The recent news that Instagram will permit users to follow hashtags has once again cast the spotlight on the popular photo and video sharing app. Over the past two years, Instagram’s user base has doubled – from 400 million to 800 million monthly active users. And with that growth, brands have gotten involved to sell products and engage users with visual content. Those brands include auto dealerships. Here are a few examples of how dealerships use Instagram:
- Showcase the product: if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Like many other dealers, Germain Cadillac of Easton loves to post photos of its inventory, featuring close-ups of shiny Cadillacs, inside and outside. In doing so, Germain gives Instagrammers a glimpse of what’s in store when they visit the lot.
- Humanize your brand: the Instagram for Honda of Staten Island goes well beyond product to tell the dealership’s story through people. Here you learn about the dealership’s involvement in local events such as the St. Teresa Christmas Fair and New York’s annual Pulaski Day Parade. The dealership also humanizes its brand by posting videos of its customers enjoying their vehicle purchases and images of its staff and their families. At a time when people have supplanted promotion as one of the 4Ps of Automotive Marketing™, Honda of Staten Island understands the power of putting people first.
- Show some personality: Bernard Motorcar Company creates unexpected moments of humor in its posts. For instance, recently the dealership posted a wry season’s greetings from sports personality Kristen Ledlow, which showed that Bernard knows how to laugh at itself.
Instagram can make your dealership more relevant and engaging especially to a millennial audience that values visual storytelling. To maximize the value of Instagram, make sure you get a few basics down right:
- Create a compelling profile. Brand your page with your logo and a concise description of who you are and where to find you. Link to your website for deeper dives into your inventory. Check for typos and grammar – you want that first impression to count.
- Get the visuals right. It sounds obvious – but make sure you post compelling visual content, both flat images and video clips. You don’t need to be perfect. But your images should reflect an attention to quality, employing effective cropping and crisp (not blurry) images with good lighting. Don’t assign the job of content creation to just anyone – enlist a photo enthusiast who is willing to learn to get better.
- Be persistent. There is no rule for how often you post on Instagram, but doing so at least once or twice a week will keep your dealership in the visual content stream for your followers. At Cars.com, we post every few days on our consumer-facing account. We increase our frequency of posts during special events such as the Los Angeles Auto Show.
- Engage. When you post, write engaging comments and respond to users who comment. Engagement also means following users such as customers, employees, influencers, and businesses in your ecosystem. Like and comment on their content when you are inspired – just be careful to avoid being self-promotional.
- Employ hashtags. Hashtagging attracts more visitors. Do what makes most sense for your dealership. If your inventory includes Ford Mustangs, use #Mustang (for which users have uploaded 7.7 million posts as of this writing), #FordMustang (nearly 1.2 million posts), and #Ford (15.3 million posts). Getting strategic about hashtags is especially important now that Instagram allows users to follow hashtags. Stay focused on hashtags that are relevant to your brand. Avoid trying to latch on to popular hashtags such as #StarWars unless you have a good reason to do so.
How does your dealership use Instagram? What successes and challenges have you experienced? Let us know. We’d love to learn from you.