This series all started when I asked people whether social media works in the automotive industry. Well, yes and no. I then offered my generalised social media DOs and DON’Ts for car companies. I also promised a case study, one of the companies that I love, and one that I don’t think does social very well – Alfa Romeo.
So here goes….. my thoughts on how Alfa Romeo could do better with their online social presence and build customer loyalty.
Part 1 will take a look at Alfa Romeo’s current social media assets.
Part 2 will introduce what I think is the centerpiece of a successful social presence for a car company.
Part 3 will look at the structure you can build around that hub.
A quick look at Alfa Romeo’s social presence
A quick search on Facebook under Alfa Romeo is a good early indicator of some of the mess going on here.
Alfa Romeo currently has numerous official pages on Facebook. There’s the official page from company HQ in English and Italian, but you can also see separate model pages for the 4C and the 159 as well as country pages for England, Finland and other spots as well.
The Finnish page is only updated sporadically. The Brits do a much better job with some great, interesting content in place, as does the HQ page. I am sure there are other national pages to be found, but the quick search above provides enough results to point out the flaws.
Alfa Romeo also have a place called the Social Net Wall. The intention was to aggregate content from other outlets into one place. In reality, it’s a fairly jumbled up continuous timeline of Facebook comments, presumably from people who have registered on the Wall and then commented on Alfa’s Facebook page. They’re on to something there (i.e. building community) but my feeling is that the Social Net Wall probably cost them a bundle but receives very few visits. I joined up ages ago and haven’t visited again since. I can’t even remember my credentials any more. I suspect many, many others are in the same boat. And the big question – Why visit the Social Net Wall when you’re on Facebook anyway?
Twitter – there are more Alfa Romeo national accounts on Twitter than you can poke a stick at, but no official account from HQ that I could see.
Youtube – There are several national Alfa accounts serving up videos of varying quality. There are also accounts for the MiTo and Giulietta. Once again, as with Twitter, there is no official Alfa Romeo centralised account on Youtube.
Tumblr – Nothing official from Alfa Romeo, but there are plenty of Alfa pics being shared by others.
Google + – There’s an Alfa Romeo UK page prominent in search results, and an “Alfa Romeo Cuore Sportivo” page as well, though that one looks unofficial.
There are other services I could check – Pinterest, Instagram, even professional services such as Linked In. Those listed above are the main ones right now, however, and this post is intended to cover the basics rather than the intricacies of a full social campaign.
So what’s wrong with all of this?
I have mixed feelings about Facebook to begin with.
To me, interacting with a company on Facebook is sort of like seeing a street performer. You get small bits and pieces of entertainment and you might even find one or two of them memorable. More often, though, it’s five minutes of your day where you’ve been entertained and you’ll forget who it was just as quickly as the details of any other five minutes of your day.
Personally speaking, I’d rather spend 2 hours in a theatre with Billy Connolly. People will happily take small bits of entertainment but given the choice, most would choose substance over snippets in the long term.
And that’s what riles me about Facebook. Yes, it’s where a company’s customers hang out so they have to be there, but I question the value that companies get from their Facebook presence (and I’m absolutely flabbergasted by the sums of money companies like General Motors are willing to throw at agencies to maintain their presence there – $20 million, in GM’s case!)
When a car company communicates with fans on Facebook, they’re competing for that fan’s attention in what is ultimately a losing battle. Yes, I like Alfa Romeo’s product but if I’ve got 10 minutes in my afternoon to check Facebook and there are three photos of my new great-nephew, Henry, then I’m spending my time with Henry and other friends every time. People do interact with companies like Alfa Romeo when they’ve got more time, but it’s mostly a short-form exchange and each one has relatively little ongoing value.
So, in my opinion, the whole platform is flawed to begin with. You can double the importance of that flaw if you’re in the car industry because it’s a long-cycle business that needs long-term loyalty from its customers.
Take that flawed platform and add in Alfa Romeo’s fractured approach. First, there are short-form stories that don’t build relationship with fans, as well as numerous national pages (UK, Finland, etc) and model pages (e.g. MiTo, Giulietta). All of a sudden people are getting their short-form Alfa Romeo content from numerous places, with varying emphases and in most instances, very little coherence.
The good part is that they’re reaching people in some way. The bad part is that it can lack strategy, it does much less than it could to build fan loyalty and it can be devoid of a uniform marketing or PR message.
I’ve focused on Facebook here because it’s the most prominent, the most visible of Alfa Romeo’s social efforts. It’s their centerpiece, despite the existence of the (IMO) redundant “social net wall”. In the next part of this series, I’ll talk about the beginnings of what I think should be their social hub, what they can do with it and how they can use other platforms like Facebook to support and extend their interaction, rather than be the entire basis for it.