Your Digital Advertising Strategy And How You Wash Your Car Are Related

Judging the success of both your social media and Google ads is an important question since you are spending your hard-earned dollars to grow your business via a platform that everyone is saying you need to be on. You've boosted a post, promoted a service, created an ad campaign, or paid an advertising expert to build and implement social media ads for you, and now you are wondering if it is money well spent. Is it really increasing business?

The answer to those questions has a few facets to it and is not as simple as looking at the immediate return on your investment. This blog post will answer the entirety of the question in multiple parts and look at a very telling Facebook ad we came across that General Motors created. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the adventure.

Let's answer the least obvious piece of our question first: How much is your time worth? To learn everything you need to learn about how to effectively and efficiently advertise on social media and Google requires time. Facebook and Google have come out with products that are "smart" and pitched them as solutions to the busy business owner who does not have the time to learn effective ad creation, audience identification, and placement strategy. Facebook's or Google's AI will do the hard work for you once you give it the least amount of information possible. These tools make it easy to place an ad, but they are not always effective. It's very similar to getting your car hand washed versus running it through the car wash robot. In fact, the whole process is so similar it's shocking.

We visit gas stations to refuel our cars and visit social media sites to refuel our egos. We get out of the car, select the fuel grade and pump away while, if we are lucky, a tiny TV screen blares the latest depressing news of the day to keep us occupied for the two to three minutes it takes for our tank to become full again. The pump stops, we replace the nozzle, and then push yes or no on the now motionless screen for a receipt EXCEPT right before that screen pops up we get asked if we would like to add a car wash at a DISCOUNT because we just purchased fuel. Talk about an impulse buy. We hesitate. "How dirty is our car? Is this a good deal? Will it rain soon? Do we have time to wash our car right now?" These questions and many more flood our mind in the span of about five seconds while the fate of our credit card balance hangs in the... balance. We decide! The high end car wash is too much. "Who needs tri-foam wax? I've never waxed my car," we say to ourselves, but the middle package with the wheel cleaner seems like a good value. "Clean wheels really do make a car standout." We press the button and out prints the receipt with a special code that gives one middle-of-the-road car wash. We drive over to the car washing robot and tickle its buttons to the tune of the code so it will let us in. "It's so fancy and advanced," we think. Almost like it has an intelligence that is artificial.

Water washes, soap suds, wipers wipe, and then we get to drive through two jet engines to dry the car. We drive to our next location and as we get out of our car we stop for a moment and admire the cleaning job that the robot did. Our expectations are kind of high because a lot happened in the belly of the robot and we paid hard earned money, but this isn't our first automatic car wash rodeo. We see that the car is cleaner than it was, but the wheels don't look very shiny and only the big flat surfaces of the car are truly clean. The robot missed all of the hard to get places that really make a well-cleaned car stand out. The wheel's cleanliness do not live up to our hopes because we can see the brake dust in the hard-to-reach spaces. We shrug our shoulders and tell ourselves that it is good enough and proceed with our day.

Facebook and Google have positioned themselves to be the gas stations of the internet. We need them just like we need fuel in ours cars to make them go. Social media and Google are necessary evils if you want your business to "go" and you must make scheduled stops to refuel your business with content and ads, so people will do business with you and keep your business afloat. Gas stations do not make their money by selling fuel. Margins are too thin because fuel pricing is competitive.

However, convenience stores provide a great money making business! Prey on people's wired need for salt, fat, and sugar and combine it with a "great deal," and you've got a money making endeavour. The internet is no different. Humans are wired to need attention. Facebook makes little to no money directly from people posting. They instead use the opportunity of you stopping by to fill up your ego to sell your information to businesses, so those businesses can put ads in front of you. Moreover, and the point of this blog, they also try to get you, a business owner, to pay them to get your content in front of people. The easier and faster they can make this transaction for you, the more money they will make, which is why you can boost a post in about five seconds. We are going to uncover what business owners are missing out on by letting Facebook's Ad AI and Google's Smart Ads do the work to get your ads in front of faces.

AI is not smart and will not be inherently smart, like a human, for the next three to five decades. AI follows a series of steps, that was programmed into it when it was created, to arrive at a canned solution. It is not custom. The creators tried to account for every possible situation, but since humans are not perfect, neither is the code they write. Moreover, businesses do not fit into perfectly programmed boxes. This brings us back to the car wash. One car washing robot was made to handle the many thousands of different cars, trucks, and vans. It cannot possibly clean your car as well as getting it hand washed or washing it yourself because both of those account for the unique styling and needs of your car. Moreover, the attention to detail is second to none. This is the same for automated ads that business owners can run themselves on social media or Google. You can pay the $20-$500+ dollars to boost a post, and it will get seen. It may be seen by people that will do business with you, or not. It will target a wide audience and inefficiently use the dollars you gave it because how can it know the exact customer who should see your ad? You can choose the audience who will see the ad and the geographic locations those people live in, but it takes a real understanding of audience creation and geofencing to use your ad dollars effectively. Lastly, who's to say that the post was good enough to be boosted in the first place? Facebook and Google's AI just use a simple check box method to determine if all of the blanks were filled in. There's no creativity metric applied to the wording. No thought is given to the image or video you used, the juxtaposition of the image and text of the post, and certainly not the hashtags used. Not saying you're a horrible post composer, but post composition is VERY important, and the only thing Facebook looks at is if there is text on the image, and Google is happy so long as your phone number is listed and you have something about the service or product you are advertising. In short, these systems make ad creation just like an impulse buy at the gas station. You know you want it, and maybe need it, but are hesitant that you should spend the money on it. Very little planning or thought is put into the decision. And just like that, you just made your marketing as important as your car's cleanliness. Crafting an ad should not be an afterthought or something squeezed in.

So, you have two choices: grab a sponge, a bucket, a vacuum, some towels and a few hours on a Saturday afternoon to wash your car yourself, or pay someone else to do it faster, better and cheaper than your time is worth. Now that you figured out who will wash your car, eh... manage your social media and Google ads, let's talk about determining the success of your ads.

I came across an ad in my feed the other day from General Motors that really surprised me. Take a look and see if you are wondering the same thing I was.

The post got a ton of exposure. 150,000 views to be exact but what is surprising is that it only got 218 reactions, 140 comments, and 17 shares. Paying for a post to be seen by 150,000 people is not cheap so was this money well spent? No... and here's why in list form to better show the evidence:

  1. This ad is supposed to be targeting current GMC owners whose SUV or truck has the capability to generate its own WiFi hotspot. I do not have a GMC vehicle. The car that I have does not have WiFi hotspot generation capabilities either.

  2. The goal of this ad is to reach current GMC owners who have not upgraded to the unlimited data plan. Emailing or texting current owners would have been much less expensive and more accurate in targeting. If you rely on social media to get the word out, especially without paying for broader reach, will net you roughly 5% of your followers. How will the other 95% of your followers know what you are offering? What about the customers that are not on social media. Lesson to be learned, if you need to speak with your customer base email or text them while also posting to social media.

  3. 150,000 views is a lot. 218 reactions, not so much. I've seen friends who've posted their 127th dog picture get more reactions. If GMC's goal was to get views then they nailed it. And sometimes, getting your name out there is the goal. The one metric we cannot see is how many people clicked on the button. For that, we would need access to their Pixel data. My guess is that it is less than their reactions because it's much harder to get someone to "learn more" than it is to get them to give a thumbs up.

So why did GMC spend the money for such a lousy ad? Because they can. Their ad budgets are huge and a missed ad will not ruin them. However, small businesses do not have this luxury, and every dollar spent should have a very specific purpose in growing the business. It may be more expensive up front to have someone else run and manage your social media accounts, the ads associated with those accounts, and Google Ads, but the time and headache that you will save will be worth so much more. 99 times out of 100 your business will grow because of their expertise in crafting digital marketing campaigns which will cover your cost at the very least which means you just saved yourself a bunch of time and headache. Best case scenario, you've just expanded your business's reach for pennies on the dollar without much effort on your part.

Next time you find yourself pumping gas and you get asked by the screen if you want a car wash from the friendly car washing robot, kindly press no and drive your car to the nearest hand washing shop where you can sit, relax with a beverage, and scroll through your social media feeds admiring the feedback your newly hired social media expert is getting for your business.

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