Jump to content
Create New...

Social Media Marketing Takes Auto Industry by Storm


Recommended Posts

Social Media Marketing Takes Auto Industry by Storm

Social media websites, once an outlet for technophiles to share their innermost thoughts, daily occurrences and personal photos with the online community, are attracting the attention of auto makers in a big way.

The most prominent among these, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube, all are names that have become part of the American lexicon. They also are becoming another tool in the auto marketers’ bag of tricks.

When used correctly, such websites can be an effective, and inexpensive, way to reach a large number of consumers, marketers say. Auto makers particularly are interested in the Millennials, an age group typically defined as those born between 1980 and 2000 that largely ignore traditional marketing techniques.

According to the L2 Digital IQ Index, which studies the effectiveness of social media campaigns, 73% of light-vehicle brands maintain at least one Facebook page, 70% have a YouTube channel and 60% use a Twitter account.

Jim Farley, Ford Motor Co.’s top marketer and architect of the highly successful Fiesta Movement online campaign, says social media marketing messages are a way around the negative perception the public has of big corporations, much of it due to the economic recession and a litany of corporate scandals.

“Today, we see that 77% of people trust (big) companies less than they did a year ago,” Farley tells Ward’s. “We have an unprecedented amount of skepticism.”

The Fiesta Movement, launched in April 2009, has set the bar when it comes to gauging the effectiveness of automotive social media campaigns, says Christopher Barger, director of global social media for General Motors Co.

“I think it’s a remarkable demonstration of the power of social media,” Barger says. “They took a small car from an American manufacturer that’s not necessarily ‘buzz-worthy’ and turned it into a player. For companies on the outside who haven’t done something like that, it’s something to look at.”

The idea behind the Fiesta Movement, designed to create awareness of the new Fiesta B-car, which will launch sales in the U.S. later this year, was simple: put 100 Euro-spec cars in the hands of mostly young people who are adept at social media and assign them a variety of “missions” that are documented on various websites.

Themes of the missions included volunteerism, adventure and style and design.

Choosing the right people to participate, dubbed “agents,” was crucial for the campaign to succeed, Farley says. “Their world is sharing content. That’s what they like to do. If you pick the right people and give them a cool experience, that’s the one-two punch.”

The 9-month-long Fiesta Movement wound down in November after generating significant interest in the upcoming small car. Ford says the campaign resulted in 6,000 order reservations from all 50 states and 100,000 hand-raisers, 97% of which do not drive a Ford product.

Additionally, through an accompanying nationwide test-drive program, more than 162,000 consumers have seen the Fiesta in first person or through online interactions, while 35,000 have taken a test drive, the auto maker says.

Farley says he’ll use social media to promote future Ford vehicles but declines to divulge details. He admits receiving some criticism for launching the Fiesta Movement more than a year before the vehicle was due here, but says an online campaign takes time to build momentum.

Margaret Brooks, Chevrolet marketing director for small cars, is taking a different tact with the Chevrolet Cruze C-car, scheduled to launch in the U.S. in August. Although larger than the Fiesta and likely to appeal to both young and older consumers, the Cruze is an excellent candidate for a social-media marketing campaign, she says.

“We think social media is critically important as a way of creating excitement around the brand, helping build awareness and also for getting customer engagement and letting customers have their own dialogue,” Brooks tells Ward’s.

Chevrolet will launch a social media campaign to promote a variety of new products at next month’s South by Southwest Music and Media Conference in Austin, TX.

The campaign, “See the USA in a Chevrolet: A SXSW Road Trip,” emulates the Fiesta Movement in that participants receive a Chevy vehicle and must complete 10 different tasks while making their way to the festival from various parts of the country.

Online criticism of Honda Crosstour caused executive to defend CUV on Facebook.

Eight teams will participate, with ideas for the tasks submitted by social media “fans and followers” of the campaign, Chevy says, noting chosen tasks will be revealed on March 8. Throughout their journey to the festival, participants will be judged on a number of criteria, Barger says.

“Twenty-five percent of the scoring process to determine the ‘winners’ of the contest will be the interaction they have with the (online) community along the way,” he says. “This will be measured in the number of ‘tweets’ they do, the number of times they respond to someone else's tweet and the number of times their (tweets are reposted by others).”

Participants also will be required to regularly post to Chevy’s Facebook page, he says, noting winners will receive a GM-sponsored “Tweetup,” an organized gathering of people that use Twitter.

Barger says events such as the road trip helps strengthen the auto maker’s relationship with online consumers by letting them chat among themselves, a strategy that can be rewarding and frightening at the same time.

“We don’t control what audiences are going to like,” he says. “That’s a scary thought for a lot of us, because our whole careers have been built on creating things people like.”

Ford and Chevy are not alone in jumping headfirst into the social media marketing fray.

Most auto makers, both in the U.S. and abroad, either are participating in such marketing or making plans to do so, which potentially could lead to oversaturation, turning off the very consumers they are seeking to attract, some industry experts say.

The secret to preventing social media campaigns from morphing into just another marketing gimmick is honesty, says Michael Sprague, Kia Motor America vice president-marketing. “There was a statistic that said 70% of all new content on the Web is social media, and it seems it’s going to continue,” he tells Ward’s. “But you have to be honest; you have to be transparent.

“Consumers can see through the advertising or marketing speak,” Sprague adds, noting a YouTube video featuring the animated hamsters used in Kia’s TV spot advertising the Soul cross/utility vehicle has received more than a million hits.

“(Through) social media, we hope to communicate our message, but also listen to consumers to help us make our products better,” he says.

Subaru of America Inc., which maintains both a Facebook and Twitter page, is careful not to appear to be trying to sell something, says Subaru spokesman Michael McHale. “I don’t want to go on Facebook and see one of my ‘friends’ trying to sell me something. I want to see them inform me. I want to see them educate me or entertain me.”

GM’s Barger says auto makers have to gain the trust of customers when it comes to using social media. “You have to earn your credibility,” he says. “There’s an automatic cynicism that comes about if you come across (as a corporate marketer).”

But the effectiveness of marketing through social media – allowing consumers to discuss products in a public forum – can backfire, especially when emotions come into play. Such was the case with an American Honda Motor Co. Inc. Facebook page dedicated to the Accord Crosstour.

The new CUV’s polarizing design drew some biting criticism, including: “A definite ‘cross out’ in any prospective car buyers list,” and “I guarantee you that somebody will get fired because of this car.”

The negativity apparently prompted Eddie Okubo, Honda product manager-light trucks, to comment on the Crosstour’s virtues without disclosing his affiliation with the auto maker. But his true identity quickly was uncovered, forcing Honda to remove his posts and issue an apology.

Despite the gaffe, Honda has no plans to abandon the social media realm, says Executive Vice President John Mendel. “If you’re going to put something up, best face forward is probably better,” he says, arguing the images shown on the Crosstour page didn’t do the vehicle justice.

While most auto makers believe social media is a cost-effective method of marketing, none are willing to disclose total savings. However, Mendel reveals some 25%-30% of Honda’s marketing efforts are via social media, while Farley tells Ward’s about 25% of Ford’s global media buy now is digital.

Industry skeptics remain unconvinced social media is a relevant way for auto makers to connect with customers, questioning whether the popular online movement is here to stay or merely a fad.

“I think it’s fair to say social media will evolve, but won’t go away,” says Chevy’s Brooks. “Since the advent of the Internet, there have been mechanisms for people to communicate and they continue to evolve.”

Says Farley: “I don’t think its fly-by-night. We have less time in our lives than ever, and our need to reach out to other humans has never been greater because of the stress in our lives. I think social media plays a critical role. It’s a sense of belonging.”



Link to comment
Share on other sites

social media marketing, i know why it works and that it works, but i think too often they are trying too hard to be cool with it and that actually annoys me. i kind of could care less about whether GM twitters anything.

i did like their fastlane blogs. and their facebook snippets are nice.. especially if they are posting susan! giving the sales reports.....

there needs to be a blend between all media. i would never put all my eggs in one basket to rely too much on social media.. its limiting and faddish. at the same time it is here to stay.

there are a lot of demographics out there that think tuff like social media is just pandering to younger 'too cool' demographics and really find it to be a distraction to their ability to keep doing the basic marketing right.

  • Agree 1
  • Disagree 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Social media is a huge, huge thing for companies of all shapes and sizes. It's becoming an extremely important part of company branding strategies. Twitter and Youtube being the #1 targets, as Facebook is much more difficult for companies to work with and MySpace has been going downhill for some time now.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Who's Online   0 Members, 0 Anonymous, 77 Guests (See full list)

    • There are no registered users currently online
  • Chevy Estimated Range for Silverado EV Work Truck Raised to 450 miles

    When Chevrolet initially took the wraps off the Silverado EV last year, GM had estimated up to a 400 mile range based on its own calculations.  As the Silverado EV has made its way through development, it went for EPA certification and came back with 50 miles more than GM's estimate.  With this new EPA certification, the Silverado EV has an over 100-mile advantage over its only on-sale competitor the F-150 Lightning Extended Range (320 miles). The Silverado EV will launch first in WT trim with t


    All New 2024 Toyota Tacoma Yearns For Adventure

    The Toyota Tacoma has been the best-selling mid-size pickup in the U.S. for nearly 20 years. Holding such an important place in the lineup, Toyota has been very conservative with updates in the past.  The outgoing generation ran for a full 7 years, but even that was based on a platform that dates all the way back to 2004.  For 2024, the Tacoma sheds the old platform entirely and joins the Tundra and Sequoia on Toyota's new TNGA-F global truck platform.  The 2024 Tacoma is the latest (and final)


    The Ford Ranger Raptor Finally Comes to the US

    After years of being forbidden fruit offered only in overseas markets, Ford has finally deemed the Ranger Raptor worthy enough to bring to the U.S. The biggest reason for the U.S. not getting the prior version was its standard diesel power and the inability of the platform to take a sizable V6 engine. When Ford redesigned the 2024 Ranger (read more about the 2024 Ford Ranger here), they made sure to alter the engine bay and chassis to accommodate a V6. Powering the Ranger Raptor is a 3.0-li


  • Create New...

Hey there, we notice you're using an ad-blocker. We're a small site that is supported by ads or subscriptions. We rely on these to pay for server costs and vehicle reviews.  Please consider whitelisting us in your ad-blocker, or if you really like what you see, you can pick up one of our subscriptions for just $1.75 a month or $15 a year. It may not seem like a lot, but it goes a long way to help support real, honest content, that isn't generated by an AI bot.

See you out there.


Write what you are looking for and press enter or click the search icon to begin your search