Car Dealerships Be Aware of False Advertising: Is Social Media Corrupting Online Sales?

By Valerie Jennings, CEO of JSMM & VBM

While we all know that social media builds brand awareness and can help send Web traffic to a dealership’s website, is it really helping the buying experience for car shoppers? The answer is yes. Eighty-three percent of auto shoppers visit dealer websites in their research process whether that’s from their mobile or desktop computers. Although more and more online searchers are starting from a mobile device, many dealerships are still behind the eight-ball when it comes to mobile ads and mobile optimized sites.

Photo By: The Library of Virginia / Foter / CC BY

So what’s the issue with social media and false advertising? Why is there so much hoopla all of a sudden about social media not selling cars and that it’s only good for brand awareness? Does it really help sell cars or not? Of course it does, but perhaps it’s the dealerships and spammy content that is turning off the buyer. Let’s take a look at what might be driving this trend.

Online savvy buyers do not want to talk to someone about buying a car until they are satisfied with their own research. According to CNBC, 10 years ago consumers were visiting an average of five car dealerships to discover the market and what they may want. Now buyers are visiting an average of 1.6 car dealerships, preferring to do research themselves so they know what they want and have the upper hand when negotiating a purchase.

Overall, people still feel that the industry is untrustworthy and that a car salesperson is going to take advantage of them. It’s funny just how much people hate shopping for a car! According to Edmunds, 83 percent of the 1,002 people surveyed would rather avoid haggling, with nine out of 10 saying they’d be more excited about the car-buying process if it meant a haggle-free experience. One in five said they’d willingly give up sex for a month rather than haggle for a new car. Another 44 percent said they’d be willing to give up Facebook while 29 percent would happily turn over their cell phones for a weekend to avoid sitting down with a dealer.

The car shopping and buying experience allows people to avoid the dealership as long as possible until they are ready to buy. They can do their research on multiple sites, including the dealership site, Edmunds, and more to learn about their trade in value, cars that fit their budget and needs without going to the dealership and study up on the review sites so they know who is reputable.

To a buyer or a millennial buyer, car dealerships are just haggling them online and lying to them to sell a car on social media. Social media is supposed to be used to build brand awareness and the digital advertising platforms on Twitter and Facebook should be used to serve up ads. How do you sell to a buyer: You run ads on TV, print and radio. Yet we have all started drinking the Koolaid thinking that social media would be a magic bullet to car sales. Come on, let’s get it right. Use social media to engage with your fans, followers and brand ambassadors. Use your online reviews to build consumer confidence and use your digital ads to target buyers who are shopping now. Don’t confuse social media for your magic potion.

Here are some tips to use social media and digital ads to attract buyers —

  1. Use social media to sell only when you are tapping into the digital advertising platforms that Twitter and Facebook offer.
  2. Use social media to build brand awareness about the dealership.
  3. Do not use social media to exclusively talk about special offers and deals on cars and service.
  4. Use digital ads like Facebook’s claimed offers, custom audiences, retargeting ads and more across social media to reach buyers on desktop and mobile search.
  5. Try using new digital advertising software geared towards the auto industry to serve up PPC and retargeting ads.
  6. Revel in reviews by utilizing software like to monitor and push positive reputation management strategies into search results on review sites.
  7. Track everything from social media to digital ads and PR to YouTube videos.
  8. Research your competition to understand how they are capturing your market share.
  9. Don’t forget to pump out positive press releases to demonstrate cause marketing, community involvement and positive information about the dealership that doesn’t involve specials offers.
  10. Try testing new platforms to engage with buyers that are not necessarily car-related. For example, women influence the majority of the car purchases made today. Try finding ways to creatively build trust with the female buyer.

If you have questions about this blog post, please email me at [email protected]