Four ways social media can help brands in the automotive sector


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This was presented at the IAB Automotive Conference on 20th July, 2011.

This presentation looks at the great expectations people have from engaging in social media with automotive organisations.

It identifies some key themes that these organisations should be addressing and highlights some sector activity to date.
Finally, by looking at some non-automotive social media activities, it shares some thoughts on what social media activities automotive organisations should consider undertaking in social media, in the future.

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  • This presentation looks at the great expectations people have from engaging in social media with automotive organisations.It identifies some key themes that these organisations should be addressing and highlights some sector activity to date. Finally, by looking at a selection of non-automotive social media activities, it shares some thoughts on what social media activities automotive organisations should consider undertaking in the future.
  • This presentation was put together by:Iain MacMillan, Director of social media consultancy, RMM. RMM helps organisations use social media to unlock new value from their customer, employee, partner media and investor relationships. It develops social media strategies, pilots innovative social media activities, as well as providing training and support in community management, influencer relations and social media monitoring.RMM works with organisations such as the NHS, Estee Lauder, Diageo, Ladbrokes, Mozilla and Ollerton, Associate Director of digital agency, Skive. Skive are a digitally lead creative agency who run social media campaigns for Vauxhall, Nestlé and Carlsberg.
  • Today’s digitally savvy consumers are more demanding than ever.They want easy access to the highest quality content in new and surprising media, they want to go behind the scenes to personally help build their favourite brands, and after all that, they want relevant rewards for interacting with the brand. In the age of social media, brands must give consumers reasons to believe that the brand narrative is genuine. This requires a greater level of participation, both from the brand and its customers. No longer do consumers want to be told, they want to be shown. This sophisticated audience.
  • Prior to the event, we asked our existing contacts in the automotive industry and the conference attendees for their thoughts on the key business challenges they thought social media could help them solve.
  • This is a top-line summary of their responses.[Note: we obtained additional responses during the event, which will be written up into an additional blog post. You’ll be able to find this on our blog: ]
  • Based on these challenges, we have identified four key ways in which organisations can benefit from the use of social media.
  • Put Simply: people build relationships with people.Social media enables organisations to provide a platform through which their employees (i.e. real people!) can engage with customers – helping the organisation to be more human and open.
  • Some of the most successful organisations in social media have taken this to heart, and always ensure that their employees develop strong profiles within social media.1. Nike Golf Expert Tom Stites. He contributes (along with several other important design individuals) to the excellent Mind’s Behind the Oven Nike golf blog ( 2. Levis: members of the Levi’s team discuss the Levi’s styles that employees are wearing in the office.3. Katie, Senior Category Specialist at Starbucks. She is one of several contributors to the Starbucks UK blog ( which gives updates on new products and a (basic) insight into how the company works.
  • Some automotive brands are already active in this space. Citroen conducted a live chat (in French with English narration on the recording) with key players who designed the new Citroen DS5.Pierre Monferrini (Project Manager), Andy Cowell (Design Manager) and Frederic Soubirou (Exterior designer) engaged in a one hour Q&A session on Facebook, with questions received both in advance and during the event (June 2011).Questions and responses focused on factual, design elements of the vehicle rather than taking the opportunity to explore more compelling information about the team’s process to develop the car.
  • Infiniti extends the relationship made beyond the purchase with their Personal Assistant Concierge Service.Officially terming the service as high level “white-labelled and branded concierge and lifestyle management” Infiniti concierges can deal with car related issues (traffic/route advice etc) but also provide dining recommendations, weather forecasts, book entertainment tickets.This activity is inherently social in its nature – and is a great one-to-one CRM activity. However, by expanding this activity to have a social media element it could become one-to-many (or even many-to-many), thereby helping to generate further recommendations/ advocacy of the ongoing level of service and relationship customers have with the brand.
  • ASDA provides useful and interesting content across a wide range of different social media platforms, including Twitter, their YouTube channel and blogs/communities that highlight what their employees do.Their Aisle Spy blog presents behind the scenes information about products & services (e.g. Steven Fletcher quality inspector visits a strawberry producer and posts a video). Blogs are setup across different topics (e.g. sustainable sourcing)The Green Room community opens up stories, pictures and videos of their employees. As well as showing what the people behind the brand get up to (e.g. cycling to raise money), it publically presents ideas for improving customer service (and how they’re being implemented).
  • Brands need to offer consumers experiences to talk about.There is the opportunity for brands to be publishers, creating content rather than advertising, and to tell their story through that contentThis helps create an ongoing dialogue between car buyers & automotive brands throughout the product lifecycle
  • The Ford Story: a site where Ford contributes articles and enables their customers to share stories about the vehicles they drive – across all models.It typically consists of proud Ford owners shouting about how great their vehicles are (durable, safe etc) – even after 300,000 miles.Some stories garner high interest, e.g. “Where would 800,000 miles in your Mustang take you” – a video about a lady who has driven that far over 42 years generated over 1,500 Shares/Tweets and lead to lots of discussion on the site itself.The target audience for this content is likely to be quite specific – and based around people who love Ford.
  • BT has let the country decide on the couple’s future by voting online. Fans also had the chance to put forward their ideas on what should happen next, to scriptwriters on BT’s online forum.Suggestions ranged from Jane having sextuplets, to the more bizarre plot-line of aliens abducting their family.More than 1.6 million votes were cast to decide the outcome of the cliff-hanger, with 70% voting for Jane to be pregnant.David James, the marketing director for BT Retail's consumer division, said: "This was a completely new approach for BT and a first on this scale in the UK. We have been blown away by the massive response, which reflects the interest people take in the BT family storyline."The full ad, as well as a number of bloopers from filming can be viewed at
  • Brands can stay front of mind by using social media to be useful – via the provision of tools and services that meet their customers’ needs.
  • As Rory Sutherland said:
  • FIAT’s Eco-drive app enables users to see how efficiently they are driving through analysis of data that is gathered around factors such as fuel consumption. The website also provides lots of useful hints and tips about improving efficiency and provides data collated from users around overall savings.There is potentially a missed opportunity to provide more engagement with and between this community of users. The community element of the site is not developed and there is no focal point for engagement with users – e.g. to capture their tips on efficiency, how they have performed.
  • is just one example of an Alfa Romeo owners’ community, engaging in conversation around technical issues and brand-related developments. The community offers information across topics such useful tips around maintenance, buyers’ guides and wheel calculators.Alfa Romeo do not run their own community, but provide a list of owners clubs from their website.Brands have the opportunity to support these communities by providing content, expertise or access, that it solely possesses – with a view to helping the members of these communities meet their shared goals.
  • Nike are famous for providing their customers with value-add tools and services.Nike Running, for example, provides runners with a platform and the resources to train more effectivelyNike plus has over 2 million community members all engaging with the brand every time they log into upload their run data.These users have collectively logged over half a billion kilometres run. The community provides content that users of all different levels, at all different stages will use repeatedly over time – bringing people back to the hub.
  • Waze is a social mobile application providing free navigation based on the live conditions of the road.As users drive, they feed back real-time data (automatically) which is collated and enables the identification of traffic jams etc – that the users can then react to.Real-time information is pushed to the user about what they’re doing (i.e. their journey), rather than them having to request it. The tool is just getting started in the UK – obviously the more users, the better the quality of the service that’s provided.There are opportunities for existing automotive brands to ideate, create and disseminate these types of services to their customers, or even to the public in general.
  • Numerous brands are using social media as a way to help them innovate collaboratively – with their employees, partners and customers.Most famously, Dell created the IdeaStorm platform and Starbucks created My Starbucks Idea – to enable them to ask for their customers thoughts, filter the best and action their feedback.The most famous example in the automotive sector is probably the FIAT MIO crowd-sourced prototype
  • Volkswagen’s “App My Ride” contest enabled designers, programmers, developers and interested users to submit an idea for a new in-car infotainment application across different categories. 388 ideas and 96 apps were submitted. App ideas were voted on by the community to create a short-list for a panel of judges from the brand.The winning developer was invited to a special VW vehicle reveal along with a cash prize, plus their was the prize of a work-placement position in the research team for a student winner.However, there is no evidence of the app being formally developed or used.Collaborative innovation should be an on-going process - not just act as a marketing-initiated competition.
  • Local Motors enables their online community to define the finer details of product design A number of designs are developed and submitted by their online community. Designs which receive the most votes are then put forward to co-creation where extra details are also decided by the community.After building the car, the experience continues, as modding information (go faster stripes, chassis skins etc) is available for download and purchase through the community.The idea is targeted at a niche market of enthusiasts, but enables extremely rich relationships to be developed, as beyond the co-creation stage, users take part in actually building the vehicles, by going one of the company’s micro-factories and helping out with the construction process. Around 150 cars made so far, at a cost to the owners of $59,000.
  • Lego have invited their community to submit designs for Lego toys, built using their existing collection of Lego pieces. Designs are shown on the Lego Cuusoo website and community members can vote on the designs they would like to purchase. When a design reaches 10,000 votes, Lego will commit to create a run of that product for community members to buy. Fans have uploaded more than 700,000 videos of their creations to YouTube and have attended 180 "Brickworld" Lego events in 30 countries.Lego will share revenue for Cuusoo-created products, paying designers 1 percent of revenue for products. The sets will be sold in the Lego online shop and through Lego brand retail outlets.
  • The Kaiser Chiefs allowed their fans to decide the tracks and running order for their fourth album “The Future Is Medieval”. Fans could listen to preview snippets from 20 tracks before choosing 10 and if they wished creating their own artwork. Fans could then share their album configuration and for each friend who purchased their version they received a reimbursement of £1. Enabling fans to curate the content of the album generates a talking point around the selection they have made. Every time the users listens to the album there is a reminder of the activity/experience they had in creating it, helping build a stronger relationship with the band.
  • To recap, here are four opportunities that social media presents to automotive brands, which might help meet their business challenges.
  • A few final thoughts:The real opportunity for organisations is to be inherently social – to participate in online activities with their employees, partners and customers.Therefore, we should be primarily interested in measuring the number of relevant actions performed by our target audience – fans and followers are simply a means to this end.The method for measuring the ROI of social media activity will depend on which business teams benefit from the activity. Social media can help meet the objectives of customer service, marketing, operations, R&D, PR and HR teams.At its heart, social media enables these teams to build stronger and deeper relationships with their stakeholders. As a result, their emphasis should be on developing, and committing to, long-term social media programs.
  • Four ways social media can help brands in the automotive sector

    1. 1. Great Expectations<br />
    2. 2. Social Media Council<br />
    3. 3. The expectations of today’s ‘social’ consumer<br />
    4. 4. What is the challenge?<br />Audience participation time!<br />
    5. 5. What is the challenge?<br />Strengthening and deepening relationships<br />Developing ongoing dialogue<br />Increasing demand and desire via the power of recommendation<br />Improving collaboration and communication between the OEM, NSO and dealers<br />
    6. 6. Be more open and human<br />Tell great stories <br />How?<br />Be useful and relevant<br />Innovate collaboratively <br />
    7. 7. Be more human<br />and open<br />
    8. 8. Developing experts & personalities in social<br />Nike Golf expert Tom Stites, <br />Director of Product Creation, <br />blog from<br />Levi’s shares the styles of their team on Facebook, such as Ibby from PR <br />Katie L, Senior Category Specialist, blog from <br />
    9. 9. Citroen: providing insight into employee experiences<br />
    10. 10. Infiniti Concierge: shift from CRM to social CRM<br />
    11. 11. ASDA: tailoring content to different audiences<br />
    12. 12. Tell <br />great <br />stories<br />
    13. 13. Ford: giving owners a reason to share stories <br />
    14. 14. Adam and Jane<br />
    15. 15. Be Useful<br />Be relevant<br />
    16. 16. “It’s easier to be repeatedly useful that repeatedly entertaining”<br />
    17. 17. Fiat Eco-drive: using data to drive community<br />
    18. 18. Alfa Romeo: the role of the brand in owner communities<br />
    19. 19. Nike Running: resource hub<br />
    20. 20. Waze: UG real-time map from social start-up<br />
    21. 21. Innovate collaboratively<br />
    22. 22. Volkswagen: One-off, crowd-sourced infotainment app<br />
    23. 23. Local motors: new model co-creation<br />
    24. 24. Lego:Crowd-sourceddesign & profit share<br />
    25. 25. Kaiser Chiefs: crowd-sourcing an album<br />
    26. 26. To recap<br />Be more open and human<br />Tell great stories <br />Be useful and relevant<br />Innovate collaboratively <br />
    27. 27. Fans and followers are only a means to an end<br />Knowing the value of a ‘like’ doesn’t prove the ROI of social media<br />Social media is about building long-term relationships<br />Focus on long-term community programs, not campaigns<br />
    28. 28. Iain MacMillan, Director, RMM<br />@RMM_LDN,<br />Tom Ollerton, Associate Director, Skive<br /> @mrtomollerton,<br />