The automotive industry is buzzing about Facebook’s new Auto Intender.  Even though the term “Auto Intender” is not new (KBB has been using this term in their ad-package for a while now) the targeting methodology is different.  

Facebook has been long considered a great marketing and awareness tool for the automotive industry. In fact the topic “AUTO” has, with 67%  of interacting Facebook users, one of the top-five leading “buzzes and product discussions” on Facebook as well as 33% of Social Network users seeking “buying advice on AUTO” according to the ROI Research and Performance study in 2011.  

Still, the big question is: Will “Auto Intender” targeting capability help car dealers to:

a)      attract more “likes” to their business pages

b)      actually generate a call to action and will

c)      be able selling services and even cars via Facebook

FACTS ONE:

  • Facebook ad spend has grown 281%*
  • Facebook ad impressions did increase 200%*
  • CPC ratio at this time is lower than established PPC* [*source: Ignition One, Q2/2010 vs. Q2/2011]

Even the first two numbers are indicating Facebook ads could be the Holy Grail, the CPC ratio and conversion telling a totally different story.  Considering the revelation of the study below, I truly can imagine that Facebook’s Zuckerberg and Co. had to stick their heads together and discuss what could make their social media ads more engaging.

The Internet Advertising Bureau study in August 2011 reveals a very low conversion rate of Social Ads compared to PPC and Banner Ads.

Facebooks-Auto-Intender-Selection-can-help-sell-cars-with-Facebook-Ads

FACT TWO:

Social Network Ads Lag Behind Other Formats

So the question the Facebook team must have asked themselves (hypothetically) is, “Why are our ads not getting clicked on?” even so…

  • Facebook reaches 70% of active Internet users [Nielsen, Q3/2011]
  • 8-out-of-10 users comment to brands on Facebook [Edison Research & Arbitron, 05/2011]
  • Facebook users spending an average of 7 hrs:46 min/month on the site [Nielsen, 08/2011]
  • Among Facebook users discussions’ around products the term “Auto” ranked with 67% in the Top-5

The old term “Precise Interest Targeting”, without Auto-Intender selection, was not at all precise, and that may be the reason why the Facebook team added the “Broad Category Targeting”, now with the new Auto-Intender tool into the mix.   Facebook describes Broad Category targeting this way:

Broad Category targeting allows you to reach groups of people who share similar interests and traits. These categories draw from the authentic information people have included in their profiles, allowing you to easily reach your ideal audience…”

The Auto Intender feature allows you to funnel down to Facebook users who somehow and somewhere shared in their profile and threads that they are in search for a new ride.  By initializing a test run with the “Broad Category Targeting” tool using my local zip code I was actually able to identify 4,400 possible suspects a.k.a. “Auto Intenders” with an estimated pay-per-click cost of $0.94.

Using the “old” Precise Interest Targeting method – and searching in Interests for “cars, automotive, car repair” – the search returned 36,300 “targets”. Still, in the old targeting, you have no way knowing the intention behind their keyword mentions (car shop enthusiasts versus car shoppers), and my pay-per-click cost would jump into the estimated $1.41 – and an increase of 50% in spending !

So, is the Facebook Auto Intender better than the old “precise” targeting?

In my opinion, yes. Down the road, paired with consistency, creativity, and dedication to monitoring the impact of different ad designs and messages as well as patience, dealerships and marketing department involved in the operation have a great opportunity.  

Long story short – If I were back in a dealership today I would certainly try this new “Auto-Intender” tool and see where it can bring me in exposure, brand awareness and possible call-to-action.  Do I expect it to sell cars for me? Absolutely – but as we Germans always say, “Good things will take time to flourish” – and so will any endeavor with Facebook’s Auto-Intender.

HOW SHOULD I START?

The challenge will lay in the execution, measuring and creativity.  Because taste and design is always in the eye of the beholder I will suggest broadly to follow these principles, which always have worked for me

  • “A picture is worth a million” – use pictures in your ads that you do not see anywhere else or that have been already released by competitors.  Use high resolution to make it look stunning and valuable
  • Narrow down 1-3 pictures and go with your favorite and run it as a test ad.  Reinstate the test, only this time use the pics 2 and following 3. Measure your engagement and keep track of the metrics
  • Refresh your ad images/ad every 10 to 12 days to avoid so-called ad fatigue.  Another rule of thumb is to exchange the ad (wording/pic), when the ad-impressions hit 3-times the size of the targeted audience
  • When picture generation is a challenge and you would rather work with artsy word banners – even changing the background color will avoid ad fatigue
  • When looking at your metrics look into Facebook’s Responder Demographics reporting tool and adjust the filters accordingly.  The % of Impressions, % of Clickers and of course the CTR are the columns you want to pay attention to
  • When you notice specific gender and age brackets results in your CTR, showing one or two particular demographics sticking out – revamp your targeting strategy and focus on the best result bringing groups

LAST BUT NOT LEAST – TRICKS OF THE TRADE

  • By using questions in your ad copy you increase your chances of a higher CTR.
  • However – when it would not make sense to have a question – don’t use one!
  • Create Urgency – Time limits and prompts are still valid to emphasize in taking action –NOW!
  • America is the land of the FREE – and it is also the century of “Free.” Use these prompts like Promo, Trial, Complimentary, etc. in your ad copy!
  • The use of “he” or “she” in ads works somehow better than “I” and “You” – test it!

Happy marketing and of course selling!