Dealership Marketing

Facebook Testing Ads, Reviews, Drilling Down Search

Facebook has been very busy lately– figuring out how to monetize Graph Search, while improving its functionality.

The process of monetizing Graph Search comes as a welcome addition for Facebook investors.

Facebook currently has a limited monetization focus with search ads, which are not targeted to the user’s search criteria. Instead, standard targeting and retargeting methods are used. Ads appear at the bottom of the page only if there are multiple pages of search results. These ads are currently targeted like other Facebook ads; based on the user’s age, gender, location, employer, Likes, and previous sites visited.

A much more powerful option for advertisers would be to allow them to target specific keywords. Lower funnel keywords would be much more valuable to advertisers and could allow Facebook to command a much higher rate. Users would be shown relevant ads from businesses that have purchased those specific keywords within a specific geographic region. Perhaps Facebook will move in this direction in the future with Graph Search.

The latest Facebook Graph Search update, allowing users to drill down and refine searches, was unannounced, just as the new right-side menu rolled out. This new feature not only makes life easier on the user, it also prompts them to find additional people or relevant businesses.

Here is a screen shot of Graph Search for the broad category of “Car dealerships” —

Now if I drill down to find only those dealerships “liked by my Friends” and ones located in Nashville, TN, I get the following results:

Clearly Facebook is exposing more of their search graph to the user, enabling them to visualize drill down opportunities. The user is also now prompted to Extend This Search, by finding photos or videos from the businesses listed, or noting which friends had visited them.

How can dealers maximize their opportunities with this new search drill down? Make sure the dealership is categorized correctly, first of all. Next, a large number of Likes on the dealership’s business page and properly coded location are important.

In playing around more with broader searches, I began to find reviews with star ratings for some heavily visited venues. In the Cincinnati, OH area, just searching for Places presents the following:

The bad news for the automotive industry is that if the user simply searches for Places with no category chosen, there are no relevant categories in the drop down menu. A user would need to enter something like “car dealerships” or “oil lube & filter services” in the top Graph Search box in order to see your dealership listed. Perhaps that too will change in the future!

It is unclear exactly how the star ratings next to some of these very popular venues are calculated. I ran a few comparisons of venues on Yelp and Foursquare, and based on the large number of non-matches, Facebook is not republishing them. It looks like they may be based on Likes, check-ins, mentions, and general PTAT (“People Talking About This”- Facebook’s algorithm on unique users who have created a “story” about a page). This would be similar to Foursquare’s algorithm, based on Likes, Check-ins, popularity, loyalty, and local expertise.

If, in fact, the Facebook reviews are an internal quality algorithm, dealers truly need to ramp up their social efforts. It’s important to not only find new ways to increase business page Likes, but increase engagement (check-ins and other PTAT activities). Technology is constantly evolving, so attempting to manage every end point is futile. The best strategy is to manage the one constant in today’s dealerships- consumer relationships. This is the core of reputation management…. offline strategies that enhance the online social environment.

Reputation Management was the first concrete step into socializing search and was the foundational piece of creating a truly local online experience. At its core, Reputation is about consumer engagement. A winning Reputation strategy can be measured by the interactions of a community and by the willingness for businesses to participate and evolve. The Facebook Graph Search team will continue to refine this very important new tool, both adding to the functionality, as well as creating new options to monetize with advertisers.

I’ll continue to monitor it closely, and share my findings.