MARK RECHTIN

GM didn’t get how Facebook works

Mark Rechtin is West Coast editor of Automotive News.Mark Rechtin is West Coast editor of Automotive News.
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Much as General Motors would like you to think its decision to walk away from Facebook is about the failure of clickable banner ads, it isn’t. GM’s failure is all about the banality of its paid content.

Basically, paid content involves paying a Web site to promote your message through a wider distribution network than would ordinarily view it. On Facebook, paid content is called “native advertising.” On Twitter, it is called a “sponsored tweet.”

Hypothetically, if you are Chevoray Motors, and you want people to know about your new Chronos sedan, you can talk about it all you want on your company’s Facebook page, for free. But with sponsored media, Facebook will broaden the reach of that message well beyond those people who subscribe to the Chevoray news feed, directly to folks who are fans of the Fournier Fission or the Hondota Camcord sedan.

In that sense, it is not technically advertising, it is paid exposure. This technique of media buying is spelled out splendidly by Dan Greenberg at Techcrunch.

Sponsored content is a way to increase a company’s potential audience base, and we have repeatedly seen the power of brand advocacy in social media circles. The automotive sector leads the way in this aspect. More than 20 percent of social network users bought their vehicles based on online exposure, tops among all product categories, according to eMarketer.com.

But at its heart, content is king. And if your content is dull and unengaging, no one is going to look at it -- no matter how much you pay the media channel.

If GM’s content on Facebook was dull, then all the sponsored distribution of the message wasn’t going to get anyone to engage with it anyway.

GM is still going to create content for Facebook, it just won’t pay Facebook to promote it. That brings us to the “If a tree falls in the forest …” scenario.

By not paying Facebook to promote its content, GM is basically talking to itself and its loyalists. Even then, the content has to be relevant for anyone to pay attention to it.

GM is blaming the messenger, not its message.

You can reach Mark Rechtin at mrechtin@crain.com. -- Follow Mark on Twitter

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