Whether you're one of the more than 1 billion people using Facebook to communicate with family, friends and brands or already have a page for your dealership, new refinements by the social networking site make it even easier to communicate with customers.

If your dealership is already on Facebook, it's important to take advantage of these new tools to reach customers and prospects and track results. And if you are not yet on Facebook, what are you waiting for?

Controversy Doesn't Deter Users

In spring 2012, controversy surrounded Facebook's initial public stock offering. A federal investigation was launched as shares plummeted within a week. That bad news was followed by a report that suggested users of the world's largest social network - more than 1 billion by the start of 2013 - don't necessarily respond heavily to Facebook advertising. Naysayers say these incidents justify not using Facebook.

But neither of these hits are threatening to the use of Facebook, says Stephanie Phillips, engagement manager for Osborn Barr and a social networking specialist. She says Facebook remains a key way for businesses to engage customers in two-way conversations, particularly on the local level where rural lifestyle dealerships compete.

"People still want to connect to their friends," Phillips says. "And they still want to learn about their interests. Businesses can take advantage of that and target new customers by everything from geography to education level to interest to zip code."

You're On a Timeline

You may have noticed the change to your business page with the addition of the timeline. The timeline allows businesses to select a "custom photo" to place across the top of the page. This is in addition to the traditional icon that serves as the avatar or graphic that appears with a post.

Another advantage of the timeline is it allows businesses to "pin" a topic to the top of the timeline, so that it remains at the top of the page for a week. This is a good way to promote sales or other events.

"You can pin anything from photos to videos or status updates," Phillips says.

Another new Facebook tool is the ability to promote specific status updates. Under certain conditions, dropdown boxes appear that allow a business with more than 400 fans to use Facebook advertising to promote that specific status.

Pay-Per-Click

There are multiple reasons why Facebook advertising is efficient and economical, adds Phillips. One reason is that it is a pay-per-click format, meaning advertisers pay each time a consumer clicks on the ad. This does two things: First, it helps drill down advertising to just the consumers you want - people of a certain income, those interested in outdoor equipment, those in your zip code - and you only pay for those who view the ad and click for more information. Second, it gives you precise information about the ad's effectiveness. This helps you refine future messaging for Facebook ads and elsewhere.

A Whole New World

The opportunities for customized outreach through Facebook increase every day, Phillips says. The social network gives dealerships the ability to engage in conversations with their customers and potential customers and track the results of that outreach.

"Really, people want to feel engaged," Phillips says. "And businesses want to be able to reach the precise customers they need rather than throwing out a net. Facebook delivers on both. Used consistently, it doesn't take a lot of time or money, and it can be an effective way to build an effective, loyal customer base."


Todd Foltz is a public relations senior account executive for Osborn Barr, an agriculture-focused PR and advertising agency. He is part of its Equipment Practice Group, which represents some of agriculture's largest machinery and tire companies.