General Motors announced they were abandoning their $10 million Facebook ad buy in favor of Facebook’s “free” aspect and other media channels, and what’s most astonishing hasn’t been the news.

FBook logoIt’s been the reaction.

These days, whenever an organization backs away from social media marketing, the “They just don’t get it” posts from social media gurus pop up like dandelions.

And like my lawn, the results aren’t pretty.

I admit to smiling in a tolerant, parental way when I read “expert” quotes like this:

Diverting money into other online channels may sell cars in the short term, but will fail in the longer term, as consumers spend more and more of their time on social platforms like Facebook.

So getting cars into the hands of customers — who presumably will talk to their friends if the experience is positive — is less desirable than building a low-quality online relationship via paid advertising featuring abysmal clickthrough rates?


I think somebody needs a hug.

Getting It For Free

Keep in mind GM isn’t abandoning Facebook, it’s simply abandoning paid Facebook advertising. Something you might see with increasing frequency.

For marketers, there are currently two Facebooks: the paid side and the content side.

The free side where you post videos of yourself lip-syncing rap songs in your underwear.

The paid half are the ads that appear while your friends are liking your rap video.

For some organizations, Facebook ads have proven maddeningly unproductive, and clickthrough rates in social media as a whole have been abysmal (though Ford has said they’re happy with their paid Facebook results).

Here’s a Not Very Bold Prediction: the free, engaging side of Facebook is the part that will prove most valuable to organizations over time:

Supplement retailer GNC said its spending on Facebook is likely to stay flat or increase just slightly in the near term. Meanwhile, its investment in content will rise significantly. CMO Jeff Hennion said it’s more cost-effective to drive people there via email, direct mail, or even TV ads that show a link to the Facebook fan page.

Wow. It’s more cost effective to drive a prospect to a Facebook presence via traditional, “you kids get off my lawn” media like direct mail, TV ads or the dead-and-buried-several-times-already email channel?

More spending on content, but less on paid advertising?

Yep. And expect to see more of that.

Why I “Like” Reality

One reason Facebook’s stock had to be propped up by its underwriters on opening day was because its free offerings are apparently more effective for organizations than its paid offerings, which are starting to seem less effective than yesteryear’s marketing channels like email and broadcast.

Add the rapid growth of Facebook’s mobile channel — which has proven difficult to monetize — and you can see the problems.

Before you say it, no, I’m not a knee-jerk anti-Facebook critic.

They may solve their ad effectiveness problems. They may even do it before they make one too many privacy missteps and drive away visitors.

But for now, I believe “experts” should fall in love with their client’s products instead of media channels, and that modern marketing plans should reflect real-world results, not the World As Social Media Marketing Fanboys Would Like It To Be.