Advertising on Facebook Is About Community, Not Clicks

We were interested to read the recent announcement that General Motors – less than a year after its high-profile “breakup” with Facebook – has gone back to advertising on the social network with the aim of driving awareness for its new Chevrolet Sonic line of cars.

When you look at GM you probably see a traditional, old-school advertiser – one that’s founded on the “one-to-many” advertising principles of crafting a message and then spreading that message as far and wide as possible. But, what you probably don’t see is a company focused on community building. (For those of us old enough to remember, we saw glimmers of community at GM back in the 1980s and ’90s with the Saturn line of cars – but it hasn’t been the dominant message since then.)

And community building is what successful marketing is all about on social. So will this return of GM’s advertising dollars to Facebook see some innovative community building by this marketing giant? We hope so.

Why? Because social platforms offer the most value to brands that commit deeply and consistently to building community over time. It might take a long time to find the pulse of a community, craft a voice that works and resonates, and find innovative engagement techniques that catch fire, but the payoff can be huge. Because with every new fan welcomed and nurtured on Facebook, there’s been a new deposit made in the community bank. And with the right community building, those deposits increase in value over time.

Every single fan has the potential of helping a brand create authentic content, and Facebook’s engagement-driven advertising products are designed to amplify great content. It’s that powerful triumvirate of owned media (the page) encouraging the content to be created; to earned media (the fans responding, sharing, participating); to paid media (the brand amplifying those conversations and interactions to a wider audience). Without the first two, the third is just a one-to-many, reach-oriented broadcast message. And it will resonate less authentically on social platforms.

Yes, Facebook is now offering large brands like GM more sophisticated and attractive advertising options available with its ad exchange, FBX. Products that are believed to increase the likelihood of users seeing and clicking on ads. Indeed, just the kind of advertising that a huge advertising brand like GM “gets.” But community is where the power is, and GM has a great opportunity to build such a community with the Sonic launch.

So where could GM go to see examples of great community building on social? One category that could pave the way (pun intended) with insight for big automotive is craft breweries. Ever since craft breweries got their start in the 1970s in England, they’ve been all about fostering a passionate community of people who love beer and want to share that love with their fellow beer drinkers. Craft breweries such as Samuel Adams, New Belgium Brewing, Lagunitas, Harpoon IPA, and many others are selling a passion for beer community, just as much as they are selling quality brews in a bottle (and occasionally a can). Social communities like Instagram and Facebook help those brands encourage fans to share stories, shout out their favorites and make recommendations to friends, experience live beer tastings, gather for events on a local level, and more. Offline community building frequently bridges to online, too. Whole Foods, another brand with an active community itself, has put up 50 craft beer “tap rooms” inside its stores nationwide – to “tap into” the community spirit of craft beers – and is promoting that activity through its local social communities.

Go look at the “Recommendations” area on Facebook of all these craft brew pages. You’ll see the vibrancy of the community writ large. When community members offer that kind of unsolicited love publicly, amplifying that love in the news feed for more friends to see is pure advertising gold.

So our message to GM: welcome back to Facebook! You’ve rejoined at an exciting time full of opportunities. And, based on your current presence on Facebook, we see a wide road of possibilities ahead of you. Be sure to feel the community love (and feed it too). And, when you do, you’ll uncover a golden paved road ahead of you.

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