The impact of a global recession and increasing pressure to reduce carbon emissions are taking their toll on the automotive industry, an industry which has suffered in the last two years in particular, with new car registrations falling again last year. To add to this, public confidence in some of the top car manufacturers has been shaken following recalls from the likes of Toyota, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
But, handled well, these recalls don’t have to have a detrimental impact on the reputation of automotive brands. Earlier this year, BMW took swift action in its voluntary recall of vehicles with faulty braking systems; while its share price took a temporary hit as a result, overall share price was up for the year. Conversely, Toyota saw nine percent wiped off its share price in the wake of recalls. It was widely criticised for not acting quickly enough to recall vehicles affected by allegedly faulty accelerators; and its reputation was badly dented following the much publicised fatal crash of a Lexus in San Diego.
The most social of the automotive brands is Ford, which, as a result, has the highest reputation of all the automotive brands on social media channels
These are the most serious cases, and (of course) how a brand behaves over social media won’t make any difference to the outcome of a (potentially) faulty product. But listening to what people are saying on social media does give a brand a pretty good idea of how its reputation is perceived.
We did some analysis of how the reputations of the top 100 brands in the world are faring on social media. Ten of the top 50 were car brands: Ford, Toyota, Honda, Ferrari, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche.
The most social of the automotive brands is Ford, which, as a result, has the highest reputation of all the automotive brands on social media channels. Ford has long led the way in social media activity, even choosing last year to launch its new Ford Explorer on Facebook, rather than doing a more traditional motor show launch. It garners tens of thousands of references on social media spaces each day, and was named ‘marketer of the year’ in Advertising Age. The company has become something of a case study on creative use of social media, following innovative campaigns including AJ the Fiesta, a car which tweeted its way around America. Ford’s charismatic head of social media, Scott Monty, has become a celebrity of sorts. He has more followers on Twitter than Ford itself.
Porsche…is relatively new to social media, but is investing a huge amount of effort into its customer and fan community
But perhaps the most interesting car brand to watch is Porsche. It is relatively new to social media, but is investing a huge amount of effort into its customer and fan community, focusing its latest social media campaign not on overt marketing messages, but on thanking its Facebook fans. One million of those fans have had their names added to a 911 GT3 R Hybrid, displayed in the Porsche Museum.
It’s hard to attribute sales directly to activity like this, but Porsche – possibly more than any other car brand – understands the importance of inspiring passion and loyalty among drivers, and this kind of social engagement with consumers is a great way to do just that.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.
Steve Richards is the managing director of social media agency Yomego (www.yomego.com)
Yomego produces a Social Media Reputation index of the world’s top brands in social media, available here.
Follow Yomego on Twitter: @YomegoSocial
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