Facebook Doesn’t Work

May 17, 2012

You couldn’t have missed the big announcement from General Motors the other day that it plans to stop advertising on Facebook.  The timing was especially interesting with Facebook’s IPO around the corner, and many advertisers currently debating the effectiveness of the social network on its marketing efforts.

The announcement was a déjà vu for me, because it reminded me of an encounter I had with a broadcaster very early in my career while an analyst for Frank Magid.  As we were planning a research study for a new client, I suggested testing the station’s marketing awareness.

The General Manager flat out told me, “We tried billboards and they don’t work.”

Now I was pretty new at the research process, but started asking questions.  What creative did you use?  How extensive was the billboard buy?  And what was your expectation from the campaign?

(By the way, it turned out that the creative was horrid, the buy was very small, and the manager expected a big turnaround for a station that had problems with both its music and its morning show.)

This is not to suggest that GM hasn’t studied the situation with their extensive analytical resources and their large team of marketers.  But particularly when you’re test driving new media, you have to apply a certain trial-and-error mindset, while carefully defining your goals and outcomes.

What does success look like for a Facebook campaign?  Are you building your brand, strengthening your relationships with consumers, purchasing proximity on the largest social media network on earth, or selling cars?  Or something else?

GM’s arch rival, Ford, rapidly came out with their reply to this decision:

“We’ve found Facebook ads to be very effective when strategically combined with engagement, great content and innovative ways of storytelling, rather than treating them as a straight media buy.”

So there.

True fan engagement and communication, or “Katy Perry tickets at 2:15.”

It’s all a matter of expectation.


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2 Responses to Facebook Doesn’t Work

  1. Eric Chaney on May 17, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    Hi Fred:

    Ad dollars are racing to Social Media with expected spending to dramatically increase over the next four years. But GM shot one across Facebook’s and all new media’s bow when they cancelled all of their Facebook advertising. The reason given: Facebook doesn’t sell cars or trucks. Well of course Facebook doesn’t sell cars and trucks. Good campaigns do.

    So many today want to declare all older media and the content providers dead and in their place Social Media. I would suggest that’s not a prudent position. I think a more realistic position would be: Content providers, and older generation media are still relevant but they must revise their strategy and update their technology. In other words adapt or fail in the future.

    One company that’s doing that is Clear Channel with IHeartRadio. I guarantee you the virtual tuner design is geared toward Automotive wireless which will soon be in most new cars. Thus you get old media on a new delivery platform. Which is a whole new set of problems for Sirius XM Radio. Clear Channel has always been progressive with new technology. They’re usually first in the marketplace with the latest innovation.

    No matter what delivery platform new or old, you must remember dollars always follow results. Basics need to be applied to Social Media. If the creative isn’t compelling and real benefit to the customer isn’t delivered you run the risk of making your client part of the noise and that means lost business to your firm. Brand building and market share impact must be accomplished.

    Social Media is interactive and has many benefits i.e. easier to target your audience, less complicated distribution and cost attached. Right now it’s the next big thing but at the end of the day it’s just another platform to deliver your clients message. Results always matters regardless of the medium you choose.

    Investing more dollars won’t guarantee results. The things I can guarantee is by 2016 the platforms will be better, more accessible, faster and delivered on many new devices most of us haven’t seen yet.

    A strong creative team, product placement, and the content owner/provider who has the product that delivers an audience will remain essential. Some things will remain status quo.

    Warmest Personal Regards

    Eric Chaney

    • Fred Jacobs
      Fred Jacobs on May 29, 2012 at 1:08 PM

      Eric, these are great comments and I appreciate you taking the time to write them. Agreement with you in CC and iHeart.

      Regarding social media, it comes down to what results you want. If it’s monetary, then I agree with you. There’s no telling how long it will take to truly make a lot of money with these platforms.

      Same with ratings.

      But for relationships, I think the jury – the audience – has already made their call. Either engage with them on their platforms of choice or get left behind.

      Thanks again.

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