Think back 10 years ago. Odds are you hadn’t even heard of Facebook. You almost certainly didn’t have a profile, and even if you did, never in a million years would you have thought it would one day be the most powerful marketing tool at your disposal.

And yet here we are, and that it is. But most businesses still fail to recognise the opportunities Facebook affords them.

Some readers probably still regard Facebook as a triviality on which their children spend far too much time when they should be doing their homework. But as Dimitri Kotov, founder of social media marketing agency Ignite Group, explains, Facebook has the potential to revolutionise the way you target customers, maintain relationships and cut the costs of advertising.

Sure your dealership might have a Facebook page, but are you using it to best advantage? Probably not, according to Mr Kotov.

“A lot of them are dabbling in the engagement part. They’ve got their receptionist or their marketing manager (doing it); they’ve set up their Facebook page,” he says.

“This is a great way to engage but I think they’re doing it wrong, in the sense that this should be more focused on providing value to people who have already purchased the car, and doing so in a way that is less about the manufacturer-based product and more about the experience they can have with their car in their local community.

“This is where I think people get it wrong. Traditional media is about, ‘Here’s a car, here’s a price. Call us up if you want to buy it’. (New media) is about providing them value they wouldn’t get anywhere else.”

Target audiences

Mr Kotov suggests using Facebook to target three specific groups of people: those who have visited your website, those who match the demographics to which you want to market and those on your dealership’s database.

By all means invite people to ‘like’ your page but don’t rely on that method to reach them. To market successfully on Facebook, you have to buy advertising on Facebook. The good news is it’s cheap and highly successful.

“Facebook has now geared their algorithms such that if you’re a business trying to be successful on Facebook, you have to do advertising,” Mr Kotov says.

“Let’s just say that over the last five years you’ve collected a ‘database’ of 5,000 people who have ‘liked’ your page. Every time you post on that page only 10 to 15 per cent of those people will receive that piece of content. So if you want to reach people you have to advertise. But the ads are cheap; they really are very cheap.

‘Cost per lead can be anywhere between $4 and $40 a lead – still usually under the Carsales’ $50 per lead or whatever they now charge. Are they as strong as a Carsales lead? Probably not. Are they close? Yes; they’re probably close. It very much depends on the type of ad and the audience we’re targeting.”

A new world, but an old story

Traditional media approaches don’t work in the new landscape. You can’t just run an ad full of photographs of cars, with prices attached. Users will skim right past that. To our brains, Facebook is a social experience and our brains are drawn to faces.

“Traditional ads do not work on Facebook because of that. People are looking to have a social experience. This is what most Dealers are doing wrong on social media; in a way they’re kind of being rude, not realising,” Mr Kotov says.

“Let’s pretend we’re inside social media and someone comes up and says hello, and they’re like, ‘Here! Buy this car!’ That wouldn’t work in real life and this is why ads that are just car-prices do not work, because you’re like, ‘No, I just want to connect with a person. Tell me a story about this particular salesperson. Can you make him look like he’s a real person?”

Give value to get value

Mr Kotov advocates adding value for users, to build a relationship that gives them a reason to engage with you, because if they are not engaging with you they are less likely to pay attention to your message.

“Many dealerships don’t think long term because they’re in this, ‘We need to reach a target this month’ type of psychology. And they kind of hand you the keys and they never talk to you again until three years later when they might give you a call and go, ‘Would you like to buy another one? Are you ready to buy another car? You’re on our database’.

“But what about those three years in the middle? You want to engage those people in a way that provides them with added value. Let’s just say you are a Frankston Toyota customer, and you bought a car, and you live in Mornington. Wouldn’t it be cool if they created a piece of content that told you, ‘You know what? This weekend you could take this back road, go and test out your 4×4 Toyota by driving to this festival – it’s on this weekend on the other side of Mornington.’ So you’re creating value for this Toyota driver who lives in your local community.

“Servicing is a very obvious one. Are there things I can do to my car between services – checking the oil, all those kind of things? So it’s all about how can we provide them with education, entertainment or value. The question is, is a dealership willing to invest in this long-term strategy?

“Engaging the customers from one purchase to the next: that three-year gap; that five-year gap; that six-year gap. Referrals will come from that, even if they’re not the one buying, if you’re creating value for them with a great piece of content on a monthly or fortnightly basis.”

Knowledge is power

If you’ve used Facebook you will have seen advertisements, but you might not be aware that those ads are targeted specifically at you. Facebook has refined the process so well that it allows you to present ads aimed at broad groups or very particular niches. For example, a Holden dealership could, just by checking a box when ordering their ad, target a Holden Racing Team promotion at anyone who has liked the HRT page on Facebook.

“Facebook has more information about you than any other company in the world,” Mr Kotov says.

“It’s genius. They didn’t realise that people were going to attach so much of their personal ego to their internet conveyor on Facebook. Through doing that, they’re telling every marketer in the world, ‘This is the image I aspire to be’. You might be a 45-year-old dad. Facebook knows you’re a 45-year-old dad, they know your email, mobile, name and where you live. They also know where you work because of where you use your Facebook. But they also know that you’re a keen golfer and aspire to be almost semi-pro, because you’re always sharing things that have the word ‘golf’ in them, just through the comments – ‘yada yada yada golf’ – because they look at not just what you’re liking, but the content of your posts. They look at ‘did you talk about golf in a favourable way?’ well then you are a golf enthusiast – and you’ve done that 3,000 times over the last three years. If I was selling golf clubs I would be selling them to that guy.

“The amount of information is prolific. It’s amazing.”

How does it work?

“You’ve visited the dealership’s website. Three days later you’re on Facebook and you see this lead ad. You click on it and it pre-fills your information. We might ask you some additional questions, which you fill out. The user experience is amazing. Facebook has made the user experience very simple. Click ‘submit’, it goes to the dealership.

“Another reason you might be seeing this ad is we’re targeting you because of the demographic information you’ve provided Facebook. There are a few audiences in particular we find have always been successful. Tradies. Almost every brand out there has a commercial vehicle, a ute or a van, etcetera. Tradies are prolific users of social media because of the amount of downtime that happens on a construction site.

“Mums are the biggest users of Facebook. Not teenagers, mums. (Targeting) Mums and tradies works really well and it actually is a great fit to who’s buying cars these days. The male, who’s a tradie, he’s going to buy his own ute; he’s not going to ask his wife or girlfriend to help him in his ute-buying decision. But the mums are usually the ones who will buy the SUV for the family.”

The third group targeted is those on a dealership’s database – existing customers. If you can match their email address to their Facebook page, 45 per cent of people will engage with you on social media.

“You’ve already bought a car from us in the past and now we’re going to run an ad to you, to a like our page so you can receive content organically, meaning without us having to pay for it, but more about ‘here are the other things you could be doing’; ‘here’s an accessory offer’; ‘here’s a servicing offer’ and then, maybe two or three years later, ‘here’s the new version of what you’re driving. For 50 dollars a week extra you could be driving the new Hilux instead of the old one. What do you think about that?’”

Another potential use is to target lapsed service customers with value offers, to entice them back to the dealership.

Reduce the hassle, triple your leads

Old Facebook ads used to annoy users by taking them to external web pages. Now you can click on an ad and the inquiry form pops up on Facebook itself. But, more importantly, it pre-fills the information from the data it already has about you, which is your full name, your mobile number and your email.

“They’ve figured out the solution to what was the biggest problem in getting a lead from Facebook, or even on the website itself. The biggest pain-point was typing in your email or phone number on your mobile phone. No one likes filling out forms, whether it’s in person, at the doctor’s or online on your mobile phone. So if the three most crucial pieces of information are pre-filled, you can understand why the quantity of leads has doubled or tripled since we started implementing this strategy.

“Facebook has helped us create a complete lead-generation strategy without having to use the actual website or be reliant on the website’s landing page. This is a big deal because, generally, these landing pages are horrible. Maybe they weren’t mobile-optimised. Maybe they have 25 fields, which is far too many.”

Another advantage of Facebook is that its algorithms can ascertain which groups of people are clicking on your ads and then target those groups. You can change the creative to suit the audience.
“Dealers are stuck in a world where, ‘We need to get all the information we can onto that print ad, because it needs to capture the attention of everyone’. But that doesn’t work. You can’t capture the attention of a 21-year-old who wants a Corolla and a tradie who wants a Hilux; they’re looking for completely different types of ads.

“The cool thing is Facebook doesn’t want to charge you every time you change your ad. You’re only paying per person reached. So one of the cool things we do is sometimes we test three ads and we let Facebook decide which one is working best, then they run with the best one. Ten years ago a big company, a Coca-Cola, would have gone, ‘I wonder what colour we should make this button? Let’s do market research and get 30 people into this room’. Now in three hours you run an ad with orange, green and red, and after three hours you go, ‘Which one’s getting the most clicks from the target audience? It’s the red one – right, let’s do that’.

“There’s so much learning that can happen from Facebook about your entire marketing, based on the feedback you get from Facebook.”
It’s a brave new world. Time to get social.

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