By on June 26, 2012

Video NSFW for language

Automotive News features one of the better breakdowns of automaker Facebook campaigns, minus the breathless masturbatory social media buzzwords that so frequently surround any discussion of “engagement” or “conversations” . The consensus seems to be shifting in one direction; it’s worthless, even if Mark Rechtin and David Barkholz are too polite to say so.

Rechtin and Barkholz cite a few examples of using Facebook to promote automaker brands, but they appear to be outliers, with the most hardcore enthusiasts engaging automakers over extreme niche products. Witness Audi getting 12,000 fans to say they would buy a TT-RS at $50,000 a pop. Aside from the fact that Audi will never sell 12,000 of them in America (or the world), enthusiasts demanding obscure performance cars and then never buying them is one of the oldest in-jokes in the automotive community.

A high number of likes or Facebook fans doesn’t necessarily translate into big exposure for a brand either, as the AN article found

Owen Peacock, Scion’s manager of marketing communications, said that just because a company has 1 million fans, that doesn’t mean all 1 million will receive a company’s update on their News Feeds. Facebook’s algorithms and formulas don’t allow it — unless the automaker pays Facebook a premium

These, of course, are the “sponsored stories” that appear on our profiles, and oft go ignored as we view pictures of our friends’ pets, children, press cars and home-brewed beer. How effective are these ads? I spoke to a digital marketing professional, who put it to me this way; It’s hard enough to sell a car via a billboard or an ad in a car magazine. Selling one via a 90 character, 110 x 90 pixel ad is ridiculous.

Or perhaps “impressions” and “likes” are all that’s available. Facebook doesn’t allow third party tracking of ads, which can show not only who is viewing the ad, but if the ad is responsible for a sale. Marketing professionals seem to think that the only reason it’s not offered is because it would prove that Facebook really doesn’t help deliver tangible results. Facebook did allow it briefly as a beta test, but that program was quickly shuttered.

Ford is launching yet another social media campaign for the 2013 Fusion, and they appear to be sticking with social media despite the dubious results that past campaigns like the Fiesta Movement and Focus Rally have generated. Talking about millions of “impressions” sounds great at a social media conference, but ultimately means nothing. Just remember that Ford, a global brand and marketing machine, got 6.5 million Youtube views spread over 700 videos for the Fiesta movement, even as it touted the 3.4 million “impressions” it got for the car.

GM’s exit from Facebook may have caused a stir among those who believe that social media will bring freedom to the world (or at least make them cooler than the were in high school) but The General’s exit, in light of the new information being gleaned, may have been their smartest move of the year.

Rechtin and Barkolz sum up their article by stating  “…the fans are there and engaged. But turning that engagement into sales? That’s the hard part.”

How about “if it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense”?


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22 Comments on “Generation Why: Cool Sponsored Story, Bro...”

  • avatar

    So then tell me, Mr. Editor, how many cars are sold due to those annoying pop-ups on just about every image here on the TTAC website? Be careful what you write about social media and advertising…

    • 0 avatar
      Jean-Pierre Sarti

      shhhh! ad block for your browser shhh! impression still counts for the website but you don’t see the ad. everybody wins but the client.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually I don’t believe that’s true. If the ad is blocked by a blocker, then that doesn’t count as an impression for the ad (since it’s being blocked, not hidden). Therefore the website owner loses because they make less money, which in turn could mean the site viewers lose due to the website owner not being able to pay for the costs to run the website or potentially resorting to other methods to make money. (And FYI, I’m not talking about any website in particular here.)

        And even if the impression count did still increase, that would mean a less favorable impression:click ratio for the client which could in turn mean less money for the website owner as well.

        The solution and win-win for everyone is likely (in my opinion) friendlier, less-intrusive, less resource-hogging ads Internet-wide, making blockers much less necessary for a pleasant browsing experience.

      • 0 avatar

        If you don’t want me to use an adblocker don’t make adds that pop up on my screen and interfere with my reading of the content i’m here to see.

        Annoying = blocked. It’s that simple and as long as tools are around that make my experience less annoying, I’m more than happy to use an ad blocker.

        These ads that feel the need to not just blink and flash but then expand to cover the whole/part of the page, sorry. Not interested and I absolutely refuse to click on any ad that does that. Ads like that also make me think twice about buying that product. ie if a company has to be that annoying to get my attention, chances are there is another product elsewhere from another company that I would be happier with. If only because they respect their customer more.

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    I have worked in/on/around the web for a long time a good chunk of it in the technical side of online advertising and all I have got to say is : Shhhh! Don’t blow the secret you big dummy! There are still suckers, errr clients, born every minute.

  • avatar

    Within marketing circles, social media is widely dismissed as a primary source of customers. Unlike, say, Google Adwords, which REALLY DOES drive sales effectively (and is priced accordingly), Facebook is always categorized as something you just sort of have to do because everyone else is doing it.

    Our small rec products factory has a substantial Facebook following. We view it as very much subordinate to more traditional strategies: our own website, our emailing list, SEO, Google ads, appearances at shows, customer events. Facebookers clearly hate direct marketing, and you can watch the response taper off fast if you post anything overtly sales-oriented. So our Facebook page covers what we call “happy s**t,” such as customer or staff accomplishments, interesting photos (often only indirectly related to us), trip reports, and so on. Entertainment value rather than a sales push.

    This is modestly effective, so we keep up with it, though if Facebook disappeared tomorrow we wouldn’t care. Our little company has a $600k marketing budget and that’s OUR educated analysis. I have to think that the companies with $600m marketing budgets are way ahead of us in understanding that Facebook does almost nothing tangible for sales.

  • avatar

    “… minus the breathless masturbatory social media buzzwords that so frequently surround any discussion of “engagement” or “conversations” . Priceless. +1

    I was often treated like a guy who put a turd in the punch bowl when I would point out the correlation between buzzword laden marketing and the disappearances of the companies who spewed it. Inevitably, they disappear in a cloud of vaporware and their movers and shakers take their fluffed resumes to the next flop to be or to infect some serious value providers.

    John Harris sounds like a smart guy who has the whole subject in hand. +1 John

  • avatar

    Ironic (and yet, strangely refreshing) to read about social media marketing shills on an automotive media outlet, given this industry’s all but being bought and paid for by corporate marketing budgets.

    Social media is a function of ubiquitous mobile connectivity. It is merely an evolution of communication. And just as the marketers filled print with subconscious visual trickery, and ensure an hour-long television program contains at least 20 minutes of commercials, and every mile of interstate has giant billboards hawking pointless crap, they will inundate social media with same.

    It just seems more prevalent because we are now more connected.

    It is possible to tie social media efforts to sales. ROI is ROI is ROI. The problem is, most corporate types are so intimidated and resistant (read: incompetent, imo) of actually calculating ROI, they simply do not, thus leading to the rash of social media snake oil we all find ourselves facing on a daily basis.

    Folks like Scott Monty and Tony Hsieh are not so widely touted for their social media chops because they’ve spun themselves into sweet gigs on easy street through silver-tongued smoke and mirrors. They have A) taken the time to use these modern communication methodologies to genuinely deliver exceptional service to their customers and B) legitimately measure the results of their actions against their efforts (ie: they calculate legitimate ROI).

    I’ve been splitting my online time about 50-50 between automotive and social media marketing channels for the last three years. Can’t say I’ve crossed paths with very many – if any – gearheads along the way.

    This is cool stuff. This is powerful stuff. Don’t let backfire effect bounce you off course. That which does not get measured does not get done. Social media is a fad and waste of time to those who either do not measure it or measure it incorrectly.

    If you are interested in knowing how to legitimately tie social media activity to business outcomes (read: ROI), look up “The Brand Builder” on Google. Olivier Blanchard literally wrote the book on the subject.

    And, lest you think me a shill, were this article written on any other site, or by anyone other than Derek, I wouldn’t even bother replying. If you care about this stuff, take 30 minutes to do a little research and educate yourself.

    • 0 avatar


      As I told Derek via email, social media will succeed despite social media “experts.” The web is the first platform where advertisers can actually track results, and that’s powerful stuff.

      • 0 avatar

        The internet provides the ability to track metrics, allowing advertisers to calculate the ROI of a particular method. Doesn’t the following passage indicate that these metrics are being artificially withheld?

        “Or perhaps “impressions” and “likes” are all that’s available. Facebook doesn’t allow third party tracking of ads, which can show not only who is viewing the ad, but if the ad is responsible for a sale. Marketing professionals seem to think that the only reason it’s not offered is because it would prove that Facebook really doesn’t help deliver tangible results. Facebook did allow it briefly as a beta test, but that program was quickly shuttered.”

  • avatar

    The payoff isn’t always direct to consumer sales.

    Brand awareness, search engine page ranking, and information gathering are just a few of the things that a social media presence can help with.

    GMs problem is that they have no brand message or coherent product plan so they don’t have a clue of how to engage with their audience, thus people don’t have much to say about them.

  • avatar

    No surprise really. The promise of social media advertising was that it could be targeted towards a very specific audience but on that count Facebook hasn’t delivered. Facebook advertising is akin to putting up a flyer at a busy intersection: Sure many people can see it but most ignore it.

    That is very different to investing in Google search terms as they catch potential customers when they are actually looking for a similar product or service.

    If Facebook wants to get serious about advertising they will need to rethink their advertising strategy and come up with a far more targeted approach.

    • 0 avatar

      Television advertising is rapidly becoming the same thing, just putting up a flyer at a busy intersection. There is value in people simply seeing your name out there though, even if they aren’t aware that they absorbed it at the time of viewing.

      • 0 avatar

        “”There is value in people simply seeing your name out there though…”

        Only if it leads the person who viewed it to take further action. Just having your name out there, with no other action taken by those who view it, is akin to pissing in a stiff headwind.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I think Harley Davidson does their branding right. Back in the darkest days for he Motor Company they’d bring a trailer full of new bikes and some company reps to a dealer sponsored rally. The company reps would ask three simple questions. 1. Why do you love about your bike? 2. What could we do better on your bike? 3. What do you hate about your bike? The reps listened to the good, the bad, and the ugly. The reps reported this data to the Motor Company. Harley Davidson listened and made changes as needed or if they could.
    I haven’t been to a dealer sponsored event in over 15 years, feel free to correct me as needed.
    Which data is more valuable? Face to face with a customer or some internet derived data?

    • 0 avatar

      Harley’s branding doesn’t work for everyone, though.

      One way it doesn’t work: can you imagine people getting Crest Toothpaste tatoos? No, you can’t.

      Another way that it doesn’t work: I ride motorcycles, but I found the Harley Store to be a major turnoff. I’d ridden a Kawasaki Vulcan previously, and expected, you know, a motorcycle dealership. I saw a lot of fashion accessories, and no motorcycles, and I turned around and walked out. I wasn’t really interested in paying twice as much for a Harley as I would for a normal motorcycle.

      Their branding *does* work for some people. People who want to be part of a tribe that looks kinda badass. And making the store look like a mall clothing store probably does help to bring the ladyfolk along.

      Harley owners are devoted. And something like the HOG is the wet dream of lots of marketers. But it has limitations that people don’t widely acknowledge. Having an “in” group of people who are deeply devoted to your brand necessitates having an “out” group. Also, most things just aren’t important enough to be a lifestyle/tribe/social-group.

      I’ve personally been repelled by Harley’s “in group” marketing because riding motorcycles is something that I do, it’s not something that I am. There’s nothing wrong with Harley’s motorcycles (other than price) — but their attempts to be a lifestyle turned me off pretty hard-core. I like my lifestyle just fine as it is, thankyouverymuch.

      Another instance where I’ve been repelled by lifestyle marketing: I really WANT to love durable/versatile Jeeps. But the last time I test drive one (a new 2005 Jeep Liberty CRD), the cult-membership described in the product-literature turned me off, as did the abysmal MPGs (for a compact diesel cute-ute). I love a good owner’s community, but I just want to trade technical notes about maintaining the machine — not join a Cult of Jeep.

      The first rule of communication: Consider your audience. Next, figure out how to get across what you’d like to tell them. Marketing isn’t exempt from this.

  • avatar

    “they appear to be sticking with social media despite the dubious results that past campaigns like the Fiesta Movement”

    I’m not a marketing guy, but everything that I’ve read about the Fiesta campaign suggests that it was a tremendous success. Ford went from having zero presence in the US subcompact market to being one of its sales leaders, despite having relatively high price points. The Fiesta Movement campaign was also cheap compared to typical marketing rollouts. I’m not sure how much of the Fiesta’s sales success is attributable to the marketing, but everyone should be fortunate to do as badly.

  • avatar

    So, Facebook has 900,000,000 users. I always use the analogy that near where I live there are oil shale deposits that contain (I’ve read) BILLIONS of barrels of oil. For over a hundred years individuals and companies have been trying to find a way to tap that resource. At this writing, they are still unsuccessful. Until a method is developed to effectively process the oil shale, what you basically have are BILLIONS (maybe TRILLIONS) of tons of useless rocks.

    • 0 avatar

      Can you imagine why being considered to be a commodity to be exploited might create a bit of a backlash?

      People like to be thought of as, you know, people.

  • avatar

    I never did buy one of those Buick Veranos you kept advertising. I remember the pop up but guaranteed, it did not result in a click to the company’s website.

  • avatar

    Facebook has adds? Never noticed. I skim friends car pics, drunken exploits, make a few snarky comments and I’m done.

  • avatar

    All these FB guys promoting social media, it doesn’t work.
    FB admitted that half of their accounts are fake. they even have FB robots clicking the ads to generate revenue.

    “The web is the first platform where advertisers can actually track results, and that’s powerful stuff.”

    Typical web idiot 2.0, hey guy, its called sales. That’s how advertisers track results, they call it money or revenue.

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