Social media is a constant challenge and opportunity for automakers. As Erich Marx, Nissan’s director of interactive and social media puts it, if ROI is a bit unclear, the COI — cost of ignoring — is huge.
In a report from the CMO Council sponsored by digital firm Hoojook with Global Fluency, automakers sounded off about how they are using social media and the challenges they are facing in doing so.
Automakers say they need brighter data flashlights to figure out who’s in the room, how to identify them as potential customers, and the right social content delivery vehicles, and how to reach the right customer at the right time with the right message.
Social channels have a lot of upside for car companies, and in spite of efforts to experiment with Vine and other channels, Facebook still reigns. As Rob Milne points out in the report, social is important channel for building brand appeal, supporting new product launches and building deeper connections with owners and fans.
He said Kia doesn’t really look at social as a direct sales tool “because people are not looking to be sold to on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter,” he said. “Social media is more about building a connection with our owners and fans. People are on social looking for content that relates to them, helps them become more involved with the brand and gives them a deeper connection.”
Dave Murray, EVP of Global Fluency, tells Marketing Daily that one of the sentiments the company picked up on is marketers' caution about being too heavy-handed about reaching out with sales messages through owned social channels. "One big challenge they see is that, yes, this is a powerful channel to build preference and drive purchase but in terms of identifying and engaging business leads, there are significant challenges. We think social analytics will solve that problem."
But Surendra Arora, EVP products and markets at Hoojook, says developing good analytics is a work in progress. "The technology that exists now is more relevant to listening and monitoring and pure metrics. Analytics is not fully fleshed out. That's exactly a gap we are trying to address. What we have tried to do is take the data from social sites and apply psychometric behavioral filter in order to come up with accurate analysis."
She says that right now social analytics is being used to understand brand sentiment, effectiveness of campaigns and messages, and to identify trends and challenges. "We think analytics can be applied in a more granular way to get clarity on where individual consumers are in the purchase cycle, for engagement with the right message."
George Haynes, Kia’s digital and social media manager, said in the report that it is the challenger auto brands like his that are being more aggressive on social and maybe taking more risks. One thing that Korean auto brand is doing is a program called KiaKey.com, a place where customers can earn "miles" for being brand advocates on social channels. Kia, he notes, also has a program in place to help dealers navigate and manage their presence on the social media landscape. Kia isn't alone; at this point it's a good bet that every OEM is doing likewise (e.g., Ford Direct).
Jim Vurpillat, director of global marketing for Cadillac, said the automaker uses social for brand building, consumer engagement, and consumer research. He said Cadillac is engaging both current owners and luxury car enthusiasts around product and lifestyle.“A high percentage of our fans are not Cadillac owners, but they give us ideas and are a big part of luxury aspiration. The longer we can keep our fans engaged with a high opinion of our brand and talking about it on the social stage, the better it is for us because it furthers the idea of aspiration.”