Raceway Ford Harnesses the Power of Social Media Marketing

Just the Facts:
  • Mike "The Car Guy" Correra, sales manager at Raceway Ford in Riverside, California, encourages salespeople to learn Internet selling, rather than shunting Internet business into a separate area.
  • Correra also uses social media intensively and even racked up a few sales after people admired his artistic car photos on Instagram.
  • Because of their heavy social media use, "If a customer is looking for a Ford dealer around here, they'll find us pretty quickly," Correra told Edmunds.

RIVERSIDE, California Raceway Ford  is one of many Ford dealerships around this Southern California city 60 miles east of Los Angeles. Yet it just might be the easiest to find, thanks to ingenious use of social media outlets. The dealership has even sold a few cars after people admired art photos of cars posted on Instagram by sales manager Mike Correra.

Correra, whose Internet persona is "Mike the Car Guy," told Edmunds that he can't recommend social media highly enough as a marketing tool for car dealers. He has made a concerted effort to get his sales staff of 16 to use and feel comfortable with the Internet.

As he wrote on his blog, "I encourage my team to build their own brand, market themselves, and I back them in their efforts knowing that the cars they sell will keep our store growing and reaching an even bigger audience!"

"I've tried to create awareness of the importance of branding," Correra said. That starts with cutting out the separate "Internet sales" department at Raceway Ford. Instead, all salespeople are trained and ready to work with customers who come either through the door or via Internet."

After all, Correra said, these days, "Whether a customer acknowledges it or not, they've been online at some point" gathering information before they reach the dealership. "Why send them to a separate department? We've made sure the whole staff is up to speed."

Surprisingly, Correra noted to Edmunds, Raceway Ford is among the few dealerships to "go hybrid," as he puts it, and bring Internet marketing into the mainstream.

But it's working. "More of our guys are doing videos for Internet and dealing with customers who submit requests for information online. There are lots of Ford dealers around here, but not that many with the online presence we have."

Not every salesperson is as deft with social media as Correra, of course.

In addition to his own "Mike the Car Guy" social media feeds, he manages all social media for Raceway Ford, from Facebook to Twitter to Google Plus, LinkedIn and Yelp, and even Instagram "because I enjoy taking pictures."

The photo-sharing app Instagram seems an unlikely place to find customers, but Correra said he has "sold four cars because of Instagram without even trying."

Correra frequently posts artistic shots of customers' cars with the hashtag #OurCustomersHaveCoolCars. A customer whose Shelby Mustang was the subject of an Instagram post "reached out and thanked us for highlighting their car on Instagram. Then the gentleman's brother ended up needing a car and came to us."

In another case, a woman saw Correra's artistic Instagram shot of a "really nice four-wheel-drive vehicle" and contacted him to ask if there was one like it in black at Raceway Ford for her husband. There was, and he bought it.

Correra emphasized to Edmunds that he stays away from the hard sell when posting on social media.

He said: "I try to take interesting pictures of Fords, but not advertising that they're for sale. Just interesting angles and views, hoping people will leave comments."

Other dealership employees are encouraged to post regularly on Facebook, Twitter or wherever they feel comfortable.

"They want all the opportunities they can to get a lead and sell cars," he said, "so they have responded well to training on how to do that online. When someone comes to me with an idea, the last thing I'd ever say is no. You have to be willing to try different types of online campaigns and be willing to fail. An effort not resulting in selling a car doesn't mean it's a failure."

The atmosphere at the dealership breeds what Correra calls a "culture of positivity."

It must be working: Correra noted that Raceway Ford's sales were up 204 percent in July over the same month in 2013.

Edmunds says: The Internet and social media are here to stay, and the wise dealer — like this one — knows how to use it to engage customers.