Social Media Drives Momentum in Automotive Industry

You’re sure to be hit by an automotive campaign either through your television, radio commercial, or simply cruising by a flashy car dealership complete with inflatable gimmicks. Some can be a wreck, while a handful will catch our attention. Automakers in particularly are interested in grabbing the eyes and ears of Millennials, an age group typically defined as those born between 1980 and 2000, who 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.

Ford Social Campaign Drives Sales

The Fiesta Movement from Ford, launched in April 2009, has set the bar when it comes to gauging the effectiveness of automotive social media campaigns. The car manufacturer took a small car not necessarily buzz-worthy and turned it into a powerful player. The concept 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 (including volunteerism, adventure, style, design, etc) that are documented on various websites.

The key to the program was choosing the right people (dubbed “agents”). The Millennials are interested in sharing content. Pair that desire with a cool experience and your campaign packs a one-two punch. The 9 month Fiesta Movement resulted in 6,000 order reservations from all 50 states and 100,000 hand-raisers, 97% of which did not drive a Ford product. Ford also accompanied the social campaign with a nationwide test-drive program that resulted in 162,000 consumers having seen the Fiesta in first person or through online interactions and 35,000 taking a test drive.

Ford is relaunching a “Social Remix” for the 2014 Ford Fiesta through an industry first paid-media campaign that is completely crowdsourced by social influencers. This time around, Ford is turning to their 100 Fiesta “agents” and using only their content for ad campaigns for the new Fiesta. This is a first for the auto industry.

Chevy Wins With Social Road Trip

Switching gears, Chevrolet launched a social media campaign to promote their Cruze C-car at South by SouthWest in 2010. “See the USA in a Chevrolet: A SXSW Road Trip” gave qualified participants a Chevy vehicle and asked participants to complete 10 different tasks while making their way to the festival from various parts of the country. To entice more participation from those of us sitting at home, ideas for tasks were submitted by social media fans and followers.

Part of the scoring process to determine winners of the contest was the level of interaction teams had with the online Chevy community along the way (measured by original tweets, tweet responses to questions, and number of tweet responses by fans). Participants were also required to regularly post updates to Chevy’s Facebook page. The online road trip strengthened the automaker’s relationship with consumers by letting them chat amongst themselves.

A Honda Social Media Hit and Run

Not all auto social campaigns have seen the checkered flag of success. Sometimes allowing consumers to discuss products in a public forum can backfire, especially when emotions come into the picture. An example of this is with the Honda Facebook page dedicated to the Accord Crosstour. The design of the car created some major criticism. The negativity promoted a Honda product manager of light trucks to comment on the Crosstour’s appearance without disclosing his affiliation with the automaker. When his true identity was discovered, Honda removed the post and issued an apology.

Driving the Social Media Change

As social media has evolved so have social campaigns of the auto industry. Ford and Chevy were some of the first (and successful) of this type of marketing and other automakers both in the US and abroad have begun to rev their social engines. Most automakers believe social media is a cost-effective method of marketing but none has discovered total savings. But are we starting to reach over saturation and turning off consumers?

The secret to preventing social media campaigns from morphing into just another marketing gimmick is honesty. Studies indicate that at least 70% of all new content online is social media. Being transparent will keep fans loyal to your brand while also keeping the conversation flowing. Social media is a strong tool to communicate a message but also to listen to consumers and help make a product better. Today’s consumers don’t want to be sold to. They want to be informed, educated, and entertained. The auto industry has put the pedal to the metal with this modern marketing philosophy.

Keep reading in Social Media