SAN FRANCISCO — Jumpstart Automotive Group, a division of Hearst Magazines and an innovative digital solutions partner for automotive publishers and advertisers, outlined simple advice today to help auto advertisers best maximize their marketing investments, to increase awareness on Facebook and ultimately sell more cars through social media and beyond.
Nick Matarazzo, CEO of Jumpstart, says GM’s back-and-forth indecision about paid Facebook advertising – first, its announcement in May to end roughly $10 million in yearly paid Facebook ads, and its recent discussions to buy ads on Facebook once again – has left marketers confused.
“When a company like GM pulls paid Facebook ads, people wonder if it’s smart marketing or a marketing mishap,” said Matarazzo. “Facebook and other social media channels can be excellent advertising opportunities but behemoth traffic shouldn’t be the only consideration for an ad buy.”
Matarazzo says there are simple guidelines advertisers should follow to ensure they’re getting the biggest bang for their marketing buck.
1) Be active in free presence and passive in paid (until improvements are made).
Matarazzo believes social media should be part of a successful integrated marketing campaign. However, when given a choice, he advises marketers to enhance their free page presence with content that bolsters user engagement while maintaining a more passive presence in paid ad investments until improvements are made to better measure performance.
“Studies show the benefits of paid social media advertising, like that on Facebook, are still not completely understood,” said Matarazzo. “Users are there primarily for socializing which has made paid ads generally ineffective for directly influencing vehicle purchases or driving leads.”
A primary improvement, according to Matarazzo, would be Facebook’s ability and/or willingness to accept third-party ad tags by accredited servers, ad agencies or research firms, giving advertisers more flexibility and control when it comes to reaching users, and the ability to track performance.
“Without third-party tags, you’re lucky to see $10 from an automaker, let alone $10 million,” said Matarazzo.
For the time being, he believes money is better spent in the development of content at a company’s free brand page – content provocative and interesting enough to solicit user input, to generate a sizeable fan base, to be ‘liked’, voted on and/or shared among users, or through apps that prompt user participation in creative and sophisticated ways.
Matarazzo says that while this strategy may be great for big auto brands, dealers might want to take a slightly different approach, such as updating followers on important events at the dealership, soliciting customer feedback and engaging in conversations with users about their dealership experience.
In both situations, it’s critical for brand owners to stay on top of things to actively and consistently engage with their audience along the way. This could mean anything from implementing promotions or giveaways on a regular basis, to participating in daily conversations about both positive and negative opinions – regarding an automaker’s products or dealership experience.
“The brands and businesses that show a consistent willingness to address concerns head on will come out winners,” said Matarazzo. “Successfully turning a negative experience into a positive one can sometimes be more beneficial than all the positive feedback combined.”
2) Use Facebook for branding and buzz.
Matarazzo cites Ford’s ultra-successful, one-day Facebook ‘unveiling event’ of its 2011 Ford Explorer in July 2010 as a textbook example of the most effective use of Facebook for automotive marketing – a campaign that generated buzz months before the Explorer was available on dealer lots.
Ford used videos, photos and live chats between Facebook users and various Ford employees, including CEO Alan Mulally, exclusively and solely at Facebook for the reveal – an auto industry first. The automaker coupled its Facebook campaign with strategic ad buys and “like” button-embedded display to reach more than 50 million people at Facebook and a host of other sites to drive traffic to (and increase engagement at) the Explorer Facebook page.
The results were staggering. Even before the reveal, Ford surpassed its goal of 30,000 Facebook fans. Across Jumpstart’s network of 14 automotive shopping and enthusiast sites, the reveal spurred a 104 percent increase in shoppers researching information about the Ford Explorer on the day of the unveiling.
“Ford’s campaign was successful because it made Facebook users feel like they were part of something special, like they were members of an elite club who had access to something others didn’t, engaging in ways others couldn’t,” said Matarazzo.
He says that while Facebook isn’t ideal for driving leads, it’s best at generating buzz around an event, company or product while breeding passionate “brand responsiveness” that will, over time, have an impact on lower funnel purchase activity.
3) Go where the car buyers are.
Of the 77 percent of new vehicle buyers who use the Internet in the shopping process, nearly 80 percent visit at least one third-party website in the six months leading up to purchase, a statistic Matarazzo says is critically important.
“Engaged, in-market shoppers are looking for detailed vehicle specs, accurate pricing and the ability to compare vehicles,” said Matarazzo. “Since this highly targeted audience turns to third-party automotive websites to find this information, that’s where automotive marketers ultimately need to be.”
However, having a third-party automotive ad presence is one thing – knowing how to effectively leverage it is something altogether different.
Matarazzo says most advertisers have a solid handle on the fundamentals such as traffic, demographics, quality of audience, placement, frequency, messaging and creative. However, he says many don’t when it comes to more specialized marketing tactics such as:
- How Tier II and Tier III marketers can use third-party automotive websites to impact local and regional purchase intent1
- How upper funnel sponsorship placements can increase consideration, share of shopping, leads and overall ad performance2
- How a blend of contextual and audience targeting can increase brand awareness, favorability, message association and auto purchase intent by as much as 60 percent3
“I believe advertisers would be far more successful worrying less about paid social media advertising and more about optimizing what they’re currently doing at third-party auto sites,” he said. “These are the websites that influence purchase consideration and drive leads. Marketers simply need to learn how to reach car buyers at these sites better than they do now.”
About Jumpstart Automotive Group
Jumpstart Automotive Group, a Hearst Media Services company, is an expert automotive marketing organization. It represents the broadest and most diverse audience of in-market car shoppers and influencers across 14 automotive websites that include Consumer Guide Automotive, JD Power Autos, Car and Driver, Road & Track, NADAguides, CarSoup, U.S.News Autos, HybridCars, CarGurus, TrueCar, PlugInCars, Overstock Cars, Leftlane and EveryCarListed. Fueled by a passion for performance, Jumpstart Automotive Group is committed to the development of quality content and services for consumers and to maximizing publisher revenue and advertiser results through innovative products and services. Jumpstart is at the forefront of behavioral targeting, research and strategic insights products. For more information, visit JumpstartAuto.com. Follow Jumpstart on Twitter @JumpstartAuto (http://twitter.com/#!/JumpstartAuto).