Say what you will about social media but it’s an undeniably powerful communications tool… and dealers are using it. Like anything, social media has its detractors but the evolution of technology can’t be underestimated or held back.
When tractors replaced horses, we saw unimaginable growth in agriculture. When lawnmowers replaced goats and handheld weed whips, we became enamored with the look of well-maintained yards and landscapes.
When electricity was harnessed and became available throughout the world, some thought it would spell disaster for the candle industry. It didn’t. We may not use candles the way we used to, but we still don’t decorate birthday cakes with lightbulbs.
When the telephone was invented, it gave us instant access to people miles away and now, combined with the internet, the evolution of the smartphone gives us access to people around the world. Smartphones can be used to program home security systems, set thermostats, operate washers, dryers and ovens, transfer money between financial institutions, pay bills, play games, buy things – lots of things – and even do something as mundane as actually making a telephone call.
The phone and social media
Social media has evolved, too, and it’s linked to smartphones. Tens of millions of people use smartphones to access many social media platforms to communicate, share ideas, and express their opinions. When used effectively, social media is a great way to reach people who share mutual interests. Whether it’s Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook, the popularity of social media seems to have no limits. Simply, it’s a force in communications.
Perhaps the most scorned but widely used social media platform is Facebook and its reach isn’t limited to a single generation. Often perceived as a place where baby boomers reminisce about penny candy, loaves of bread that cost a quarter, and going to the movies for under $2, it’s also incredibly popular among millennials and Gen Xers. While boomers still represent the largest generational segment at 72 million, millennials will likely top that number (if they haven’t already) once 2019 research is completed, and Gen Xers are expected to outnumber boomers within the next 10 years – call it the circle of life.
While these generations may not have a lot in common on paper, the one thing they do have in common is Facebook. According to a 2018 article in Forbes1 about online use, more than “3 billion people use the internet on a regular basis and more than 2 billion are social media users.” Surprisingly, more than 88 percent of millennials and Gen Xers use Facebook.
Each group has its own reasons for using Facebook but both groups spend a considerable amount of time on Facebook and other social media sites. Millennials2 are online more than two and a half hours a day; Gen Xers3 about an hour a day and that number will only increase.
Some groups like to check in on friends, some like to post comments, some don’t like to post comments, some follow their favorite brands (mark that down dealers), and some don’t like ads (mark that down, too).
Equipment Dealer Magazine took a spin around Facebook and found how some dealers are using the popular platform. Dealership names are excluded in this article. Dealers reading this may recognize something from their Facebook pages and if we’re noticing and they’re noticing … then others ARE noticing.
Dealership A – This dealership offers a post that it’s hiring a technician, something not uncommon on a lot of dealership Facebook pages. The business also plays a video about how to change oil on a compact utility tractor. The video shows what tools are needed and how to get started. The dealership features photos of a customer’s completed restoration of the first tractor purchased by his father and how equipment is being used in the field. Nearly 1,400 people follow the dealership’s page.
Dealership B – This dealership has more than 12,000 followers. A video provides an introduction to the dealership’s expansion and what jobs are available for people looking to get into the equipment business. The video shows a sparkling new building that would be a nice place to work. Among the videos on the page is a dealership employee providing a narrative and illustrations about what else some equipment manufacturers make. For example, the dealership’s flagship brand is also big in vending machines, scales, and forging iron pipe for environmental systems and water treatment facilities. There are countless videos on equipment being used in the field and all get hundreds of views. Perhaps one of the best posts we’ve seen is this dealership’s placement of a “We’re Hiring” billboard in a cornfield that borders an interstate.
Dealership C – With more than 1,900 followers, this dealership offers new product introductions, posts heartfelt messages to veterans and farmers on various days of national recognition, price reductions on aged inventory, and job opportunities (especially for service technicians). The dealership also shows its community involvement and support by posting local or regional needs for clothing, food and nonperishables.
Dealership D – Here’s another dealership with more than 12,000 followers. Those who visit this Facebook page will see a variety of new and used equipment specials. The dealership also provides updates on local planting or harvest conditions. When collegiate football arrives, the dealership offers a special on small generators for use at football game tailgate parties (that’s creative thinking). It also posts reminders about time zone changes and dealership open house events.
Dealership E – This dealership has more than 4,300 followers and women (and probably quite a few men) will find dealership-generated articles about the growing percentage of women operating farms and the number is growing. The dealership posts include harvest photo contests, scheduled workshops to bring customers to the dealership to get updates on the latest technology in the equipment industry, and invitations to regional farm shows where the dealership will be exhibiting new equipment and technology. The dealership also is involved in a big way in fundraising for research and treatment of adults and children with kidney problems. The fundraising efforts are impressive.
Dealers posts on Facebook include:
• Job opportunities
• Instructional videos
• Messages to veterans and farmers
• Community involvement
• New and used equipment specials
• Local planting and harvesting conditions
• Open-house and customer appreciation events
• Workshops on new technology
Dealership F – More than 11,200 follow this dealership’s posts, which include pre-season and post-season service specials on farm and outdoor power equipment. Posts also include recent dealership expansion and service upgrades to get customers in and out and back to work. The dealership has increased its investment in parts and proudly contributes to various community events. The multistore operation also hosts customer appreciation days that include incredible spreads of food and plenty of door prizes. These events also feature representatives of the equipment brands carried by the dealership to give customers the opportunity to speak with equipment makers.
Dealership G – There are nearly 200 followers of this one-store operation that carries a big footprint in its area of responsibility. The dealership is heavily involved in promoting or financially supporting community events. It also features a really cool blog from domestic diva Martha Stewart who writes about her new tractor, the brand sold by the dealership.
Dealership H – This expanding dealership counts more than 7,200 followers. In addition to various equipment videos, the dealership offers seasonal events at multiple locations designed for women. The so-called “Ladies Night” showcases feature manufacturer-branded apparel, discounted toys, branded collectibles, and tools. The dealership also posts aged inventory specials or yearend discounts to make room “for the new” – the new represents an incredible investment in this dealership’s farm rich territory.
Dealership I – This expanding multilocation dealership has 7,600 people following its Facebook page. The dealership offers a poll to customers to provide feedback of what they would like to see on Facebook and it promotes its involvement in career-oriented presentations at local high schools and it works with colleges and farm organizations to promote special events for children. The dealership also offers side-by-side comparisons of its marquee brands to competitive brands and video promotions of new equipment – all of which receive a consistently high number of views. The dealership also offers Hesston belt buckles, which celebrate the National Finals Rodeo. The buckles first appeared nearly 50 years ago.
Dealership J – Read some great customer reviews from some of the dealership’s 1,300 followers who receive detailed information about the dealership’s auction of wholesale equipment. It also offers weekly specials that offer discounts on certain items when making purchases online. Employee birthdays are posted, new hires are recognized, and employees also serve as spokespeople to introduce new products and dealership services.
Dealership K – This is another dealership with more than 7,500 followers who are treated to a variety of instructional videos about equipment use. But it’s also involved in community events and frequently opens its doors during customer appreciation days. One of the great series of videos on this dealership’s page features a member of law enforcement who explains where farm equipment can be driven and why SMV placards are vital to road safety for motorists and equipment operators. Just this series alone would be helpful to people who get stuck on the phone trying to get transportation guidelines for equipment from a government agency. The dealership also promotes its new over-the-road maintenance truck for taking care of customers in the field.
When added up, the dealerships reviewed by Canadian Equipment Dealer have more than 59,000 followers. That’s a lot of traffic. How many followers are customers is unknown but we’re sure these dealerships follow-up in some fashion with people who like their pages. If not, they need to and there is a way to do that – a way to effectively reach the various generations who are using Facebook and other social media sites nearly every minute of every day.
Since equipment customers who visit dealership Facebook pages represent more than one group, dealerships need to consider how to reach them. Mary Lister, a content writer and strategist with Starry, Inc., offers some excellent tips in meeting the marketing challenges in reaching each group in her article, Generational Marketing: How to Target Millennials, Gen X, & Boomers4. “It is important to keep in mind that each generation is comprised of unique personalities, not all people will respond the same way,” writes Lister.
Editor’s note: Sources used for statistical information in this article include the following: