Facebook continues to evolve, for better or for worse. These changes are likely in response to advertisers and in hopes of courting new ones. Facebook must demonstrate a sustainable revenue model to put shareholders at ease.
While the auto industry is just one of many consumer brands on Facebook, Borrell Associates predicted that in 2012 the auto industry will spend $30.8 billion with 40 cents of every dollar going to digital.
Digital companies, Facebook included, know how important (read lucrative) it is to accommodate the auto industry. The job announcements below were all pulled within the last month. These companies look to flatter not only manufacturers but also retail dealer groups who sit in the trenches of consumer interaction.
I’ve had a few interesting concepts for Facebook and the automotive industry, most notably My Facebook Garage (Power of a Friend’s Opinion and Would You Tell Facebook What you Drive). The idea was to create an interactive way for enthusiasts to showcase past and present vehicles in a Facebook native app, while also providing advertiser more qualified targeting data (vehicle ownership). This of course was based on the notion that Facebook’s primary revenue source would continue to be advertising. Well…
Mitch Joel and Jeremiah Owyang turned that idea on its head.
In the most recent episode of Mitch Joel’s podcast, Six Pixels of Separation, he and Owyang, Partner in charge of Customer Strategy at Altimeter Group, asked a great “what if” question about the future of Facebook; What if the future of Facebook isn’t revenue via ad impressions, but rather an enormous e-commerce / affiliate marketing platform that capitalizes on the social aspect of gifting?
Where does this leave the automotive industry?
Good question, indeed. Automotive, unlike consumer goods aren’t small purchases that one would ‘gift.’ That doesn’t mean that the auto industry is at a complete loss though when it comes to gifting.
One idea would be to provide a means for users to gift discounts on service from retailers. If I had a great experience at a local dealer for service, my positive comments or interaction with that brand (dealer) on Facebook would net me an offer I could share with 2 friends. Likely in the form of a simple (read no hoops to jump through) discount offer.
For manufactures this gets a bit more complicated, but not impossible.
For example, Chrysler has a well-established line of enthusiast apparel and accessories. These could be worked into a campaign where users gift, alone or collectively, a keychain, t-shirt or other trinket to their friends.
Going further, if a user likes a brand, Mopar for example, and his or her birthday is approaching, that brand could run a unit on that user’s friends’ page encouraging them to contribute collectively to a gift or to buy one outright. Users could also organize secret social gifts for their friends where any posts or mentions of that gift are hidden from the identified recipient. If the target amount is not met for the gift, the intended recipient would have the option to finish payment at his/her discretion.
There are a million ways to skin this cat of gifts and friends, but if done properly brands have an opportunity, even automotive brands, to capitalize on the connected nature of Facebook and the good-feeling of gifting.
It won’t move metal, but it will move the needle of brand awareness, both digitally and in real life through the purchase and sharing of tangible goods and services.
Gift giving could put the friend back in Facebook.