You will probably be familiar with the phrase ‘Six degrees of separation’, but it’s now clear that – with the rise of social media – the number of ‘steps’ that connect us all has decreased significantly. A number of studies suggest that this is now just three degrees of separation or, as it is sometimes stated, ‘Three degrees of connection’.
At a recent Marketing Delivery seminar, we asked a room full of people if they were connected on LinkedIn – and it didn’t come as a surprise that many were. After all, the seminar was presented to a group of people from the same industry at a well-known trade conference, and LinkedIn is regarded as the professional networking platform.
We then asked the same crowd if any of them followed each other on Twitter. Again, it was no great surprise that a good number of them were connected, especially since Twitter is increasingly seen as a useful professional networking tool, and often brings attendees at the same events together.
Finally, we asked if any of the guests in the room were ‘Friends’ on Facebook, which is the most personal of all the platforms. Only two people in a room of around 60 said that they were, and even then it was because they were longstanding colleagues.
Facebook is the most advanced social media platform, with great opportunities for businesses and individuals alike. However, it is also one of the hardest to penetrate using personal profiles, which is why business pages and advertising are such important assets across the platform. What’s more, the insights available via Facebook’s profiling features now allow companies to capture, analyse and exploit data like never before.
Social media is here to stay
Social media use has grown more rapidly than ever over the last two years, and some of Facebook’s figures from 2016 make for particularly interesting reading. There are 1.71 billion monthly active users and 50 million small business pages. Crucially, though, 40% of users don’t ever ‘Like’ brand pages – meaning paid advertising is the only way to reach them on the platform.
The figures for Instagram are equally significant, with 400 million active users – twice the size it was two years ago. Twitter, however, has seen a small decline to 310 million monthly users and is increasingly thought of by brands as a ‘customer service platform’.
Interestingly, Messenger (owned by Facebook) and WhatsApp are pulling in higher figures than Twitter. Both have over 1 billion subscribers and a combined total of over 60 million messages sent per day. If we class them as social media platforms, which we are sure they will be soon, then Twitter falls to fifth on the popularity list.
Both Messenger and WhatsApp are opening up to business communications. Messenger has been integrated with Facebook advertising and WhatsApp has changed its terms and conditions to allow for corporate use – so it’s now a case of ‘watch this space’.
Why is social media an opportunity?
Changes by Google earlier this year made its AdWords product not only more expensive but more competitive. With the removal of right-hand-side ads, businesses are now bidding for less space and, potentially, even bidding against themselves (where their stock is featured on a classified site, which is also bidding on that keyword or phrase). In relative terms, social media is only just emerging as an advertising channel, so dealers should act quickly to seize the competitive advantage.
How are your customers using Facebook?
Buyers are now contacting dealers online, through one of their most personal communication channels, to enquire about advertised stock. We seeing Facebook users send private messages to dealers’ inboxes to discuss offers, request test drives and ask for more information about a car.
Researching your next car used to involve flicking through your local newspaper, then it moved on to viewing website links to advertised stock, and now it includes third-party signposting via ‘tagging’ on Facebook. We often see users tagging each other to flag up potential cars, and then engaging with the dealership to request more information. This allows the dealer to share contact details and pass the interaction on to the sales team.
Many people are now beginning the buyer journey through Facebook (with initial research) and finishing it on Facebook too (by leaving feedback). Customers often revisit the Facebook page once they have purchased the car to review and share their experience. This is something that Facebook actively encourages, and dealerships should too – especially since the review score from your Facebook page is now featured in Google’s search results.
How is this relevant to car dealers?
Our research shows that the average age of engaged users on our automotive Facebook pages is 38, which is not far off the average age of a new car buyer in the UK. We’ve found that younger people may ‘Like’ a dealer’s page, but it’s those with the disposable income and purchase ability that are actively interacting with our clients’ content.
Over a two-month period we analysed in 2016, up to 60% of new vehicle display page referrals came directly from our Facebook advertising activity for clients, beating the likes of Google and Auto Trader. Our data-driven Facebook app – SocialStock – can also help drive leads, sales and potential new customers to your dealership.