deals and offers, make sure also to offer content that is
not just about selling. Social media is about connecting
and engaging with a community.
14 ❙ MAY 5, 2014 SPECIAL ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT
13. Automakers can get dealers up to speed
f you’re a dealer or manager who wants to rev up your
social media efforts, automakers are eager to lend a
General Motors, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswa-
gen, BMW and other automakers are sharing digital
content and expertise, providing training and tips for
dealers in the belief that social media help sell cars.
GM’s online PR Showroom for dealers, for instance, of-
fers tool kits that teach social media basics. Dealers and
their staffs can access dozens of videos and Webinars ex-
plaining how social platforms work, how to set up ac-
counts and connect with consumers and how to use Face-
book or Twitter for campaigns such as vehicle launches.
“We are doing all the communications
things we used to do, but on a bigger scale
and on the Web,” says Mary Henige, GM’s di-
rector of social media, digital communica-
tions, research and reputation management.
“Social media is another way to communi-
cate, and you need to be there. And we are
doing everything we can to make it easy for
our dealers to be a part of it — because we
have the same interest our dealers do: We
want happy, loyal customers who come back to us again
Alicia Jones, manager of Honda and Acura social media
for American Honda Motor Co., says: “If you have a mar-
keting mix without social media, you are missing out on a
huge opportunity. The way people consume media today
is vastly different from even a decade ago. More and
more, social media is the way they spend their time and
increasingly the place they form their opinions.”
Web sites and social media are particularly important
for automakers and dealers because “more of the car
shopping process happens before the customer arrives at
a dealership,” says Mark Aikman, social media lead at
“Think of it this way: The dealership used to be the
place where car buying research happened. But now that
research is happening online, including visiting
the automaker and dealer Web sites. Customers
also are looking at a dealership’s social pres-
ence for reassurance that this dealership does
really care about their customers, that they
care about doing a good job.”
Mercedes-Benz offers dealers examples of
what other dealerships have found suc-
cessful, those dealerships’ results and
checklists for every social platform. If a
dealer has mastered one set of tools, it
can move up to the next. “We outline
for our dealers what’s good, better and
best in terms of social media they can
use,” Aikman says. “It’s our way of
asking our dealers, ‘Where are you
today and where do you need to
“We have tried to extend every
bit of information and learning we can to our dealer popula-
tion — and our dealer body has done a great job getting into
As automakers create photos, messages and videos for
their brands’ Web sites and social media pages, the com-
panies are working to share that material with their deal-
ers. “In terms of content, a lot of the heavy lifting can be
done by the OEMs,” says Raashee Erry, media and con-
nections planning manager for Volkswagen of America.
VW has a distribution model that automatically feeds
content to its dealers. “Anything that is newsworthy for us,
to our system and without any effort on their part, our con-
tent appears on their social media pages.
“It’s a win-win,” she says. “We get our con-
sistent brand message out to the local com-
munity, and the dealer doesn’t have to rein-
vent the wheel in maintaining his social me-
Jones says Honda also is working to make it
“easier and seamless” for dealers to take the
manufacturer’s photos, stories and videos
and share them on their own Facebook
pages, Twitter feeds and Web sites. Honda’s social media
team shares best-practice ideas, and is reviewing social
media management providers in an effort to help dealers
who feel they can’t handle everything in-house.
BMW of North America offers a variety of content for
dealers to download and use on their Web sites and social
media channels. In addition, the company has launched a
media and reputation management providers.
“We have a lot of dealers who are asking us for advice
on social media — some are just in need of content, oth-
ers are looking for tools, while others are interested in
hiring an outside company to help manage their day-to-
day social media activities,” says Kate Alini, BMW’s social
media and emerging technologies manager. “Our Certi-
fied Social Media and Reputation Management
Program provides dealers with various levels of
support by best-in-class providers, so they can
get the help they need. Then we’ll be able to
push content to those certified providers, who
can publish it across social platforms on the
Says Aikman, “Dealers spending time in digital
are all around finding higher results.”
Erry agrees: “Social media creates percep-
tions that help sell cars — and social me-
dia can create or break a reputation. If
someone is saying great things about
you, you can amplify that — spread the
word, and convert it to more traffic. If
there is a negative perception about
your business, you can start taking ac-
tion to improve it. Either way, social
media plays a big role in car buying
MAY 5, 2014 ❙ 15SPECIAL ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT