At John Marazzi Nissan, internet sales director Rob Fontano is quick to associate the “social” in social media with “professional.” Using sites such as Facebook to deepen customer relationships and drive sales, he said, requires a clean division between your work and after-hours lives.

“You need to keep business business and personal personal,” said Fontano, of Naples, Fla. “You don’t want to see the party you went to last weekend on the same page you’re trying to educate your customer base with. It’s just a broader version of a business card.”

Facebook helps organizations maintain this separation by requiring them to create a business page on the site and restricting the use of personal sites to individuals. Business pages work much like a personal page, with the ability to post comments, links and videos and communicate with customers and prospects. Facebook members can interact with your dealership’s business page when they “become a fan.”

Getting Started

If you’re new to Facebook and social media, Fontano said there’s no reason to be intimidated. Along with an overview of why you want to establish a presence, the site outlines the materials you need to get started and provides step-by-step directions. Within 10 to 15 minutes, you should be up and running with a page that allows you to promote your store (e.g., address, phone number, hours and website URL) and engage your customers.

Provide Relevant Content

As you prepare your Facebook page, Fontano recommends that you put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What information would be interesting to you and encourage you to visit again and recommend it to others?

On his store’s page, Fontano said he complements inventory-related posts with video testimonials from satisfied customers and news about upcoming Nissan vehicles, dealership events and special incentives. He also provides information on timely topics such as the recently implemented Cash for Clunkers program to answer questions customers may have.

“I think we performed a service, and we got business out of it,” Fontano said. “When there are opportunities, you want to communicate with people. You want to put information out there that they might want to see.”

Develop a Following

To borrow the famous “Field of Dreams” quote, if you build it, they may not come. While a few people will stumble across your Facebook page, promoting it on your website and in your advertising is the best way to create a community. You can also use the site’s search capabilities to identify customers and prospects and invite them to join.

“You end up connecting with friends of friends,” Fontano said. “I’m not overly choosy, but I’ll take a look and see if that’s someone I want on the page. Whatever you want to portray your dealership as, those are the type of people you should go after. How I do it is just the same as everyone else does – search your local area and become friends of friends.”

Track Performance

As with other components of your online program, you can only manage what you measure. Facebook allows you to assess how effectively you’re engaging with your fans through an “Insights” dashboard. This application quantifies the interactions you have each week, itemizes which post types are the most popular and allows you to gauge your reach with men and women by age group. To correlate this activity with more concrete business results, Fontano recommends you review your store’s website analytics for referrals from

Manage Your Time

Given your other responsibilities, Fontano cautions you to keep Facebook in perspective. Dedicating a few minutes each day should be enough to maintain a credible presence and stay in touch with your fans. You don’t want to get distracted and overlook responding to inquiries from shoppers or attending to your website and third-party listings.

“Just take the occasional dip into the Facebook page and share something or respond to something,” Fontano said. Structure your day, touch it once in awhile and keep yourself out there. You don’t need to make it a full-time job.”

Additional Resources

Social media was the focus of’s August DealerADvantage Live webinar. The session examined how you can use sites such as Facebook and Twitter to drive additional online exposure for your dealership. It also discussed how you can leverage social media sites to improve your online automotive skills and boost your career development.