Is Your Facebook Page Really Free?

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I have been a Facebook user since the network first opened up to the public outside of its university origins, and I have been using Facebook’s Ad Manager app since they were launched. In 2009 I met with Tom Chisholm who was responsible for Facebook’s automotive revenue realization strategy. Shortly before Tom left Facebook, he introduced me to a couple of interesting insights…The first was that Facebook was bringing Doug Frisbie on board from Toyota in a move to better understand the auto industry and to better serve it. The second was a Facebook revenue growth strategy that has been fermenting in my own mind for the past couple of years and which recent changes in Facebook’s “EdgeRank” algorithm have made more relevant.

For anyone who isn’t aware of Facebook’s EdgeRank, it is most simply described as the formula (i.e. algorithm) that determines what you see on your Facebook “News Feed”, or what you might think of as your Facebook home page. Facebook announced that they had made significant changes to the EdgeRank algorithm last September. Some marketers have come out ahead, and others have been distinct losers with the new algorithm. For most dealership Facebook pages, the results have included a dramatic reduction in the number of fans (people who have “liked” your page) who see anything you post on that page within their own news feed.

Going back to that second item that Tom Chisholm shared with me over two years ago, he had said something along the lines of “Did you really believe that your dealership’s Facebook page was free?” We had been talking about the use of Facebook’s Ad Manager app to create sponsored stories from within a dealer’s Facebook page. I had begun to notice that the most effective way to put content in front of the fans of a dealer’s Facebook page was to create a Facebook ad campaign and target them.

To date, I have created and managed 652 Facebook ad campaigns in my personal account, not counting the campaigns managed in ADP, Tier10 Marketing, and individual dealer accounts. My experience with these dealer campaigns has been overwhelmingly positive. Here is a summary from my Facebook Ad Manager account:


As the screen capture above shows (click on the image to see a larger version), at $0.36 per visitor and $0.63 per thousand impressions (CPM), it is not as if Facebook Advertising could ever be considered less than “cost effective”. At the risk of invoking the old apples and oranges objection, compare those results with your search engine advertising costs on a CPM or CPC basis.

If you are a dealer or general manager, it is time for you to become more strategic about your advertising budgets and which media you buy, because of recent changes in Facebook’s “Edge Rank” algorithm, which determines which fans of a dealer’s Facebook Page see posts, the customer impact of Facebook paid advertising has increased.

The new Facebook content ranking system has also reduced organic impressions, thereby creating more space in each of your customer’s news feeds. If you see Facebook as massive amounts of clutter, like many people do, then the news feed has become the online equivalent of a traffic jam of content. Facebook paid media has emerged as the “toll-road bypass” that lets your dealership’s content, sponsored stories and messaging pass other (i.e. free) content by, and appear at the top of your customer’s news feed.

When I met with Patrick Workman from Facebook in November, he reinforced my strategy for dealers who want to reach the right automotive consumers. The Facebook Ad Manager app is far more effective for car dealers than any type of organic strategy within the Facebook platform.

In an Advertising Age article in November, Facebook executives were quoted as saying:

“We’re trying to push clients into changing their thinking, they won’t be able to affect the organic reach by that much anyway, perhaps 10 percent at most…We are talking to them about the paid aspect and how those ad dollars are driving great returns as well as being able to reach millions on mobile.”

Many dealers I speak with ask me “Does Facebook really matter when it comes to selling cars and driving service department business?” The short answer is yes! Within the scope of digital marketing and online advertising for any car dealership, let’s simply consider the following: more of your customers use Facebook than any other website, and they spend more time on Facebook every month than anything else they do online. Hello, McFly…Anyone home?

Like any other communication medium used by car dealers, messaging matters, and creative determines whether a campaign is successful or not, but questioning whether Facebook is relevant or waiting for some proof that it works is ridiculous. We now have over 150 million Americans using Facebook daily, just how many car buyers and service customers have to start using Facebook before you consider it past the experimental stage?

Rick Case Honda in Davie Florida began to implement Facebook paid media last Spring after I met with Richard Bustillo, general manager. When I showed Richard the ability to finely tune Facebook ad campaigns to reach the exact customers he was after, he saw the opportunity. Last month Rick Case Honda was featured on the front page of Automotive News in a story about their success growing business and taking market share using Facebook advertising and a rich content strategy.

2013 is going to be a year where many dealers will need to make some tough choices. Either increase your investment in Facebook, with better content and paid media, or watch other dealers in your market do it correctly and attract the customers that are more interested in doing business for reasons beyond the price point on a specific vehicle.

Ralph Paglia is vice president of digital for Tier 10 Marketing and editor-in-chief of the Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community (

Michael Bowen


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