Some would say that the only time the Auto Industry was at the lead of technology was when the car was first invented over a hundred years ago. Perhaps there’s a grain of truth in that because if cars had progressed as fast as computers they’d now probably be capable of supersonic speeds and be free to drive! The slowly lurching industry that is the car business hasn’t really progressed that much and perhaps that’s why it’s been slow to take up on the many offers that the Internet has for it. If by now the auto industry hasn’t learned to take the Social Media marketing bull by the horns then they are letting themselves down.
As a whole the world of automobiles hasn’t been in good shape for a while, if it’s not flack from the Green Brigade over pollution, its manufacturing cuts causing safety breaches, brands going bust, dealers losing cash and governments frequently having to bail them out. But with the constant demand for cars, especially in growth markets like India and China, and with old models always needing replacing the industry is still here and going strong. But it could be a lot stronger and that’s why it needs to engage and interact with customers, old and new, through social media.
With this leviathan not jumping on the bandwagon alongside other industries social media remains a relative unknown for many in the automotive industry. Quaintly, old fashioned methods like traditional advertising models are still favored. But there are some that have been more progressive than others and they are certainly seeing rewards for their efforts.
Who in the Auto Industry loves Social Media?
The genius behind Fords entry into the social media circus has been Scott Monty. From as early as 2009 the creative Fiesta Movement has leveraged numerous social media tools to increase brand awareness.
Naturally the Germans aren’t going to let their American rivals get the drop on them and BMW maintains a strong social presence through Facebook fan pages, media and other means of engagement.
Moving further east, the Japanese, often fan boys of new technology, have not been too slow to adopt either. Mazda might be a little sparse at the moment in the social media department, but apparently big plans are afoot to catapult their North American division solidly into the social media limelight.
How deep should the roots go?
Let’s face it, most drivers don’t turn up at the gates of Ford’s factory and drive away with a new car. Most purchases are still made through traditional dealers and this aspect of the industry is woefully lacking in social media engagement. Everything from customer services to after care could be enhanced by a dealer savvy with social networks. It’s this local engagement (the type of business that Google + and its like was made for), that is woefully lacking in the auto industry.
That’s not to say that the dealers have no social presence, they just have the wrong type. We’re still not far removed from the days where a dealer’s entire inventory was listed on Facebook, Tweeted and shared on networks like FourSquare and Reddit. All the dealers wanted to do was sell, social media was just treated like traditional advertising. It isn’t! It needs engagement to work and make people not only buy from you, but also buy into your message.
Are things moving on?
Gradually dealers are starting to understand that engagement, and not shouting their wares for everyone to hear, is the way forward. A good case study of recent years tracks the rise of Boston based Marlboro Nissan who have used all the assets like blogging, Twitter and Facebook to increase awareness and engagement. Customers are not only increasing, but are also content.
However this is a singular case, the high echelons of the industry should be providing this support to their dealers and they aren’t. It’s increasingly the case that highly paid SEO and consultancy firms are being employed by dealers to increase their social presence. This shouldn’t be happening, being part of global billion dollar brands should give them the social means and support shouldn’t come out of their own coffers.
In some ways these firms at least have been teaching dealers the value of communicating and engaging with their customers and it’s apparent with the many conferences and conventions held globally that the automotive industry is starting to lurch in the right direction.
Checklist for Auto Industry Social Engagement
1 A well maintained blog and social network. Problems and praise for this precarious business can be filtered through these means and customers made to feel part of a brand.
2 Engagement. People are humans and not just a means of cash. Talk to them, nurture them, and sell them a car by telling them about it months before on your blog or social site. It’s no longer good enough to flog a banger in a half hour showroom floor chat. By the time they come to you, your social media engagement has made them trust and value you, and the relationship will continue even after the car has gone to the great scrap heap in the sky. If your social engagement is done right.
3 YouTube and Friends. If a picture is worth a thousand words then viral videos are worth dynastic fortunes. Are you the Bieber of the Auto industry? Make videos, teach clients how to fix their cars, tell them about their cars, and show them the excitement they could be having. Don’t just sell, but actually make videos to solve people’s car woes. If a customer returns time and again to you after a five minute chat solves their problem, imagine how many customers you’ll get if your car hints and tips become part of a viral video campaign.
4 Find Customers. Scenario: Mr. James tweets and updates his Facebook status about how his car is always breaking down. If you’re engaging with him on social networks you’ll know that and of you’ve done your engagement right he’ll trust you when you reach out to offer him a new vehicle.
Be a part of it
The old ways are gone, it really is a case of sink or swim and social media can really turn around every facet of the car industry. When everybody from the dealers to the producers realize that social media is a mini-pr machine all ready and waiting it really will transform the way they do business.
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