The automotive industry is usually ahead of the curve when it comes to almost everything. From tech innovation to advancements in design, car companies lead the pack. Why then have industry leaders in the auto space lagged behind so miserably when it comes to social marketing? A report released by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council found that while 38 percent of people say they plan to consult social media when they buy their next car, most automotive companies are not leveraging the full power of social media in their marketing strategies.
That 38 percent may not sound like a lot when taken on its own, but it’s pretty impressive considering that 23 percent of buyers said they talked about their purchasing experience on social media and another 24 percent said they used Facebook as a resource before buying. An astounding 94 percent of millennial buyers (who are shopping for cars en masse nowadays) will consult online sources before making buying decisions. It’s why most big brands have embraced social media in a big way. Money can’t buy the kind of brand loyalty that is a result of a quality social experience. It also can’t buy the kind of customer-driven advertising social media is famous for.
Who in the auto industry is killing it on social? Not only does the official BMW Facebook page have more than 18 million fans, the page also boasts a ton of engagement. Nissan has fewer fans but the company is more active. And Audi is hot on their tailpipes. The only problem? There’s no positive correlation between Facebook likes and sales of cars. In order to really leverage the power of social, a brand has to go deeper – which is exactly what Ford and Kelley Blue Book have done.
What do you get when you cross 100 free loaner Fiestas and 100 carefully chosen online influencers? Major buzz. The monumentally successful Fiesta Movement Social Remix campaign attracted the attention of millions even before it launched and once it went live it generated 6.5 million views on YouTube, 3 million Twitter impressions and 540,000 views on Flickr. Fiesta “agents” brought the brand to American Idol, the Summer X Games and the Bonnaroo Music Festival, resulting in 50,000 sales leads – mainly from people who’d never owned a Ford – and thousands of order reservations. Not only that, suddenly Ford was on the receiving end of some seriously valuable social cred and in front of a younger generation of consumers.
Although Kelley Blue Book might be a surprising choice when talking about social media innovation in the auto sphere, the brand has knocked one out of the park with its owner-empowering Seller’s Toolkit. The three-step interactive (and intuitive) toolkit has taken the For Sale sign into the social sphere, where sellers create what is essentially a real-time flyer that can be embedded in blog posts or sites like Craigslist, or shared via Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook or email – there’s even an automatically generated QR code. Naturally the ad created by the Seller’s Toolkit leads buyers and sellers back to the car’s listing on KBB.com where both groups can browse everything else the brand has to offer.
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Why are wins like these so important? They sever as evidence that social media can help automotive companies ID, segment and engage with consumers based on where they are in the purchase cycle. But identifying and engaging with potential buyers won’t always translate into sales because a consistent social presence is not the magic potion it once was. Brands in other spheres – Red Bull and Starbucks come to mind – have shown that you need to come up with a solid hook, but once you have it you’re going to see results.
When the auto industry finally understands that, brands are going to start doing some amazing things.
This article is an original contribution by Tim Alan.
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