Scot Eisenfelder

March 05, 2018

A ‘tentpole’ event at your dealership is one of those big-deal events that you really want to be successful. It could be a sale, holiday event, new product promotion or a community event that you’re sponsoring.

Tentpole marketing is a strategy that generates social buzz around your event that drives traffic to your dealership or to the event you’re promoting.

The most effective way to promote tentpole events is with an omnichannel strategy that includes digital channels such as email marketing and display ads; and may or may not include traditional media such as television, radio and direct mail.

Social media is of course, is one of the best ways to generate social buzz. Facebook has a number of tools that are ideally suited for event promotion, including:

Facebook Live

Facebook Live is a highly successful way to drive excitement around a live event such as a new model reveal or promotion. Or, you can try creating a live event where your sales or service managers answer customer FAQs.

These videos are live streaming and best suited for events where the audience wants to interact and ask questions. For that reason, don’t plan your Facebook live video with a rigid editorial format. Keep it fluid and respond to customer comments and questions.

According to a study by Newswhip, 98 out of the top 100 performing posts by brand pages on Facebook in January 2018 were native videos. Facebook live videos are an ideal way to gain a lot of exposure for your event on the big day, and also in the days after the event.

360 Photos and Videos

Did you know the Facebook app can be used to take panoramic photos and/or videos, then upload them to Facebook? This is a very captivating way to share immersive stories, places and experiences with your fans. Users must swivel their phones to view the entire photo or video.

Facebook’s 360 photos and videos create an experience that’s similar to virtual reality, except that it doesn’t require any special equipment or third-party apps.

What better way to showcase the interior of a vehicle? Or you could share videos of your showroom, service department or a community event that you’re sponsoring.


Canvas ads are designed to provide mobile users with a full-screen ad experience that brings your brand or products to life. According to Facebook, a remarkable 53 percent of users that open a Canvas ad view at least half of it, and the average view time per ad is 31 seconds. That’s a lot of exposure!

Canvas ads are easy to create and versatile. Use videos, photos, image sliders, text and call to action buttons to generate excitement around your event.

Local Awareness (geo-targeting)

The ‘reach’ objective on Facebook gives you the chance to connect with local audiences and drive foot traffic to your dealership’s event. Facebook allows for narrow targeting and is very effective at connecting you with in-market shoppers within a specified geographical radius.

Upload your current customer list in your DMS database and use Facebook to target them with specific messages. Create lookalike audiences to expand your reach even further.

T-Minus Countdown

Start building momentum for your event several weeks, if not months beforehand. First, create the event on your dealership’s Facebook page. Then create the content. The more content you can create—especially videos—the more successful your campaign will be.

Start with a canvas ad featuring photos or a video to tease the event. If you are partnering with another organization, create co-branded content that can be shared on both of your brand pages.

One to two weeks before the event is the time to really ramp up your content and targeting efforts. Use at least five of the following Facebook tools to maximize reach and frequency, and to ensure that your content is being seen by your intended audience:

  • 360 photo/video
  • Regular photo/video ad
  • Canvas ad
  • Carousel ad
  • Co-branded content
  • Lead ads

On the big day, stream a video of the event on your Facebook page with Facebook live. Continue to use local awareness ads to build brand awareness through the event. Also use lead ads to encourage people who missed the event to come in at a later date and take advantage of the offer.

Not all Events Have to be Sales

One of the most successful tentpole events for a dealership I know of was hosted by Fort Bend Kia in Rosenberg, TX. Owner Virgil Skinner partnered with a local organization called Pets Alive to promote a pet adoption event at his dealership.

Skinner made a simple 30-second video that was posted on the dealership’s Facebook page. You can view the Pets Alive video here.

The video went viral in Rosenberg and nearby towns, generating over 11,000 views. On the day of the event, hundreds of people visited the dealership. Fort Bend Kia covered pet adoption fees for everyone who adopted a pet. So many pets were adopted out that two of the shelters ran out of animals and had to go back to their shelters to pick up more pets.

It was a special event and a cause near and dear to Skinner’s heart. Of course, they also sold cars as a result of the event, but that wasn’t the purpose. The amount of goodwill they generated from this event cannot be bought at any price.

The next time your dealership plans a big event, don’t overlook Facebook as a marketing tool. Effective tentpole marketing requires a lot more than just posting event information on your Facebook page. It requires a strategy, content and knowing how to take advantage of the incredible tools that Facebook offers.