General Motors made headlines this year when it announced its decision to end paid advertising on Facebook – just before Facebook embarked on a stock offering.
Facebook, GM officials said, has its upside, but paid advertising does not generate a return commensurate with the cost in terms of generating sales leads. What Facebook does well, GM marketing vice-president Chris Perry told Automotive News, is promote brands and individual vehicles through videos, contests and photos.
"Facebook is still going to be an integral part of our social strategy, no doubt about it," he is reported to have said at the Automotive News Marketing Seminar in Los Angeles. "It's the biggest game out there."
And it's expensive to play that game. The Wall Street Journal reports that GM spends $30-million (U.S.) annually to generate Facebook content – out of a U.S. ad budget of $1.8-billion.
Car companies have millions of Facebook fans who can engage in a kind of online word-of-mouth campaign that has the potential to create buzz that drives traffic to car company websites and dealer showrooms.
Marketers believe that Facebook works best when combined with other forms of new media, including Twitter, but also with more traditional forms.
The trick is to engage users over multiple platforms, then get them building and pricing using online tools that are user-friendly.
That sells cars in 2012.