9 Clouds Automotive Marketing Blog
Where automotive meets digital marketing.
If you've read anything about social media best practices for car dealers in the past few years, you've probably heard about hashtags. The truth is, there is still a lot of untapped potential for dealerships to reach more people in more geographic areas using nearly every major social medium.
What are hashtags?
This question might be a bit basic for some, but I think it's important for us all to have a shared understanding of hashtags before we dive into some best practices for using them.
Simply put: Hashtags are topics.
To create or use a hashtag, you simply put a pound sign (#) before the word or string of words, without spaces. For example, if you tweet about a Chevy Silverado, you might want to use the hashtag #silverado, #trucksforsale or #chevysilverado in your tweet. I intentionally gave a few hashtags in this example, because this post is about finding the right hashtags for your dealership's products, services, community and brand.
When you include a hashtag in your tweet, Instagram photo or Facebook post, you are categorizing it for your audience. Hashtags organize your content into searchable categories so your followers can do more research on the topic. But perhaps more importantly for us marketing folks – hashtags help you get found by people who are interested in what you're selling or what you're posting about.
Where and when should my dealership use hashtags?
On Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr and Twitter (where the hashtag was born), the pound sign (#) turns any word or string of words without spaces into a link that can be clicked. This helps you organize your content and track discussion topics based on those keywords.
So, for example, if you're tweeting about your dealership's Super Bowl party (if you have one) you might hashtag the name of the event and the name of the city: #SuperBowl, #SiouxFalls or even #SouthDakota.
Since hashtags help you get found by other people researching or participating in a conversation about a particular topic – let's say #FordF150 – you should make sure that your hashtag is always related to the tweet, photo or post. You wouldn't want to bring a car to a truck party, after all.
How do I find the right hashtag to use?
Some hashtags just make sense. If you're a Chevy dealer in Billings, for example, you'll likely want to use the hashtags #Chevy, #Chevrolet and #Billings quite liberally to establish your dealership's presence in those conversations in your market.
Before you use an existing hashtag, it's a good idea to make sure that your target audience actually uses it. For example, industry events such as #NAIAS and #NADA might be a big deal for your sales staff or management, but they're probably not going to be of interest to the average car shopper. I'm not saying you should avoid those hashtags – they might establish you as the authority on those topics in your market – I'm simply saying that you should use them with caution.
Help Customers Relate to Your Dealership
That brings me to my next point: If you want people to relate to your dealership, you need to first get your tweets, posts or Instagram pics in front of them by using relevant hashtags. Use the hashtags that they actually use, and people will click “follow” for more of the like.
So, how do you find those local, high-frequency hashtags? Here are a few quick ways to conduct your own hashtag research:
- Take a look at your current set of followers and keep a close eye on the hashtags that they use.
- Does your dealership sponsor a local sports team? Visit that team's social media accounts and find the hashtags they're already using. This will help you associate your dealership's brand with the brand of the team (which, after all, is the primary reason your dealership sponsors them).
- Keep up with local or regional events in your market, including concerts, games, festivals or even sports tournaments that bring people into your dealership's back yard.
- Here's an idea that's a little out there, but might actually work: Since many people use social media from the comfort of their own couches, meet them there. If your dealership shows TV commercials on a certain network (let's say, Fox) during a certain football game in your market (let's say, Vikings vs. Packers), it makes perfect sense for your dealership to tweet about the game with a relevant hashtag (likely candidates: #MINvsGB, #skolvikings, #gopackgo, #vikingsvspackers, #vikings, #packers, or anything that you see trending.) The same goes for popular TV shows such as #Survivor, #AmazingRace, #NCIS, #Idol, #ParksAndRec, etc. (If you're interested in lending your dealership's voice to a TV-oriented conversation, this list is really useful.)
Hashtag Tools for Auto Dealers
Even after conducting your own research on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+ and Tumblr, you might still be at a loss for knowing useful hashtags to use. That's where tools like hashtags.org, trendsmap.com, and hashtagify.me come in.
- Hashtags.org uses twitter's open-source data to show you any hashtags that your account might be interested in using. When you search for a hashtag on hashtags.org, the site will show you the definition, related terms, statistics and related hashtags.
- As the name implies, trendsmap.com shows which hashtags are trending in your geographic area. This approach is great for finding those interesting local conversations to help your dealership to retain valuable top-of-mind awareness.
- Lastly, hashtagify.me helps you find hashtags around a particular topic, the top influencers for a given topic, and usage trends. A paid account will also unlock a feature showing in-depth information related to a given hashtag.
Even with these “hashtag discovery” tools, it can still be hard to know exactly which hashtags will give you the best bang for your buck. That's why I suggest any combination of three key types of hashtags to include on any product-promoting tweet:
- #Location: It's one thing to use #Toyota or #Camry, but how will you make sure that people in your back yard see it? That's why you should include your city, state or regional name in your hashtags.
- #____sForSale: Using a topical product hashtag will help people find your vehicle in-line with other vehicles of the same type. For example, if you're selling a Chevrolet Malibu, try using #ChevysForSale, #CarsForSale, or even #MalibusForSale in your tweet to show up in the relevant hashtag search.
- #Product: This one may seem obvious but it is often overlooked. People search a massive variety of topics on Twitter and Instagram every day, and it's important for you to become part of those relevant conversations. Similar to the #___sForSale hashtag, it's generally a good practice to simply hashtag the product: #F150 or #Silverado, for example. When you combine this with #Location, you're essentially marking your x on the map for that particular vehicle. So if someone from a nearby state happens to stumble upon your #F150 hashtag, they'll also know that your F-150 is located in #DesMoines (or wherever you happen to be).
With a little research, local awareness and product placement, you can get some real ROI from your existing social media accounts by leveraging the power of the hashtag.
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