@Going Viral

Toyota of El Cajon’s social media strategies set bar high for industry
by Karen Nielsen
Jan/Feb 2018
@Going Viral
Now Filming
Hendrix Nowells films and produces Toyota of El Cajon videos to be used on the dealership’s website and social media channels. 
Photos by Jon Didier
Hendrix Nowells approaches his social media coordinator role much like his former TV news job. He looks for breaking news, engaging human interest stories and can’t-live-without product features to share with Toyota of El Cajon followers.
It’s a strategy that’s paying off. The California dealership’s YouTube videos have more than 2.8 million views, and its Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter channels have thousands of followers.
YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world, behind Google, and an ideal place for dealerships to reach consumers.
“We have a generation of people in the 18- to 35-year-old demographic who are only on social media,” Nowells says. “A video post can get hundreds of thousands of views, and we could never reach that many people otherwise.”
Camry Case Study
When the newly designed 2018 Camry was first announced nearly a year ago, Nowells began creating buzz leading up to its July release. He started with a teaser, posting Toyota’s corporate-produced video on YouTube and other channels, and embellishing it with his own graphics and music. He added a note at the end, announcing the sharp-looking Camry would be sold at Toyota of El Cajon.
“It’s like a trailer you see for a movie and want to raise interest for your followers,” he says. “There was engagement immediately. We got lots of comments that people couldn’t wait to see it.”

Boosting Views
Nowells’ TV news background has been a plus when it comes to creating social media content for Toyota of El Cajon. The dealership’s YouTube page has more than 2.8 million views.

That first video received 128,000 views on YouTube and Nowells cross-posted the video link on the dealership’s Facebook, Twitter and other channels. Using a good description and title like “2018 Toyota Camry” makes it easy to find in a Google search.
He continued to stir the pot over the coming months, filming an onsite video with a product expert that showcased the Camry’s new features such as Wi-Fi and the Remote Start Phone App, and posting regular updates.
“The day the 2018 Camry came out, the car was in front of the dealership and our sales consultants were surrounding it and oohing and aahing, and customers were looking at it,” Nowells says. “I grabbed my camera and got impromptu comments about what they thought of it. One of our salesmen opened up the hood and talked about horsepower and the sunroof.”
Fresh Content
Social media and website followers require a steady stream of fresh content to keep them interested. While new product updates are always a hit, feature pieces on customers’ cars also are extremely popular.
Nowells created a feature called “My Classic Toyota,” which has included profiles of customers with a 1976 Celica liftback (330,000 views) and a 1989 Crown Royal in mint condition.
“When you hear people talk about their cars, you see the passion,” he says. “I love going out in the field and filming stories about customers.”
Toyota of El Cajon also uses social media to promote social causes like homelessness in San Diego, no texting while driving public service announcements and veterans events.
Nowells often asks the dealership’s service writers and sales consultants about their most commonly asked questions and turns them into informational videos. So far, he’s done videos on how to sync a phone with Bluetooth, how to check the oil, replace wiper blades and cabin air filters.
Salespeople can get in on the action, too. Nowells regularly films Zack Khoshnaw, who he describes as “personable and sincere” and comfortable in front of the camera. Recently they made a YouTube video about a hard-to-find Tacoma TRD Pro, and it sold a couple days later.
He recommends that dealerships require their sales staff to set up Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts to communicate with customers.
“Salespeople have to use all the tools available in the toolbox and social media is another tool,” he says. “It’s a huge opportunity to help sell more vehicles and connect with customers.”
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