Getting the Auto Industry Up to Speed on Social Media

Despite a Few Good Starts, Brands Need to Adjust Workflow Up and Down the Organization

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Automotive brands and their agencies have steered carefully into selected areas of the social-marketing world in the past year, experimenting with engaging creative and interesting mini-campaigns.

Ford created a Facebook app that allowed fans to vote on which older model Ford vehicles would be used on a Facebook badge. Kia's Inspired by What You Like campaign drove engagement through YouTube and Facebook. Toyota is encouraging open dialogue with customers through Twitter and activating its own forum on TweetMeme, to aggregate conversations around the brand.

Despite these impressive examples, auto manufacturers still need to step up their use of social media to more effectively manage and improve their messaging, engagement and service with consumers -- throughout the buying and loyalty journey.

All three major social platforms -- Facebook, Twitter and Linked In -- have strong value for the automotive business, but driving success across all of them and across all layers of the organization and distribution networks requires workflow adaptation. We call this "social business transformation," and it's vital for social success.

How can this transformation happen in the automotive sector? It breaks down into three key areas:

Buy-In From The Top. The more interest and sophisticated understanding of social from senior executives, the more the future of consumer interaction and service becomes a C-level and board-level conversation. Conversations evolve from "social media is important" to "we know what we need to do and how to do it" to "how do we best track and measure progress?"

Tailored Technology and Services Blueprint. A cultural change is critical, so that departments, dealers and sales networks are activated and rewarded to collaborate on and initiate a new customer-loyalty cycle. According to dealers and top marketers in the auto industry, this cultural change is in its infancy, and one size will not fit all. However, the right integrations with existing customer-relations management systems, partner networks and brand-tracking systems will contribute to faster growth. Technology and services required for success will need to extend top-to-bottom and across the organization.

Real ROI Measurement. Measuring numbers of fans, followers and "likes" are not going to cut it in the C-Suite. Instead, social goals must be aligned to business objectives -- benchmarked and measured against Key Performance Indicators -- empowering marketing stakeholders across the auto organization to contribute to social success. Social management that can assign, track and standardize metrics will allow the shift in focus toward long-term goals of message effectiveness, forecasting and overall marketing optimization.

What we have seen so far in automotive's flirtations with social marketing has been great, as far as it goes. But social business transformation in the auto industry must be driven by a much broader mandate to build, manage and measure relationships with customers, wherever they are.

With the right combination of executive sponsorship, technology implementations and visibility, we're likely to see the industry blazing ahead with social in 2013 and beyond.

Michael Scissons is president-CEO of Syncapse, a full-service social-technology company that helps advertisers build, manage and measure connections with consumers in the digital landscape. Find him online at @scissons
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