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The days of going to a dealership to "talk" about cars are entering a dinosaur phase. Car manufacturers are successfully using Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest to "reach" car buyers. I reached out and talked to Volkswagen of America and Ford Motor Company on their use social networking.
VW launched Why VW (www.whyvw.com) in September 2012 as a platform to address their social communities. Leigh Anne Sessions, product and brand communications for Volkswagen of America, explained, "WhyVW.com is a social media-based storytelling platform that enables Volkswagen owners and enthusiasts to share their VW experiences and explore those contributed by others within a branded environment."
Scott Monty, global head of social media at Ford (www.social.ford.com) noted, "We try to align our influencer work with niches that reflect our major pillars: green technology, fashion and design, parents and more. It's important to us that we go beyond the automotive segment and look to other verticals where people aren't necessarily thinking about Ford," he explained.
Ford Social started up in December 2008. "We developed it to help tell Ford's story when we were testifying in Congress during the financial crisis, as we needed to set ourselves apart from the other domestic automakers," explained Monty. "Over time, the site evolved to be a fan site, as we added sections for people to tell their own Ford stories."
So what is social media to auto manufacturers? I put the following questions to VW and Ford:
What is the purpose of your page?
Ford: The goals with all of our social media efforts are to support our communications and marketing goals, to improve Ford's reputation and help build purchase consideration. We know that people trust people like themselves, so we try to develop ideas that will resonate with people that they'll want to share, rather than how we put ads on our social sites.
What types of fun initiatives have you created?
VW: When we launched the Why VW Stories, we partnered with the PopTent creative community to source videos from real-life Volkswagen owners and enthusiasts talking about their cars. One example is "A Rabbit, A Farm, and a Story of Success." In the early 1980s, Bob Macleod and Steve Byckiewicz founded a successful business with the use of a trusty Rabbit Diesel.
Ford: As we've continued to see our fans and advocates take part in the discussions we've noted that there is a top tier who are the most active. We've given them opportunities to join us at auto shows as citizen journalists and to meet our executives.
VW: Volkswagen is in the business of selling cars, but we feel that it's really important to connect with the owners and enthusiasts that have been loyal to our brand since we first started importing cars to the United States. So while there will always be content that supports our business objectives, our primary motivator is to have fun, connect with our fans and talk about the cars that they have invested a lot of time and money in.
Ford: That's not why the site exists. On average, people look at 18 or 19 pieces of research or sites before they make a car-buying purchase. We work hard to ensure that somewhere along the way they come across Ford content in a social context because we know that people talk to friends, family members and colleagues about what they're interested in buying; word-of-mouth matters. We're simply working hard to ensure that people are talking about Ford and the site supports that effort.
Does social media outreach help sell your vehicles?
VW: We have not mapped back social media efforts to sales performance. With that said, there have been enough studies on the power of word-of-mouth recommendations and online influence for us to feel comfortable communicating with current, previous and potential owners via social media.
Ford: Most of our efforts in social media are aimed at the high end of the funnel: awareness and consideration. Social media is fundamentally more about relationships rather than selling.
-- Holly Reich, Motor Matters
Manufacturer Photos: 2013 Ford Fusion Launch: A game of 'Red Light-Green Light' highlights the fuel-saving technology, Auto Start Stop, which is available on the 2013 Fusion.
Ford president and CEO, Alan Mulally and celebrity host Ryan Seacrest introduced America's most fuel-efficient midsize sedan, the all-new 2013 Ford Fusion, at an event in Times Square.
NASCAR star Trevor Bayne, center, poses with the breast cancer survivors from Charlotte during the Ford Fusion EcoBoost Warriors in Pink Fuel Economy Challenge.
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Copyright, Motor Matters, 2013