As the marketing power of social media grows, it no longer makes sense to treat it as an experiment. Leaders in the automotive industry should not only harness social media to shape consumer decision making in predictable ways but they should better understand its power. Executives certainly know what social media is. After all, if Facebook users constituted a country, it would be the world’s third largest, behind China and India. Executives can even claim to know what makes social media so potent: its ability to amplify word-of-mouth effects. Yet the vast majority of executives have no idea how to harness social media’s power. Companies diligently establish Twitter feeds and branded Facebook pages, but few have a deep understanding of exactly how social media interacts with consumers to expand product and brand recognition, drive sales and profitability, and engender loyalty.

A few weeks back I wrote about why General Motors social media strategy is so powerful, which I took a look at this legendary car manufacturer and how they’ve managed to transform its digital presence through expertly tailoring its content and connecting to each social channel’s audience with authentic engagement and a suitable tone of voice. Did General Motors just launch out into the deep with it’s social strategy net and hope to come up big or did they in fact see the movement of the consumer shopping journey and proactively make themselves relevant in the social space?

sm-questionmark-237x300Automotive companies have quickly learned that social media works but yet there are still many OEM brands who are only scratching the surface of its potential. One reason I believe is that they really don’t understand their customers as well as they think they do. The reason I say this and if you research most automotive brand social sites, you’ll find they’re still talking to customers and not with customers. Manufactures are so monolog driven and despite response models and community managers, they are still talking to customers and not with customers. I believe if we want to get the amplification we desire from social, we must start communicating with our fans. It isn’t a simple poll or question post. That doesn’t do it! We need to invite them in with our content. We need to create new ways for people to interact with the brand. Remember, a huge percentage of people on Facebook are lurkers.

The other thing is that brands are not connecting to their customers. Social media should evoke emotions. The stories that generate the most interest are either emotionally powerful or really funny and it’s sad to see so many car manufacturers’ that are not effectively doing either of these things. We do not make them laugh or emotionally connect with them because we are so busy selling. Because we lack this resonance, they are not reading our content and skipping over us. Certainly, being ignored is a marketer’s worst nightmare. So, stop selling and start seeking smart ways to infuse personality, emotion, or humor into your brand. Key word there: “smart”. Make sure it fits the brand.

Just my thoughts, feel free to share your comments.

– Christopher L. Robinson