For Toyota, and most certainly for every automaker, a big part of social media marketing is talking to bloggers. Especially with autos, among certain groups and within certain portfolio segments (trucks and sports cars, and now electric cars for instance), one sees the same kind of passion and loyalty that one sees in sports. Because of that, it's critical to talk to enthusiasts with a following, who know about cars and trucks and have strong opinions. They may not write for well-known vertical publications, but they wield as big a stick now that people get more product information from blogs and review sites than from any offline channel.
Last year, Toyota ran a program with social media agency Clever Girls Collective mining the agency’s network of some 8,000 bloggers. Florence Drakton, social media marketing manager at Toyota Motor Sales, tells Marketing Daily that the company used the platform to pitch the whole lineup with a focus on Prius. She says this year the plan is to do more programs with individual bloggers for products like the Sienna minivan. "We have an ongoing relationship with both male and female bloggers, through both public relations and marketing."
She adds that the strategy is focused not just on product review bloggers attending pre-launch test drives, but also on lifestyle writers and sponsored programs aimed at getting their take on how Toyota vehicles and the Toyota brand fit what they write about.
"We focus a lot of marketing on Toyota-managed social channels, but we also recognize bloggers as an important part of our ability to extend our reach, especially if [their interests and fan base] are aligned with the brand. We try to find relevancy."
The goal, she says, is to give bloggers the types of experiences, access, and offline events programs that allow them to write what's most authentic to their audiences. “We give them access to executives, product people, information, data, history and then we leave it up to them to write their impressions."
She says the company is putting more focus on blogger programs in general. "We have been learning a lot, even though we don't have an organized program right now. We are looking to the future to be a lot more active; we will be doing a lot more activity in upcoming months."