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Facebook isn’t obvious as a major competitor for auto advertising. But Google certainly watches Facebook’s every move in autos, as it worries that advertising that might have otherwise gone to its services is being cannibalized by social media.

Is it paranoid? We don’t think so. The car makers are definitely focused on digital spending, but social media represents a real alternative to Google’s assortment of search, video and display. Facebook represents 65 percent of all social media conversations about autos, per JD Power.

Earlier this year, Facebook added the capability for auto marketers to target shoppers based on car makes and models and their online purchase histories. And yesterday, Facebook grabbed Google’s Detroit-based Auto Industry Director Michelle Morris, a seven-year Google vet, to help lead auto sales. Morris is expected to engage current Facebook clients, including Hyundai, Nissan, Volkswagen, Ford, Chrysler,GM , Toyota and Subaru while also developing new relationships.

“With Facebook’s offerings, automotive marketers can build and strengthen brand opinion, consideration and loyalty while maximizing efficiencies at every level of the purchase funnel,” noted a Facebook press release.

Recent ComScore data shows that social media automotive spending is up 130 percent, and that 14 percent of all online auto ad spending is now spent online. Nissan outpaces the rest of the industry by spending 20 percent of its online spending on social media. Most of the social spending is geared around boosting engagement, influence and credibility, and includes a mix of auto forums and “mass” social media.

At Interactive Local Media in San Francisco Dec. 10-12, we have great keynotes from Facebook VP of Product Marketing Brian Boland and Google Director of Global Mobile Solutions Brendon Kraham. You can register here.

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