While most industries are trying to figure out what Social Media can do for them, the automotive industry has been involved in social media as early as 2001 (possibly even earlier). In fact most manufacturers were involved whether they liked it or not. The reason for the forced involvement had to do with car enthusiasts who had passion for specific automotive models and brands. Using “car love” as the common bond, millions of visitors would join various “closed communities” (bulletin boards) and engage in conversation with each other across the world. This opened the communication doors between the manufacturer and the owner. This also provided an opportunity for people like me to start a “closed community” and provide enthusiasts with something that they couldn’t find anywhere else. Hence the start of EvolutionM.net.
Unfortunately social media at that time was looked at as a negative because companies weren’t ready to hear what the customer had to say, especially if it were negative about their product. Even to this day, a few automotive manufacturers are still reluctant to utilize social media to its fullest, cough..Toyota…cough.
Even with the exposure to social media for nearly a decade, I feel the Automotive industry still has a way to go to fully embrace what the online community has to offer. A great example of lack of use is in product development. All you have to do is pick up the latest issue of Road & Track to see my point. The majority of cars that come out seem to miss the mark with the intended customer, however, if you look closely there are a few that seem to get it. GM is a great example of a company embracing more social interactions online with their blogging efforts. The end result, their Camaro for the first time in 16 years has outsold the Mustang. A company which was once in bankruptcy is slowly pulling themselves out.
So what’s my point? I have two:
1. Social Media is a long term marketing solution to help improve a company’s product and brand by interacting with the intended customers. It is NOT a short term sales solution. If it is treated as such, the ROI for your efforts will be ridiculously bad. Even with more than a decade of interaction, the Automotive Industry is still trying to tackle Social Media
2. Social Media is NOT a one-size-fits-all channel and every company needs to develop its own identity online. Having a custom tailored strategy for your company’s social media campaign is vital for success.
Every company needs feedback from their customer to become better. Open the lines of communication and embrace Social Media in a way that fits your company’s personality. If done correctly, your company will be here to stay for the long haul.