The typical dealer spends thousands of dollars a month on advertising. The car deals, the service department coupons, the parts specials…you see them in direct mail, on TV, in your email (all the time it seems). When it comes to social media like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, there has been a dramatic increase in dealership presence across all platforms. But do you see F&I focused posts or ads? Not often.

So, let’s take a look at how your F&I department can leverage the power of social media and help boost department profits while reshaping how car shoppers view the process…

A Secret Weapon or Necessary Evil?

Dealers over the last 10 years have had to accept the fact that social media is here to stay. The sheer numbers are astounding…Facebook has over a billion users, Twitter has over 500 million, and LinkedIn is closing in on 450 million users. That’s a lot of potential car buyers and service customers that are spending a large portion of their time tweeting, posting, and pinning.

With that comes a host of compliance and legal challenges with dealer ads. While dealers can’t afford to NOT be on social media, they have to be careful not to fall into the trap of deceptive ad practices that could raise the attention of federal regulators. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) constantly monitor social media ads in an effort to investigate complaints that could result in fines for violations against the Truth in Lending Act. Serious business, indeed.

But the numbers say that well-crafted posts or ads can help push buyers through the funnel faster and help increase engagement sooner. Twitter has estimated that 1 out of 4 new car buyers has used Twitter during their shopping process. Overall, it’s estimated that 25% of car shoppers have used social media in some way while looking for a car.

How Can F&I Get into The Mix?

Most dealers are not tailoring their social media messages to the F&I department and that may be a mistake. With most social media platforms being used daily by car shoppers, F&I managers can offer a range of messaging and education that can help boost the profit-per-deal and even boost CSI.

Here are 4 ways your F&I department can make social media work FOR them:

  1. Offer links in posts/tweets/pins to simple dealership landing pages that give all the specifics (to stay complaint!) on current finance/lease deals. The fine print is there to stay off the CFPB radar and the buyer gets the heads-up on good deals. This is another way to help push buyers down the sales funnel. 
  2. Use Facebook or Twitter for short posts to link back to YouTube videos that provide some education on topics such as the importance of extended warranties or the difference between buying & leasing. Shoppers want to be educated and social media can help the F&I department do just that. It becomes a consultative or ‘soft’ approach that can establish trust quickly. 
  3. Post about upcoming product specials such as discounts on service contracts, tire & wheel, or maintenance specials at the time of purchase. Each month you can highlight a new special and have shoppers more engaged when they come into the F&I office at purchase. They will be more receptive to the menu presentation and may ask about the special they saw online. 
  4. Have your F&I managers post about themselves. This may sound simple but again, social media is supposed to be all about connecting with others. Let your F&I staff have that connection with local car shoppers.

Let them post about a charity run they participated in or their 5-year work anniversary at the dealership. With so many car shoppers feeling so negative about the F&I experience, why not give them a chance to see your staff in a new light?

One note of caution…

Be careful to make sure your F&I managers know the rules when it comes to social media postings both on the dealer page and their own personal pages. It seems every few weeks we see headlines about employees writing an inappropriate post that casts the employer in a negative light. One bad post can have a dealer scrambling to fix bad PR.

A good rule of thumb would be make your internal policies regarding social media clear at the time you hire and have one marketing person in charge of all posts/tweets/pins. Better safe than sorry!

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Kristine Cain is a freelance writer who loves the car business, hiking long trails, and the Steelers (not necessarily in that order). After finishing a degree in psychology at George Mason University in Virginia, she got her first taste of the dealer world working in the service department of a high volume Honda store. Warned early on that the car business would ‘get in her blood’, it did and Kristine made the leap into F&I departments at several stores around the Washington DC area and later to an automotive information company in dealer sales. A veteran of over 20 years in B2B sales to dealers, she leverages that knowledge to help write within the dealer market. Kristine lives in Holly Springs, NC with her husband and family.

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