Social Media & the Car Biz

Standard

What’s the current state of social media in the automotive industry? Well, that depends who you ask. GM, for example, just pulled out of Facebook ads, despite its incremental social media budget increases prior to 2011. Maybe they’re on to something; maybe they’re fools, but they still have a GM-brand page on the social media mogul site. However, the fledgling car maker has removed its paid advertisements from Facebook and will continue to use the site’s free services to promote its products.

The key to social media, no matter what the industry, is out-thinking the competition, not out-spending it, which may be uncomfortable territory for the traditional car guys. Automakers and dealers are catching on though, and there have been some triumphs, missteps and catastrophes along the way.

Success stories include GM’s social media transparency with regard to its bankruptcy, and the public seemed to appreciate the company’s honest Facebook and Twitter updates. Ford, however, seems to have taken the cake for American automakers in terms of the most consistent, interactive social media campaigns. With 26,979 LinkedIn followers; 6,257,618 total YouTube upload views; 96,405 Twitter followers and 534,540 Facebook likes, Ford has more total fans, followers and likes than any other automaker. Ford sent two Fiestas equipped with online apps on a road trip during the summer of 2010. The cars went from Michigan to San Francisco, and one of the vehicles used an “auto”matic blog, which allowed it to blog and tweet throughout the trip. The company also successfully demonstrated its grasp on social media during the Focus Rally America campaign, during which six teams of two contestants competed in a series of interactive challenges during a cross-country trek in the redesigned 2012 Ford Focus. Fans were able to help the contestants by providing the drivers figure out clues and puzzles online. The results: More reservations-turned-orders (and purchases) of the Ford Focus and Fiesta than any other vehicle the company has released. However, American Honda Motor Company is no stranger to the social media game and created its own Facebook game during the release of the Honda CR-Z. Honda has more than 12,000,000 total YouTube upload views and more than 800,000 Facebook likes. Here are a few other success stories:

  • Ford gave away 100 Fiestas 18 months before the vehicle’s release date and asked drivers to share their experiences using social media. Results: 11 million impressions; 11,000 video views; 13,000 photos; 15,000 tweets.
  • Chevrolet sent eight social media teams on a scavenger hunt that required challenges on social media sites. Results: 61.1 million impressions; 1,216 video views; 8,764 Facebook likes; 13,400 tweets.
  • Volkswagen released its traditionally secret SuperBowl ad early to general some pre-game buzz. Results: millions of views; thousands of likes.

And then there are the failures, the misshaps, the catastophes:

  • In 2006, GM and “The Apprentice” joined forces to create a site that allowed users to create their own Tahoe commercials. Results: SUV critics created and posted videos bashing the gas-guzzling Tahoe. Ouch.
  • Summer 2009, Honda created a Facebook page for the release of the new Accord Crosstour. Results: “Fans” outside the target audience had negative feedback for the automaker. Honda didn’t issue a response until September. Oops!
  • In 2009, Toyota assembled a website for the new 4Runner. Results: The images used were taken from Flickr without photographers’ permission. Toyota later issued an apology. Oh, no.

Here are some tips and tricks compiled from around the web:

  • ALWAYS RESPOND. And do it in a timely fashion. (I’m looking at you, Honda.) Don’t wait a month to reply to your naysayers. Whether it be negative Facebook comments or poor DealerRater reviews, making a statement and making it quickly shows your customers that you care, even when you don’t like what they’re saying about you.
  • PLAY NICE. Have a personality. Yes, these people are your consumers, customers and business partners, but you should talk to them like they’re you’re friends. Don’t use “car guy” speak. No automotive mumbo-jumbo. Leave out phrases like bird dog, upside down, rocked, tipped, handshake, no ice, flipped, back end, unwound, bump, stiff, lay down, nickel, pencil, reserve, residual, spiff, spot … You get the idea.
  • EMBRACE IT. Social media is word-of-mouth advertising. And for the most part, it’s free. Let your fans sing your praises instead of doing it yourself. And thank them when they do!
  • INTERACT. Social media’s no fun if your fans and friends have nothing to work with. Contests, incentives, games, puzzles and giveaways are always hot.

Wasserman, Todd. (2011, February 17). How the auto industry is embracing social media [infographic]. Mashable Social Media. Retrieved from http://6.mshcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Automotive-Social-Media.png.

Costantini, Fabrizio. (2012, June 12). General Motors recent news. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/general_motors_corporation/index.html.

Terlep, S., Vranica, S., Raice, S. (2012, May 16). GM says Facebook ads don’t pay off. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304192704577406394017764460.html.

 

 

Social Media Tools: A Comparison

Standard

Facebook

Facebook is easily the largest and most popular of the social media tools listed and is widely used by both businesses and consumers. It’s the most versatile of the social media tools and can be linked to websites and most other social media tools. Users can incorporate messages (like Twitter); photos (like Instagram); circles or affiliations and professional information (like LinkedIn); videos (like YouTube); and the sharing of ideas, interests and likes (like Pinterest). That’s what sets Facebook apart from the other social media tools — its ability to encompass everything other social media tools offer in one site. In addition, users can form groups, use marketing analytics, send private messages, chat, play games, share, “like” and comment on other users’ profiles. However, Facebook can be dangerous to professionals and corporations, as the content is not only widely visible but often misinterpreted. For example, a user who works in a professional environment might find herself in a sticky situation if a friend posted something questionable on her Facebook wall and her boss read it. Teachers have lost their jobs because of Facebook photos in which they were holding beer. While Facebook can be fun and is an effective social media marketing tool, it has the potential to be very damanging to an individual’s or a company’s reputation. Facebook is accessible via smart phone (app and mobile site), computer, tablet, e-reader, game console and SmarTV.

Twitter

Twitter shares some of the similarities of Facebook but is much less detailed. Users can “friend” each other by “following” one another. They can post status updates in 140 characters or less and share links and photos (or Twitpics). Like Facebook, Twitter is often and easily linked to other websites and social media tools. Unlike Facebook, Twitter profiles are much more limited and its interface is significantly less cluttered. Notably, it seems that there are far fewer Twitter “scandals,” i.e. teachers losing their jobs over a risque Twitter photo. Although there are certainly a number of celebrities and companies that use Twitter, it seems that the average Twitter user is much more social media-savvy than the average Facebook user. In addition, Twitter’s primary users are statisically older (ages 35 to 54), as opposed to Facebook (ages 21 to 24). However, in business, both are primarily used by marketing departments. In my opinion, Twitter is less user friendly than Facebook. Those new to tweeting (like myself) may be easily confused by the use of ampersands and hashtags. Lastly, although more sophisticated than Facebook, Twitter is not quite as “grown up” as LinkedIn, and I feel it falls between the two. Twitter is accessible via smart phone (app and mobile site), tablet, computer, game console and SmarTV.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is commonly referred to as “Facebook for grown-ups,” due to its professional, more sophisticated content. Users can upload their resumes and a professional headshot (or other tasteful profile photo). Users can list their professional networks, associations, affiliations, education, etc. and connect with other users in their career field. For example, most of my LinkedIn connections attended Simmons College and/or work in the autmotive industry or newspaper business. Fewer companies are on LinkedIn than Facebook and Twitter, though this is beginning to change as LinkedIn’s user base expands. Users typically do not share content that is outside the workplace realm, such as videos, photos, links, etc., although LinkedIn can be connected to websites and other social media tools. Its primary users, like Twitter, are middle-aged adults, ages 25-54. LinkedIn is accessible via smart phone (app and mobile site), computer, tablet, game console and SmarTV.

Instagram

Instagram is one of the newest social media tools I’ve examined. It’s unique in its capacity to take, edit, share, like and comment on photos. Users cannot post without uploading a photo. Although there are other smart phone apps that allow users to edit photos, Instagram is the most popular and the only one (that I know of) that allows users to then share their photos on the Instagram network. Instagram’s users are older teens and young adults, ages 18 to 25, and most commonly iPhone owners, as the app was just recently expanded to the Android platform. Instagram is often integrated with Facebook and can be linked to Twitter and allows users to geotag photos; however, these are the only two social networks currently available to link Instagram (at least on the Android platform). Although not necessarily mature or professional in nature, photo content seems to be tame. Unlike other social media tools, Instagram is only available as a smart phone app.

YouTube

YouTube is the most widely used video social networking tool. It can be linked to most social media tools and its content can be shared on websites and social networks alike. Users can upload videos (or broadcast themselves), as well as comment on and like videos as well. Content, however, is across the map. From promotional and marketing videos, tutorials, music videos and adult-only content, YouTube has it all – probably as a result of the broad age range of its primary users: 18 to 34. However, content is monitored, especially for copyright infringement, as users are able to upload protected TV shows and movies. YouTube is available via smart phone (app and mobile site, although not all videos are available via mobile), tablet, computer, game console (and many gaming consoles have their own YouTube app) and SmarTV (Samsung has its own YouTube SmarTV app).

Pinterest

Also one of the newest social media tools, Pinterest seems to have taken on a massive following within the past year. The majority of users are women, ages 25 to 44, and content is on the wholesome side. Users can “pin” or share things they like – recipes; outfits; products; DIY ideas; craft patterns; art; design; architecture; photos; organization, household management, professional, beauty and parenting tips and tricks; and more. Users can also share videos, although this feature is less popular than pinning and repinning content. Pinterest is linkable to other sites and social media tools and is commonly linked to Facebook. Some companies have delved into Pinterest as a marketing tool, like Honda, although it has not quite taken off yet. Pinterest is available via smart phone, computer and tablet, although there are no Pinterest apps available yet.

Hill, Kashmir. (2012, May 4). Lots of Facebook users are idiots, says Consumer Reports. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/05/04/lots-of-facebook-users-are-idiots-says-consumer-reports/.

Evans, Meryl K. (2009, July 21). 32 ways to use Facebook for business. GigaOm. Retrieved from http://gigaom.com/collaboration/32-ways-to-use-facebook-for-business/.

Carmichael, Matt. (2011, May 16). The demographics of social media. Advertising Age. Retrieved from http://adage.com/article/adagestat/demographics-facebook-linkedin-myspace-twitter/227569/.

Online MBA Resource. (2012, March 9). [Infographic] Social media demographics: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and more. The Content Wrangler. Retrieved from http://thecontentwrangler.com/2012/03/09/infographic-social-media-demographics-facebook-twitter-linkedin-google-and-more/.

Miller, Miranda. (2012, May 8). 5 Pinterest user insights marketers can use to drive sales. Search Engine Watch. Retrieved from http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2172920/5-Pinterest-User-Insights-Marketers-Can-Use-to-Drive-Sales.

Macale, Sherilynn. (2011, August 18). Twitter users are more likely to impact your brand than any other social network. The Next Web. Retrieved from http://thenextweb.com/twitter/2011/08/18/twitter-users-are-more-likely-to-impact-your-brand-than-any-other-social-network/.

Cesarz, Kevin. (2012, February 24). Cesarz: Pinterest is the focus that Facebook lacks. Toledo Free Press. Retrieved from http://www.toledofreepress.com/2012/02/24/cesarz-pinterest-is-the-focus-that-facebook-lacks/.

Welcome to upside down!

Standard

Welcome to upside down, a blog about social media in the automotive industry! My name is Samantha, and you are…?

If you understand that pun of a greeting, you must be in the car business. If not, you’ll get it the next time you’re greeted by a sales person at a dealership. Anyway, I’m Samantha, and this is my blog about social media in the autmotive industry for Marketing 555 at Southern New Hampshire University. The theme might not make sense, but it’s inspired by the Monroney sticker on a Toyota Prius. Likewise, the title, “upside down,” is a commonly used car-business term that means a vehicle’s owner owes more on the vehicle than it’s worth.

In this blog, I’ll discuss the impact of social media on the automotive industry and how it’s changed the was we do business. Stay tuned!