A different look at GM and Facebook

Published on May 24, 2012 under Marketing, Business, Social Media

Facebook and GM

The recent decision of automotive giant General Motors to pull $10 million in spending on Facebook ads came as a shock to some and a cheer to the naysayers who believe social media is a fad. The poor public IPO of Facebook has only added on to the worry that the bubble could burst and thus marketers will have to look for the next big media trend.

I don't agree. I wouldn't close the book just yet on social media, but more look into why GM did not get a decent ROI in Facebook. In many ways, I think it's plain to see how those marketing GM approached Facebook thinking in the past, but they spent money on what I think are outdated tactics.

Ad banners are obsolete

I'm sure at this point I'll get plenty of opposition to this notion. I'll be shown statistics of how ad banner spending is up, and click through rates are still one in one thousand. To many, this might still say that ad banners are a viable form of online advertisement.

From my experiences, many clicks have become accidental, where you misaimed your cursor or even finger. We've seen many more clicks happen when a user was looking to click the "x" to close out a banner on a movie or what not. Not to mention the annoying tactic of the "pop up" has returned, only as a lightbox window.

I've personally noticed ad banners themselves have become either simpler or more complex. Simpler in that many typical banners only operate as brand awareness, where you'll just see it quickly form into a very short message aimed at making sure you know of a brand's existence. Others have become more complex. An example is rich media that will open up bigger to present content to you. Gone are the days of trying to cram in loads of info into a tiny space.

Regardless of this, ad banners have more and more become white noise on a web page. Can you imagine or even remember any ads you saw on Facebook? When you go on to Facebook, do you even notice the ads? How about any other site? When you watch a video on YouTube, are you quickly trying to close out the ads they now try to place on top of the video?

If consumers are passing up or not even noticing any of the advertising tactics on a web page, then they have become useless. I see more marketing "experts" talking of how to trick users into clicking or catch them on those accidental clicks. In my book, that's not very solid plan of action when you want to advertise.

Choosing your priorities in advertising

Setting a priority with FacebookI'm going back to when I talked about how to promote your brand with Facebook. Always ask first if you need to make Facebook a priority. Look at who is on there, and why they use Facebook. Maybe you're going to have many who will dive into fast-food, movies, and gadgets on Facebook...but for automobiles they'll look elsewhere online.

The marketing department at GM (as well as whatever ad agency they work with) should have seriously asked how much they need Facebook. If your market isn't going to be on the platform, then it should not be a high priority. Even if you pull out demographics, you still have to ask if the consumer is going to shop for automobiles on Facebook. It would be like having Kimberly-Clark try to push Depends Undergarments on Facebook. I don't care if you can pull out millions of senior citizens who are on the network, it doesn't mean they want to hear about said product there.

Social Media is about engagement, not promotion

There's that word again. The one all the social media experts pull out - ENGAGEMENT

Like it or not, the winners in social media are those who engage their customers, give them value for their time, and thus build a deeper connection. You can't just build a page and keep posting promotion. You can't even just sit there writing press releases for cars and posting them. GM and other companies like them need to give consumers a reason to like their page and thus engage with the brand.

Social media conversation and engagement is a full-time position for a company like GM. You can't just have a marketing employee post one thing in the morning and let it be. You have to be on there posting, replying, and making your Facebook entity a living person people can connect with.

Another issue many companies need to address is promotion isn't going to work as well anymore online. Telling me to check out a new Chevy will mean nothing to me compared to posting some amazing video of a Corvette doing somersaults. Even if it's all fake CGI graphics, people will share and laugh about it.

Another possible tactic could have been a social media game. Hook up with Zynga and make a racing game entirely with GM cars and thus allow people to play for free, trick out their cars, race, and even earn points they can use towards small benefits towards a purchase of a GM automobile or just branded merchandise. Some might think this is wasteful and doesn't highlight the benefits of the product, but it will make people connect and remember the brand.

You can't just get someone to "like" your page if all you're going to do is hit them with more promotions. Give the consumer some value for their like and their time.

GM isn't entirely done with Facebook

I wanted to mention this, because the $10 million cut in Facebook advertising is mainly for ads you see on pages. General Motors isn't killing their Facebook page, but now is the time they seriously need to decide what priority they will put on Facebook and how much they'll need to invest in terms of time and people to really make that engagement happen.

The point to all this today is that I think social media isn't dying, just "old thinking". I tell clients who want to take part in social media that it's a bigger investment than just a few status updates per day, and to say more than just promotional hype. Hopefully GM will listen to the experts and rethink how they approach social media.

What do you think? Is Facebook just losing steam? Or too many companies still have no real clue how to effectively use it?

Tags: facebook, social media, business, general motors, advertising

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