Social Media Strategy

Authored by Craig Vore, Senior Product Strategist

Our earlier chapter on Data Management mentioned the invaluable importance of first party data. Like all elements of your marketing strategy, Facebook advertising is much more effective when you incorporate first party data, from targeting, to content, to attribution.

Facebook is not the only game in town of course. There are other social media platforms that can be effective, but Facebook has invested the most in creating an automotive-centric ad platform that caters to the unique needs of the automotive industry.

Facebook has a greater appreciation for the effectiveness of your first part data.

This social media strategy chapter will cover the following:

  1. Targeting with First Party Data
  2. Inventory Social Advertisements
  3. Offline Attribution

Targeting with First-Party Data

There are several great ways to target your past customers and prospects with your first party data, but why should you go to the effort? You’ll need to ask yourself how much you spent on leads over the years. Did you ever calculate the true total cost to acquire a new customer? What about the total lifetime value of a customer that includes purchase, re-purchase, service, and F&I?

The point I’m making is that your customer and prospect database by far is your most valuable asset. You’ve invested a lot of money building your database, and there’s a lot of money to be made within your database. Dealers are accustomed to targeting these past customers and prospects through channels like email and direct mail with varying levels of sophistication, but many don’t realize the importance of database targeting in Facebook.

Not everyone opens every email from their dealership, so your message may get lost. In some cases, direct mail can be expensive, especially when you are mass marketing with a “spray and pray” approach hoping enough people in your database respond to your direct mail piece to make it worthwhile. Facebook direct targeting is another tool in your toolbelt that is easy, trackable, and gets in front of consumers where they spend a lot of their time.

There are two main methods to use your first party data for targeting:

  • Direct Targeting
  • Lookalike Targeting

Let’s start with Direct Targeting. This method allows you to upload a list of consumers from your DMS or CRM and assign them to see a specific ad that you’ve created in Facebook.

The possibilities are endless if you have the ability to properly segment your lists before loading to Facebook. Just keep in mind that you can’t get too granular because you generally want at least 1,000 people in your list in order for it to run properly.

It’s important to note that Facebook won’t be able to find each person on their platform, so it’s probably best to start with a list of 1,500 consumers because you may only match to a portion of those after you’ve uploaded to Facebook for targeting.

Also, you’ll notice that your cost per click (CPC) for direct targeting will be a little higher than other forms of targeting, especially smaller segments. Because of the lower volume, it will likely increase the frequency it is shown to each consumer, which can result in a higher CPC. However, this is often worth the higher CPC to advertise to your customer base to help ensure you keep their business for the long run (because you can guarantee your competitors are advertising to them on Facebook as well).

Here are some segment thought-starters (dealers with smaller databases may struggle to find enough volume for some of these):

  • Customers who have lapsed on service
  • Unsold Prospects that submitted a lead within the last 30 – 180 days
  • Customers with leases ending within the next 6 months
  • Customers with estimated mileage above 60K

The second main targeting method using first party data is Lookalike Targeting. This is primarily used to find NEW customers. Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) will examine the customer lists you upload and find similar people in your area that look like them. One could surmise that if you load up your customers who have purchased multiple vehicles and/or service with you regularly, you would do well to find other NEW people who likely share those same propensities.

As you’re conquesting, you want to increase your chances of finding new customers with a high lifetime value. It all starts with what Facebook calls a “seed list”. You can upload a list of consumers and select “create a lookalike audience” within Facebook. You can then assign the Lookalike Audience to a specific ad. Facebook requires that you match at least 100 people to create a lookalike, so you’re best to upload a list of a minimum of 150 people as Facebook will not find a match on every person you load (more is even better if you have the consumer count).

Here are some thought-starters for Lookalike “seed lists”:

  • Customers who’ve purchased more than 1 vehicle from you
  • Customers who’ve serviced with you more than 3 times and own your primary make
  • Customers who’ve purchased an SUV in the last 2 years

For Direct Targeting and Lookalike Targeting, you can load lists yourself if you know how to properly segment your DMS and CRM lists to select the people you want. You can run these campaigns every month, or only choose to run them periodically. If all that sounds like too much of a burden, there are vendors who have APIs already set up with your DMS/CRM and have APIs set up directly with Facebook to automate the Direct Targeting and Lookalike Audience creation for you.

Inventory Ads

The second form of first party data is your inventory. In this case, you are using your unique inventory data to create content – automatically. This relieves a huge burden for many dealers who simply don’t have time to create content, or don’t know what to say in their Facebook ads each month.

It’s a great way to merchandise your product, but also gives you the ability to write a small bit of “why buy” copy in your inventory ads if you choose.  Once you get it set up, you’ll also notice a lower CPC compared to some other types of ads. CPC is directly related to relevance for the consumer. So, if Facebook notices that consumers click these types of ads, they’ll start showing them to more people. A wider pool of interested people generally creates a lower CPC. So, in a nutshell, consumers like inventory ads as evidenced by the low CPC and high engagement.

“A wider pool of interested people creates a lower CPC. In a nutshell, consumers like Inventory Ads as evidenced by the low CPC and high engagement.”

How to Get Started: First you need to connect your inventory data to Facebook. There are two primary ways to set up your Vehicle Catalog. Here are the steps according to Facebook’s setup guide.

The first option is to manually upload your vehicle feed yourself.

  1. Create a catalog in Catalog Manager, which you can find in the Business Manager menu.
  2. Create/upload a vehicle feed, making sure to include all the required fields, such as vehicle ID, make and model, and use a supported file format. Download a template at vehiclefeedtemplate.
  3. If you’d like to limit the vehicles you advertise, use Vehicle Sets, which are groupings of vehicles you want to promote together, e.g., all SUVs or used inventory.
  4. Associate a pixel or mobile software development kit (SDK).

A more streamlined process is to set up your vehicle catalog feed through a technology partner:

  1. Create a catalog in Catalog Manager, which you can find in the Business Manager menu.
  2. Select Auto, then select Connect to Inventory Provider.
  3. Select the inventory provider you want to connect.
  4. Log in or create an account with an inventory provider and follow on-screen instructions to complete setup.

Once you have your feed properly set up, you’ve now opened new targeting capabilities as well! Facebook designed this functionality specifically for the automotive industry. The machine learning algorithms are constantly identifying consumers who are likely interested in the vehicles you specifically have in your inventory catalog. You can select if you want to deliver used inventory to used vehicle intenders, SUV inventory to SUV intenders, and so on.

In addition, you can retarget consumers who visited your website with the specific VINs they viewed.

So, while most people think that creating an inventory feed is a way to produce automated content that features your VINs, it also unlocks new targeting capabilities in Facebook that are extremely effective.

Furthermore, once you’ve set up your feed, you can now push your used vehicle listings to Facebook Marketplace. If you’re not familiar, Facebook Marketplace is a huge area of their platform where users can buy and sell various items.

There are many vehicles for sale, and it would be smart to place your inventory in those listings. And to get even more visibility, you can promote your listings as a paid ad. No need to create separate ad creative, you just need to check a box to advertise in marketplace.

Facebook Marketplace is great because you’re getting your inventory ads in front of people who have made an explicit action to shop while on Facebook. That way, you’re not interrupting people while they are scrolling through their newsfeed.

Offline Attribution

One of the most compelling use cases for your first party data is attribution. After all, you want to know if your ad spends are leading to sales and repair orders.

Not that long ago, digital advertising was a black box when it came to attribution because there wasn’t a way to load your offline sales and see whether those people saw or interacted with your ad prior to the transaction. The technology and privacy controls are now at a place where this is a reality.

To be clear, Facebook won’t tell you if “John Smith” saw your ad and bought a car because there are important privacy protocols in place.

However, Facebook can tell you that “11 people” bought a car after seeing or clicking your sales event ad, for example. You can even load your revenue or gross profit with your sales and service transaction file so you can calculate your ROI compared to your media spend.

You can either load your sales and service RO files manually to Facebook each week/month or select a partner that can automatically load them daily.

Your file will need important data points like the consumer’s name, email address, phone, the date of the transaction, was it a sale or RO, etc. Facebook will anonymize the PII (personally identifiable information) through a sophisticated hashing process so your consumer data is secure.

It’s also important to note that Facebook’s attribution method will not catch EVERY single sale or service match. Let’s say you load a list of 1,000 people who bought or serviced from you.

Facebook will take the info you provided and try to match that to known people on Facebook. It may not be able to find everyone because the user may have entered an old email address when they set up their Facebook account.

That same person gave you a different email address when they bought the car. Facebook can’t confidently determine that it’s the same person because the emails don’t match.

Therefore, they will not count that as an attributable sale even if that person saw your ad and came in. So, Facebook is likely under-reporting attribution, which is much better than over-reporting.


As you can see, your first party data has many compelling use cases when it comes to Facebook targeting, content creation, and attribution.

Can you have success with Facebook advertising without incorporating this data?

Yes, but you’re leaving opportunities on the table. If it’s overwhelming to get all the tactics implemented, you can just tackle one at a time or talk to a technology partner who can set it up with minimal involvement from your team. Plus, it becomes an easy, automated process that you don’t really have to think about going forward.

Remember, your first party data is your most valuable asset. Use it to reach your greatest potential.

“Your first party data is your most valuable asset. Use it to reach your greatest potential.”

Craig Vore - Product

About the Author

Craig Vore, Senior Product Strategist at Outsell

Craig Vore is responsible for driving campaign strategy & creative innovation at Outsell by leveraging data and content to improve marketing performance and consumer engagement.

As Senior Product Strategist, Craig leads the entire optimization cycle across channels, including web, direct mail, email, mobile, and social marketing.

Craig Vore
Senior Product Strategist
Mobile: +1 612.590.5811