How To Rock An Instagram Strategy At Your Dealership

Dec 17, 2016 | Social Media

Instagram is climbing to 600 million active users, and 65% of the highest performing posts feature products alone. Your automotive OEM has millions of followers, but is your dealership using Instagram to engage local In-Market Shoppers at the third tier? With Instagram’s close ties with Facebook Advertising and the next generation of car buyers, here’s a few ideas on strategy, post types, and ads that will help your auto dealership grow engagement and reach with car shoppers on Instagram.

Getting Acquainted With Instagram

Think Image-First

Whether or not your dealership already has an Instagram account, it’s important to understand that it’s a visual-driven network.

Photos that would normally garner big attention on Twitter and Facebook may not fare so well competing against millions of other carefully crafted images. Plus, audiences on Instagram tend to be younger (as of 2014, 90% of its users were under the age of 35) and more creative compared to other social networks.

However, while you must think “image-first,” copy still has its place. Your text should capture attention and direct attention to your image, while also adding support via hashtags (more details on these later).

Get Your Own

The best way to get the feel for the audiences and what posts truly perform on Instagram, is to get one yourself (or crowdsource someone who has one).

Next, follow top OEMs (your own and others), and dive into what makes their posts so engaging and their follower counts so high by asking questions such as:

  1. What do you like about their Instagram posts? What do you dislike?
  2. How often are they posting?
  3. What type of information is in their profile? Is it long, or short?
  4. What’s their tone and voice in their post copy?
  5. Is there a consistent theme in their images?
  6. What hashtags do you see consistently? Can you reuse them, or make them more relevant to your dealership?

Types of Instagram Goals and Posts For Your Dealership

Besides using social to sell more cars, what is your biggest goal for an Instagram account? Some basic goals could be:

  1. Increase your follower count
  2. Grow awareness about your dealership and its value-adds by reaching more people locally
  3. Create engagement and excitement around your dealership’s events, awesome culture, and special offers
    1. Whatever it is, make sure your goal is clear, concise, and SMART—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.

      An example of a SMART goal could be, “I want to get 30% more engagement on each of our dealership’s posts over the course of the next 3 months.” This goal identifies what it wants to improve and has a specific (and tangible) outcome.

      Now, think about what content you’re going to post. Your posts should tell your dealership’s story. Looking at an Instagram profile is like flipping through a book. What do you want your followers to see? What story do you want to tell them?

      In order to tell your dealership’s narrative, ask yourself these three questions:

      1. What is the core idea behind your dealership?
      2. What do people love about your store?
      3. What would your audience miss about your business if you stopped tomorrow?

      Next, strategize around a good mix of posts that include these 3 types of Instagram content:

      Inspiration Posts

      Inspirations quotes are BIG on this channel—literally. “#inspirationalquotes” has a whopping 2,449,373 posts currently on Instagram, so this is a great way to direct the spotlight to your dealership’s lot.

      Video is linked in my profile – all #salespeople please watch this – link in the story 💪🏽

      A photo posted by Gary Vay-Ner-Chuk (@garyvee) on

      Put a document together of key people and their quotes who share the same goal/story as your dealership. Then use an easy ad creator like snappa.io or have your digital agency/vendor combine them with a photo before posting them to your Instagram.

      You can also create posts based off your store’s own inspiration. Use your teams’ hard-learned lessons or your company’s values to make your Instagram story more personal.

      Product Posts

      Don’t let your inventory flood your Instagram feed, but don’t let it be invisible, either. Cars are sexy and they have a huge following on this network. Use that to your advantage!

      Take interesting shots of your interiors and exteriors and be sure to use video to capture the attention of users scrolling through their apps.

      And remember, when taking photos, you don’t need fancy camera equipment—you just need a good shot (and maybe a good Instagram filter!). Practice the rule of thirds to create strong visual interest and create a professional, interesting scheme.

      The rule of thirds uses a grid—two lines placed vertically and two lines place horizontally—and suggests placing the subject of the photo where the two lines meet, rather than in the center.

      Culture Posts

      Those Facebook posts showing off your company culture, happy customers, and zany holiday costume days? Those belong on Instagram, too.

      Add the local organizations you support, your core values, or just weird office shenanigans your team does behind the scenes.

      Throwback to our Thanksgiving Office Party in 2014 🙂

      On a DrivingSales’ discussion post, Sheri Hudspeth, Sales Manager, said their dealership Lithia Motors uses Instagram to show off their fun culture. They try to cater to the younger demographic by showing that the dealership isn’t a scary place, rather than posting more sales and vehicle specials which are already on Facebook and TV.

      “I have never seen anyone come in saying specifically that they have seen our Instagram and want to buy a car, but I have seen people come in asking for a specific salesman they have never met because they have seen him online in our social efforts,” she stated.

      Use Instagram Stories to show your dealership’s behind-the-scenes takes. Stories are a simple way to let your followers see your business from the inside out.

Using Instagram To Advertise And Engage More Users

Ever since Facebook’s Ad Manager integrated Instagram in its Ad Placement options, your dealership can now effortlessly place its posts on Instagram as well as on the desktop and mobile News Feeds.

Just like Facebook ads, your Instagram ads can be in image, video, or carousel formats, targeted to specific audiences like shoppers who are In-Market for your exact Make and Model, and can include specific CTAs to direct users to your SRPs.

Plus, you can now easily manage user interactions from Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram all in one app.

Add Hashtags And A Location

Via Instagram’s popular “Explore” feature, users can venture into searches based on hashtags, people, or places. While browsing results, users can easily drill down into the posts they find useful as they explore.

For this reason, it’s important to including both hashtags and a location whenever possible on your posts to ensure you are broadening your reach however possible.

While adding a location is pretty self explanatory, hashtags can be a little more intricate.

Try to have about 5-10, relevant, non-spammy hashtags that help describe your photo on every post. You can even capitalize on trending topics and tags (this site has a list you can use for free).

Again, look to other OEMs or big auto groups, or other auto industry gurus for inspiration on how the pros use hashtags to increase engagement.

Hashtags can really build a community on Instagram. Try creating a hashtag related to your community that your local audience can get in on, like #onlyinSarasotaFL.

Optimize Your Profile Bio

Instagram doesn’t allow you to link externally on your posts (only ads allow the user to click out to your site), but it does allow you to provide a link in your profile.

Change this link often! Point users to a new page, event, cause, or service offer every time they visit as a reward.

Think about updating this link as often as you switch out your homepage banners or launch a new display advertising campaign.

Use Video

Videos play instantly (without sound until the user clicks) in the Instagram feed and can be up to 15 seconds long. Add customer testimonials, show off the art of your service technicians, or customers enjoying their test drives.

You can even use Instagram’s new Boomerang feature, which stitches a series of photos together into a looped GIF animation that plays like a video.

Drivin 🚗 by @ietottoje

A video posted by Boomerang from Instagram (@boomerangfrominstagram) on

Follow these top 5 brands’ leads for more tips on how to use video to get more Instagram engagement.

Don’t Look Like An Advertiser or Brand

For Instagram to work for your dealership (or any business), the goal is to not look like you’re a brand advertising. Instead, you want to blend in and look as native as possible.

Consider the difference between these two posts:

Firestone’s post clearly looks like an ad. Its hashtags are geared toward its brand—not its consumers. On the other hand, Michelin’s post starts a conversation with its target audience, and uses popular Instagram hashtags, “#instatravel” and “#sunset” to maximize its reach.

Remember, no one wants to be advertised to. As consumers, we only want to see the content we elect to see, not what brands want us to see.

The ultimate goal for a brand is to provide its customers the content that the customer wants. On Instagram, users want to see creative, interesting, beautiful, and edgy photos tailored to their interests.

Have your Facebook Ad team define Audiences based on people interested in your make and model, local causes your dealership supports, or more general things like “vehicles” or “auto parts.”

That’s it! Now you’re ready to start using your dealership’s Instagram strategy to get more engagement across all of your social media channels.

Blog Author - Brooke Jensen

Written By Brooke Jensen
Brooke handles all of Dealers United’s digital marketing. In addition to her love for design and copy, Brooke also adores her two dog-like kittens, playing the electric violin, and walking barefoot around the office.


Who is Dealers United?

Dealers United is a game-changing automotive company dedicated to helping auto dealers improve their dealerships. We have helped over 6,500 dealers nationwide cut costs, save time, and sell more cars.

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