Most analyses of General Motors’ pulling of its $10 million Facebook ad spend last week focused on the shortcomings of the social network — the ads aren’t immersive and engaging, the tracking isn’t what it should be.
Perhaps that’s understandable in a week when the world’s critical eyes were on the 8-year-old company that was set to go public at a $104 billion market valuation. Criticism has only heated up this week with a lawsuit over whether big investors were given access to information that smaller investors lacked.
But many seasoned Facebook marketers were stunned at GM’s reported assertions that ads on the social network were ineffective, given the great success so many businesses have seen on the platform.
Is It That GM Doesn’t Get It?
“Most people that are unsuccessful in any particular display channel don’t understand the channel,” said Marty Weintraub, CEO of the aimClear marketing agency and author of ” “Killer Facebook Ads,” who wrote about GM’s move on his own blog.
While it’s difficult to say what may have gone wrong for GM, without being intimately familiar with their strategy, tactics and metrics, other GM efforts on Facebook point to a brand that doesn’t quite “get” social advertising.
In a piece in Ad Age called “11 Boring Things GM Posted On Facebook”, marketing strategist B.L. Ochman repeats, and comments on, a few choice items the carmaker shared on its page:
- “We’re excited to announce the return of a V-8 powered, rear-wheel-drive performance sedan to our robust U.S. lineup, the Chevrolet SS!” (Well, of course you are. Maybe you should ask us if we’re excited.)
- “Check out this picture of our Chairman and CEO, Dan Akerson.” (Don’t know about you, but I go to Facebook hoping to see the Chairman of GM’s picture.)
- “GM is full of history and classic cars that we all know and love” (Uh huh. That’s so exciting.)
- “Ever wonder what happens with leftover scrap metal from our vehicles?” (Umm, no, can’t say that I have)
- “Hey GM Fans! Let’s have a little fun before the weekend begins… What’s your favorite current GM vehicle and why?” (Whose idea of fun is this? And the reason we have to have this fun is that GM is not online during the weekend, even though the Internet is, and always has been, 24/7, 365 days a year. Yes, even weekends. Hint: you want to make some trouble for GM? Post on Facebook and Twitter during the weekend. They won’t see it til Monday.)
Uh. Yeah. Not exactly the most compelling, shareable content. And this is the part of GM’s Facebook marketing that it plans to keep.
Is The Brand Uninspiring?
“It is quite possible and likely they failed because no one is truly inspired to talk about their brands, or maybe they lack the corporate agility to keep pace with marketing in social media’s real time demands,” said Bryan Eisenberg, a marketing consultant, who speculates that GM may not be ready to advertise on Facebook — which may not be a bad thing at all. “Many brands should not make the mistake of following the herd and keeping their failing investment if the results don’t justify the return.”
To be fair, some of the content on the official GM page is a bit more engaging — and it does have 381K “likes.”
How To Fix The Problem
But could GM — a company with high-consideration products that are bought offline — succeed with Facebook advertising? Needless to say, very few people are likely to buy cars online after a single touch, so GM needs to do a few things, Weintraub suggests. First, find the Facebook-appropriate actions that would lead users along the path to buying a vehicle.
“Facebook has its place,” says Weintraub. “It’s best place is to drive people to the wide part of the funnel.”
Second, he said, GM needs to improve its attribution measurement so that it can give Facebook the credit it deserves.
Simon Mansell, CEO of TBG Digital, who does Facebook marketing for GM competitor Ford, agrees. In an interview with Bloomberg, he said, “I think brands really struggle to measure performance on Facebook ads. It’s not like Google where you spend $1.00 and get $1.20 when someone buys something. It’s more about creating awareness and consideration.”
Weintraub says his agency has done testing that proves Facebook works for its clients, but such testing would be more difficult for brands like GM that are in so many different media, with so many different product brands. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Third, GM should leverage its Facebook fans and do remarketing ads specifically to them, leveraging the relationship they’ve already begun.
Facebook, to be sure, deserves some of the blame, for not steering GM toward ad expenditures they’d find more valuable, and also for failing to develop better ways for marketers to measure the value of advertising. Perhaps the company will spend some of its big IPO cash infusion developing ways to bring advertisers like GM back into the fold.