Today GM announced plans to stop advertising on Facebook saying simply “it doesn’t sell cars.” The announcement came as Facebook prepared for its initial public offering. And no, you can’t make this stuff up. Did the bubble burst on Facebook before the first trade or was it silly for GM to think it could sell cars on a social network?
It might seem strange that a Web site designed to hook-up college kids became a hangout for corporate America but exponential growth in membership is hard to ignore when you have something to sell. Yet as Facebook nears a billion members GM is pulling their ads. Few companies have been at the advertising game longer than GM so its travail on Facebook will be studied and talked about. After all—if GM can’t make it on Facebook who can?
The value of social networks is they facilitate interactions among individuals. Facebook is so easy anyone can signup and connect with a hundred people in less time than it takes to buy a car and it’s a lot more fun. But when business interacts on a social network the network’s value proposition is altered. Business is asymetrical to social. In the real world talking shop in a social setting is considered uncouth and “You shouldn’t mix business with pleasure” the rule. But the settings for social networks are cloud-dwelling computers. “Social” is now the dominant information technology on the planet and it’s provisioned exclusively from the cloud. (This Web site is built with social technology that resides entirely in the cloud.)
Social technology is being used by savvy business people to streamline communications with suppliers, customers, and employees. A business doesn’t need to be on Facebook in order to leverage the hidden mojo of social. And the rule about mixing business with pleasure is probably still valid.
But rules are made to be broken.