Auto forum marketing is a great way to improve your reputation, expand your customer base, and generally help your dealership succeed online—but only if you do it right. There are some tricks to getting started and best practices to learn before you jump in head first.
Today, we're going to take a look at a few things you can do to get started.
Step 1: Find the Right Forum
There are plenty of auto forums out there, but not every forum is a good place to try and market yourself. Some just aren't relevant (say, any forum focused on vehicles you don't sell parts for), while others just don't permit advertising in the first place.
You need to find a forum that works for you if your auto forum marketing is going to succeed at all.
The best forums tend to be those that are at least partially about fixing or improving vehicles—the sorts of people involved in these discussions are much more likely to buy things you suggest.
After all, they tend to be the DIY types who want to buy the part and install it by themselves without ever going near a dealership. This is your chance to win a sale that would have been impossible just selling at the counter!
Spork Marketing put together an article with an awesome list of auto forums, along with tips for finding forums specific to your brand. Check it out!
Step 2: Browse the forum to see what it's like
This is part of Step 1, but it's important enough that we need to address it separately.
Don't even think about posting on any given forum until you've browsed through a number of threads, read through existing conversations, and generally gotten a feel for what the community is like and how its members interact.
If you see a lot of people trying to help each other, you're probably going to fit right in. On the other hand, if the community seems generally negative and hostile, it's probably best to focus your efforts on a different forum instead.
Step 3: Research the Do's and Don'ts of Forum Posting
This is absolutely vital. Most forums have certain rules about what people can and can't do.
Some websites limit the use of images, others ban off-site links, or have heavy moderation... no two forums are exactly the same, and that's something you'll have to keep in mind.
Additionally, you should focus on some of the 'unwritten' rules of a forum. These can be seen in the way that people behave in each post they make.
When you first start posting, you're going to be an outsider—there's no way around that. Conforming to the norms of the site will eventually lead to your acceptance. On the other hand, opposing the culture will mean that you never quite fit in.
One of your main goals is to be accepted by the forum's community and treated as an expert whose comments are worth reading, so make sure each of your posts is written in a way that conforms to what others are expecting. Usually, this means being courteous, professional, and helpful to others.
READ MORE: The 10 Do's and Don'ts of Forum Marketing
Step 4: Set up your profile and signature
There's no point in marketing your dealership on a forum if people can't actually get a hold of you—that's why the last step is making sure your entire profile is completely filled out.
Your profile should include your contact information, as well as some details that make it clear you're with a dealership. You may be able to get the forum's owner to add you as part of a separate 'group', denoted by an unusually-colored name or other highlight that lets people know you're more than just a car hobbyist—you're a parts expert.
At the same time, make sure you have a signature that people can use to reach your website. Keep it small and reasonably discreet. People tend to ignore signatures they see as too large or obnoxious.
Auto forum marketing is something of a learning process, especially when you're first starting out.
The employee in charge of this should already have experience posting on forums. If they don't, ask them to spend a certain amount of time on social media or other discussion forums before they jump into marketing.
Similarly, don't be afraid to stop posting on a forum if you think you've overstepped your boundaries and can't fix the mistake. It's a shame when that happens, but as long as you learn from what happened, you can always try again somewhere else. For that reason, try to have a few backup forums just in case you need them.
When the fit is right, getting your name out there through an automotive forum is a great technique to use. Not all dealerships give it a try, so it's your chance to stand out!