Social network pays off with engagement, purchases — and $5 spiffs
When Instagram began growing in popularity, it’s almost certain that many dealership owners and marketing managers shook their heads and thought, “Not another social media platform to learn.” But an increasing number of dealers have embraced Instagram and are using the network to grow their local riding community, promote the riding lifestyle and sell units and PG&A.
“As of April 2017, there are over 700 million monthly active Instagram users with roughly 400 million daily active Instagram users. This is where your potential buyers are. You should be there, too, engaging in a professional manner,” explained Matthew Brown, CEO of LotVantage.
Instagram differs from Facebook and Twitter in that it’s 100-percent photo-and video-based — no posts can be made without an image or a video clip. That makes it an ideal marketing tool for powersports dealerships, says Mo Regalado, e-commerce and social media manager for Lone Wolf Harley-Davidson in Spokane, Washington.
“We’re such a visual industry that you totally need to be able to see what everything looks like,” she said. “As with any social media, you’re going to want to create community, and how else are you going to be able to do that if you’re not sharing pictures of people looking like they’re having a good time?”
Like most powersports dealerships, Lone Wolf Harley-Davidson, with more than 1,300 followers, posts photos of new vehicles, new product, events and customers. “The biggest thing that dealers can do really is show the experience. What does it look like when people are coming into your dealership? What is the atmosphere?” Regalado explained. “You’re trying to create a tone and an atmosphere for people. When they’re scrolling through Instagram, they’re going to look at your pictures and go, ‘Hey, I want to go there. That place looks really cool. I want to meet those people. I want sit on that bike. I want to be a part of that adventure.’”
To differentiate YAM Worldwide dealerships from others, Kimberly Pauley, marketing assistant for the company that owns Power 50 Hall of Fame dealership GO AZ Motorcycles, among others, takes images that are unique to the dealership or the local area. “Followers want to see not only the brand itself, but how it’s used in lifestyle. So we like to post photos of a Vespa in downtown Phoenix, just so that brings a little bit more of a localized photo into this giant OEM brand,” Pauley said. “We’re trying to localize these brands by doing that, and I think that’s one of the best ways. I’ll notice that a photo that we take in-store of the ’17 Road King gets 50 more likes than just a regular stock photo that I pulled from Harley-Davidson.”
YAM Worldwide’s Instagram pages include those for Harley-Davidson of Scottsdale in Arizona (6,400 followers), GO AZ Motorcycles in Scottsdale (nearly 2,000 followers), GO AZ Motorcycles West in Peoria, Arizona, (more than 1,000 followers) and Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson in Southaven, Mississippi (more than 1,000 followers).
At Power Motorsports in Sublimity, Oregon, general manager Dave Sibley focuses posts on those of customers with their new units, while also peppering in special sales and new products.
“We’ve had success, it seems like, reaching a broader audience with that,” he reported. “Our followers on Instagram and sometimes the people who are in the pictures or know the people in the pictures will chime in, and that allows us to get us some exposure that maybe we wouldn’t get without that.” The Power Motorsports Instagram page has surpassed 1,700 followers.
Renegade Harley-Davidson in Alexandria, Louisiana, has gained more than 1,100 followers by paying attention to what customers want to see. “We like to feature community events, and we like to feature different customized motorcycles because that seems to be what a lot of our followers respond to,” said Amanda Marcum, marketing manager for the dealership.
Launching an Instagram page
Launching an Instagram page is as simple as signing up, like your dealership has likely done in the past with other social networks.
Instagram business pages allow users to see analytics as well as access in-app advertising opportunities. Brown, of LotVantage, says advertising via Instagram is easy, especially if your dealership is already advertising on Facebook. Facebook owns Instagram, and the two use the same advertising platform.
Sibley was convinced to launch a dealership Instagram page by his Fox Head rep Joey Lancaster. “He showed me how to sign into and create a company Instagram account, and I linked that account to our Facebook account,” Sibley said.
He appreciates that when the accounts are linked, he can easily post the same image to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook with one click.
Marcum cross-posts all of her content to assure all audiences receive the message. Posting to multiple sites also allows followers to find Renegade Harley-Davidson on every social media network that they access.
“All of the posts that we do are on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, so we put them through all of the social media platforms,” she said.
Renegade Harley-Davidson and other dealerships launched their Instagram accounts to reach a younger demographic. “We really wanted to start promoting our motorcycles on Instagram because we are reaching out to a young generation that demands more adventure and fun in their lives, and that would involve learning what the Harley-Davidson lifestyle is about,” Marcum said.
About 59 percent of Instagram users are 18 to 29 years old, according to a recent Pew Research Center report.
Going beyond the post
Best practices for Instagram state that the images should be of good quality, since the network is photo-focused. Several filters offered on the app allow users to enhance their images.
“It is important to understand that Instagram is a visually-driven network. The visual content that you should be posting in your photo stream should resonate with customers, making them smile, laugh, engage in conversation and ultimately sparking interest in visiting your dealership for a potential purchase,” Brown explained.
To improve the quality of photos the Power Motorsports staff takes, Sibley offers a $5 per post spiff to his sales staff, when they’re taking shots of customers with their newly purchased units.
“I’ve been trying to get better quality pictures, so what we’ve tried to do is to think it might be a customer’s profile picture or think that it might be something that they really want. So we slow it down just a hair, and we try to get it in the right light and get them by the Power sign or by the KTM sign, depending on what they’re buying. Then the salespeople send me the best quality picture they can get, then I upload it, and then I pay them,” Sibley said.
He also tags customers if they have Instagram or Facebook pages, when the photos are posted on those networks.
Hashtags are also extremely important on Instagram. “Through Instagram you can use the hashtags, and a lot of people that are on the Instagram platform, they’re searching for certain categories and/or specific words, and it allows us to reach a wider audience that wouldn’t normally look at our page,” Marcum said.
Brown added, “Applying the use of hashtags and engaging with fellow Instagram users that post similar content will be helpful to building your dealership audience.”
Regalado also searches hashtags herself to find those in the Spokane Valley who are interested in motorcycles. She then reaches out to them with a comment. “It takes a little bit of time, but it pays in dividends,” she said.
To further reach out to YAM’s dealerships’ customers, Pauley will sometimes directly contact Instagram followers who have shown interest in or have attended dealership events in the past to remind them of an upcoming event. She recently used that process to reach out to a few customers when the dealership was hosting a bikini bike wash because they had expressed via Instagram that they were upset they missed the first such event. After her outreach, they showed up to the second bike wash. “Putting that extra effort into it definitely helps,” she said.
One of Pauley’s favorite new tools is Instagram Galleries, which lets users to share up to 10 photos or videos in one post. That allows her to post several images at once, instead of making several different posts in a day. She likes to post a few days in a row, then wait a day or two before posting again, so the dealerships don’t bog down followers’ Instagram feeds.
Brown advises following that type of pattern. “Typically, posting on social media a few times a week will get you engagement, comments and traffic, but the exact number of times a dealer should be posting is a learned science, making it a trial by experience per dealer,” he said. “Posting once a day might be too much for your dealership, because you might get unfollowed.”
He added that dealers should always make sure each post is of high quality, and they shouldn’t just post simply to have something new on Instagram.
Return on investment
Of course a major question that dealers have is: How does Instagram pay off? Marcum uses Renegade Harley-Davidson’s Instagram page to open dialogue with customers and attract them to events. Pauley uses Instagram to grow engagement with the YAM dealerships and hopefully get customers in the store and to events. And Regalado aims to get customers onto the dealership’s website or into the store.
“One of our goals is to get those butts in the store. Obviously we want them to come down here. We want them to come and meet us and talk with us, but we also want them to click on our website; we want them to see what we have. So it’s actually twofold — we want to drive traffic to our website, but we ultimately want to drive traffic to our store,” Regalado said. Instagram only allows users to post a clickable website link in their Instagram bio and not within individual posts.
Sibley has seen direct sales as a result of Instagram posts. For example, he once posted an older dirt bike that came in on trade, and within an hour, he had three people who expressed interested in buying it.
“With the click of a button, you can hit a whole lot of people instead of if we were trying to follow up with people or send each person, ‘Hey, we’ve got a new YZ,’” he said.
Sibley has found social media allows him to reach a specific audience of powersports enthusiasts, as those who follow Power Motorsports are either customers, those who know his customers or those who are interested in powersports products.
“We find a lot of the social media stuff is more effective than any of the ad dollars that we spend. We go spend $10,000 on radio and might get one call or no calls. Whereas it seems like on some of the social media that we do, it can really light a fire on something,” he said. “It’s really a frenzy on social media that you don’t get from other media.”
Brown recommends all dealers try Instagram to see if it works for their market. “You can start by repurposing the lifestyle content that you share on your other social media networks. The effort to reach potential customers on Instagram could be well worth it, especially if those clicks lead to paying customers.”