Article

Facebook Ups the Ante

May 2013, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Gregory Arroyo

As a member of the forgotten generation, otherwise known as Gen X, I can’t help but rub it in the face of my Gen Y colleagues when my Gen Y knowledge trumps theirs. Truth is, I just want to know what it’s like to be part of a generation that just about every marketer is clamoring for.

Well, my Senior Editor Stephanie Forshee was kind enough to overlook my ribbing and let me into her Gen Y world. Apparently, one of her Facebook insiders signed her up to test a new feature I think will revolutionize how we view the social media site. I know because she invited me to try it as well.

The feature is called Graph Search. A Facebook page dedicated to the feature (which you can find through a quick Google search) includes a video of Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg describing it as one of the new pillars of the social media site — Timeline and News Feed being the others.

The video also includes interviews with the site’s product and engineering team. Most of them talk about how Graph Search will help site users find photos they liked, as well as friends in a particular city.

Then there’s Lars Rasmussen, an engineering director for Facebook. In the video he describes his search for a dentist. He had a toothache and was new to the area. So he gave Graph Search a try. “Looking up dentists that my friends liked was really awesome,” he says into the camera. 

“In the past, Facebook has really been primarily about mapping and staying in touch with people you already know,” he continues. “Now we’re building a product that can also be used to find people you know, people with common interests or who you want to work with.”

That last part of the quote is what I wanted to talk about. See, what Facebook has essentially created is a search engine that takes you outside of your social ecosystem to find things, people, places or whatever you’re looking for. It’s a journalist’s dream.

I can throw “car dealerships in New York” in Graph Search and Facebook will provide me with a list of dealerships located there. Even more exciting, I can also see if any of my industry friends are fans of those dealership pages, which allows me to get a second opinion on a dealership before I profile it. 

For instance, I can see that sales trainer Jim Ziegler “Likes” Westbury (New York) Toyota’s page, which means I can pop off a private message to ask “Da Man” if he can tell me anything about the dealership. Then there’s Acura of Westchester, which shows me that compliance contributor Jim Radogna and sales consultant Bobby Compton are fans of that store’s page.

Now imagine this feature in the hands of car buyers.

Zuckerberg says in the video that Facebook will continue to perfect Graph Search. For instance, there are no star ratings for car dealerships right now, but one of my colleague’s other social media sources said Facebook has been quietly collecting them. As of press time, only restaurants, games and some other business categories had star ratings.

That’s kind of cool and scary at the same time, right? And isn’t it interesting how Facebook is launching a search engine while Google is trying to become more social. Hmm, ponder that for a second.

So, what’s the bad news? Well, it looks like Facebook has finally figured out that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. According to our insiders, if you want to be seen on Facebook going forward, you’re going to have to pay to play. Maybe that’s why only 16 percent of your followers are seeing the things you post on your dealership’s Facebook page. We got that stat from Digital Air Strike, by the way. 

The culprit is Facebook’s setting for its News Feed, which defaults to “Top Stories” rather than “Recent News.” So, your fans aren’t seeing your posts unless they engage your page on a regular basis.

One other thing, you know those contests you like running on Facebook? Well, the site isn’t going to allow those anymore unless you get its approval. At least that’s what we’re hearing. 

I guess the assumption that Gen Y’ers just don’t get it is wrong. They do get it, and they’re going to make us pay to get it as well. It’s an exciting time, folks, but you better get your stores geared up and your checkbooks handy, because the digital world is about to change yet again.

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