Social media at Alfa Romeo – Part 1 – Overview

Facebook Alfa Romeo

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.

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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.

The 159 page listed above is unofficial but the 4C does indeed have an official page, as does the MiTo and Giulietta.

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?

Other services?

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.

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8 Comments

  1. There is no Alfa Romeo, and consequently, no need for social media :-((

    The last hope may indeed be that the brand name is bought by Volkswagen. Fiat is ruining what is left.

    1. No need to be so cynical, Thyl. The 8C and 4C provide some hope, I think, that Fiat might be looking to bring Alfa Romeo back to where it belongs. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if the 4C delivers the drive that it’s looks promise (the 8C didn’t fully deliver, apparently). The Giulietta is a very nice effort, too. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

      1. Sorry, didn’t want to sound so cynical. As long as Fiat uses Alfa as a styling brand, and intends to sell Chryslers with Alfa logo, I do not think that there is something that reflects what Alfa stands for. Lightweight cars, high rpm engines, excellent suspension, low drag due to low profile. All those are features that cannot be obtained by using off-the-shelf components. They need to be engineered from the ground up. The 159 did not reflect the above concept, and apparently was rejected by the Alfa buyers, despite being a more durable and somewhat bigger car than the 156. But the weight was inacceptable to many, and the aerodynamics was worse (a bit the same situation we had with the 9-3 I versus the 9-3 II SC).

        Successors for the 166, 159, and the Spider have been announced for years, and I will only believe Fiat when I see those in person 😉

        Since you are more deeply involved in the car industry, I presume that you have studied the Giuiletta in real life. My impression however differed. I found it to be good looking on photographs, but much less so in metal, and the interior design (more important to me) was also sub-optimal. And I am not alone in this opinion. Only the MeTo is good design, imho. But again, style over substance.

        Maybe, Fiat can trick US buyers into buying the new Chrysler/Mazda Alfa rebadgements. I am very sceptical regarding its European home market.

        1. Thyl, I think you’re right here. Alfa has been too much style over substance in the last two decades. But I still think there’s room for optimism. I haven’t studied the Giulietta up close as yet, but it does look like an attractive vehicle and reports have given it better marks for the driving experience than some previous Alfas. My main hope comes in the form of the 4C and 8C (even if the 8C still copped some punishment from the critics for not driving as good as it looks).

          Hopefully things can get better. It’s still a very attractive company to me, making some very attractive cars. If they can infuse a bit more of their historical formula through the 4C then it’s a positive thing.

  2. I am pretty much done with Facebook when it comes to following companies. Most of it is just advertising and discussions on there are just mostly short messages nobody really cares about. I just use if for keeping up with family and friends these days. Facebook is mostly fluff, not a serious way to interact with customers. But perhaps that’s just me. 🙂

  3. Probably the thing that impresses me the most from a car manufacturer is to find
    a user run forum (nothing to do with the company) and to find representative from the company posting announcements , helping with user’s problems.

    Imagine 25 people posting to the forum; “hey my car has this xyz problem”, and a company representative replying that “no, its not just your car or your dealer” and the company is coming out with a fix to help all. All too often one takes their car in for a common problem that everyone is having and the company and dealers make one feel its isolated problem with their vehicle.

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