GM’s Facebook Trouble from Tehran: Statistics Show GMC’s Facebook Focus Was on Iran, Not Main Street USA

Social Media Agency Heads Say GM Likely Bought Cheap Traffic to Juice Fan Count Rather Than Targeting Fans Most Likely to Buy Vehicles

By Chris McLaughlin, CEO of Maximize Social Media & Mike McLaughlin, President of Maximize Social Media LLC

We’ve been getting a fair amount of questions about why General Motors, which seems to have done a remarkable job of coming back from the brink, would forgo advertising on Facebook, even though 10 million is a drop in the bucket for GM’s huge marketing budget.

At first, our agency thought it was a battle of wills and egos – something happened and GM decided to embarrass Facebook.  After all, they didn’t have to make such a decision public, especially right before the IPO.

But after further investigation, we discovered a fundamental lack of knowledge of Facebook, an embarrassing lack of engagement, significantly outdated applications, and a disproportionate fan base from countries surrounding the Persian Gulf.

Before we go any further, let us make one thing perfectly clear: no one from Facebook, GM or any other company tipped us off about what you’re about to read.  Everything we’re going to share with you was readily available when we conducted our investigation over the last two days and all screen shots were taken yesterday or today (May 23, 2012).

GMC’s Most Popular City: Tehran, Iran

Nothing fundamentally told the story then when we checked out where GMC’s user base was most popular: Tehran, Iran.  Perhaps President Ahmadinejad decided to purchase a Denali?   Doubtful.

While we don’t know why Tehran would pop up as a popular city, it is possible GMC made a decision to build a large fan base inexpensively – so rather than target likely customers, they decided to figure out a way to build fans quickly – regardless of whether the fans are likely to purchase a vehicle or engage in a meaningful conversation on the page.

Here’s the screen shot taken on May 22, 2012 of GMC’s “like” analytics, look just below the February 26, 2012 “most popular week” to see GMC’s most popular city:

When we did a sampling of fans who liked a recent post on May 22nd it was clear that there were a lot – perhaps almost a majority — coming from outside of North America.  Here’s a quick snap shot of a sampling of those who clicked “like” on a post that day:

So in our estimation it is most likely that GM decided to juice its fan base by advertising to cheaper traffic abroad.  But it simply doesn’t seem right to then come and criticize Facebook for not providing effective advertising when you’re busy building your fan base in the Persian Gulf.

Can you imagine what the GMC local dealers are going to tell GM corporate when they read this blog post? They probably aren’t happy that GM won’t be running any Super Bowl ads, and now when they see this mismanagement they will really begin to wonder.

Now let’s move on to a few other GM fan pages.  What stands out with this review is that GM just simply doesn’t care about the user experience – we were shocked that old applications were still in use, arrows were pointing in the wrong directions, and applications that you would expect from a Fortune 500 company just didn’t exist.

Let’s take a look at the Chevrolet Volt’s application.  Here’s a screen shot:

That’s what we found when we arrived at the page.  Just a car, a statement to “Get Plugged In,” and an arrow pointing to nothing.   Is this an old application from the former Facebook layout?  Do you really mean to say that GM didn’t bother to update to the new Facebook Timeline format months ago?

After we liked the page, we saw this:

When we clicked the link, a new browser opened and took me to Chevy Volt’s website. Wow, that’s remarkable.  Not.

We then toured the other applications – and noticed one that was labeled “Events.” Here’s what we found:


So we’ve found a page that says there were past events but nothing available in the future.   They did remind us of the events that happened back in 2009, though.  Then it gets worse.  We jump over to the Chevy Cruze page:

And nothing exists on that page either.

Then we discovered an application labeled “Notes” so we clicked on it.  This is what we see – the most recent  “note” is from February 24, 2010:

After seeing all of this … we are certainly left thinking that GM doesn’t care much about the Facebook user experience.  No company is perfect, and there will be broken links and a few outdated items.  But in GM’s case, the lack of attention to the fan pages speaks volumes.

Who does get it?  Ford certainly believes Facebook is valuable and GM’s issues were mainly due to poor execution.  Here’s a snapshot of Ford’s recent twitter post:

Ouch.  It does beg the question – what happened, GM?   Why are you more focused on Tehran than Main Street USA?

We only have questions, not answers, but we’re sure this new discovery will spark an internal debate on whether GM should point the finger at Facebook or perhaps look in the mirror.

We’re reminded of former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca, who bluntly said: “If you can find a better car, buy it.”

GM executives just got confused with Facebook.  Their mantra clearly was “If you can find a cheaper fan, buy it.”




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