DETROIT -- Facebook Inc. is seeking to boost advertising from the auto industry, a challenge because unlike movie tickets or shoes, consumers don’t really buy new cars online.
So the social network with almost 2 billion users is forging closer ties with carmakers, sending COO Sheryl Sandberg to Detroit for the first time in the five years it’s hosted an annual Facebook Automotive Summit. She shared a stage with General Motors CEO Mary Barra at a women’s-only event early Thursday before the two toured a factory and spoke with about 200 GM employees.
“Our industries are converging. Detroit’s writing software and Silicon Valley is building hardware,” Sandberg told about 400 auto-industry professionals at a downtown theater. “The opportunities to learn from each other have never been better.”
While there isn’t the direct path from a Facebook ad to a product purchase that there is in other industries, Sandberg said the social network is able to show more engagement and prove the value of working together. An ad for GM’s OnStar, for example, targeted users who have the service’s trademark little blue button in their cars but lack a data plan. That campaign resulted in a 7 percent boost to data-plan sales, she said.
Another success story, also with GM, was a Cadillac ad designed to drum up leads for dealers. It generated 42,000, leading directly to 450 sales, Sandberg said.
“We didn’t sell the cars,” she said. “What we do is build the platform.”