Social Media Strategy Review: Luxury Auto Brands

LUXURY BRANDS

Unlike other auto brands, the luxury autos carry huge aspirational value, which explains why most of them have a huge following on social media. But is this enough for them to drive sales or even footfalls to their showrooms?

Even with millions of fans, these brands see just a few thousand sales in a quarter. I can understand that it is not feasible to make people buy a car worth Rs 40-50 lakhs just with the help of Facebook updates and hashtag campaigns.

Now the question that arises is, what are these brands actually trying to achieve on social media? In this review, I will make an attempt to gauge the thoughts behind their activities on various social media platforms and try to ascertain their objectives.

The following are the brands I have chosen for this review:

  • BMW India
  • Audi India
  • Mercedes-Benz India
  • SSangYong Rexton India
  • Mini Cooper India
  • DC Design

 

Let’s dive deep into the social media presence of all these brands and see where they all stack up against each other.

Community Building

It is nice to see these brands invest in growing their community size. Considering the aspirational values they hold, it doesn’t come as a surprise that a huge number of people would love to be a part of their community.

On Facebook, Audi has the biggest community (3.3m likes) but has a slow growth rate (1.4%) as compared to its nearest rival, BMW India (2.7m likes), which has been growing at a decent rate (3%) to catch up with Audi.

 increase in fans

 DC Designs, on the other hand, has recorded the fastest growth rate in the segment as it ramped up its fan acquisition from 9th Feb onwards, adding 65000 fans in just 17 days (9th Feb to 26th Feb); it recorded a growth rate of 4.6%.

 fans alerts

I was surprised, however, to see that most of the fans of these brands are people below the age of 21. Very few people were in the age bracket of 30 and above – the ones who actually possess the potential to afford these cars. I feel they should focus on adding more people from the 30+ age group to their community if they want to see some real business results.

On Twitter, these brands saw a huge spike in growth, except for SSangYong Rexton India. BMW recorded the fastest growth as it added almost 50% more followers. Mercedes and Audi, on the other hand, grew by 33% and 25% respectively.

increase in followersThe reason for this rapid growth lies in the recent Auto Expo 2014. These brands took efforts to grow their community as the Twitterverse was riding the Auto Expo wave. And as soon as the buzz around Auto Expo died down, the community growth tapered off.

Rexton failed to catch up with the rest and couldn’t increase its community by a sizable number during this time.

Content Strategy

Owning a huge community is immaterial if you don’t have content that resonates with the people who have joined you. The mere fact that they are a part of your community is because they have an interest in your product and that they like you (I am not talking about fake likes and fake followers here).

Product Oriented Content

All the brands are only busy talking about their cars. From speed to luxury to tyres, you will only see updates that boast of their new cutting edge innovations.

mini cooperWhile direct promotion is necessary, I would also love to see these brands create content which can be shared by their fans.

How about a Facebook game where you can drive a BMW i8 across various cities of India with multiple levels & challenges showcasing its functionality and prowess? Isn’t that more engaging than mundane posts where you only talk about its features?

Non-Sales Content

It seems like branding is the only objective these brands are looking to achieve via social media. The type of content they produce is only aimed at positioning their cars in the way they intend to, but beyond this, there are no attempts at leveraging their social media presence, only BMW India is encouraging users to pre-book cars.

I think an attempt to encourage people to test drive could have been made. In fact, I couldn’t find any single brand sharing the location of their showrooms via an app; something that is very basic.

In all this, I am most surprised by the content shared by DC Design. On one hand, DC Design is acquiring fans like a kid collects G.I. Joes but on the other hand, its content strategy involves sharing images with no copy or call to action as the caption.

Brilliant Creatives. Great Copy.

merc

For someone who loves cars, the images shared by these brands are a treat. You can just sit and ogle at them all day long and the copy on these images is equally good. These brands have some of the sharpest creatives working for them and brands in other sectors should look up to them, especially the ones from the insurance sector.

Silly Contests

While going through the Twitter profile of Mercedes-Benz, I was surprised to see the way it organized hash tag contests regularly just to drum up some buzz. The last week of February saw it holding contests such as #StarInmyLife, #WomenLoveMerc and #MostAwardedLuxuryCar.

 tweets with hashtag

In my opinion, Twitter contests have become the most non-classy way for brands to promote themselves and doesn’t seem apt for a sophisticated brand like Mercedes which oozes class and a high-living personality.

Yet, in all this contest madness, the #MyMercCam campaign by Mercedes was the one that stood out. Giving Twitter users a closer look at the Merc beauties, unveiled in Auto Expo 2014 via short YouTube videos, was a great exercise by Mercedes.

Community Engagement

Now the question arises, is the content strategy discussed above effective enough to drive engagement for the brands? Having the best of images and an innovative contest are only as good as the response they generate.

If you look at the chart below, the average response received by these brands is decent and is something that is expected from such huge communities. The most notable fact here is that BMW, which posted 99 times in February, saw less than a third of its average engagement received by DC Design – which published just 10 updates.

 likes/comments/shares

Even Mercedes, with its 74 posts, couldn’t get an engagement rate as high as that of DC Design.

These are all signs ofDC Design using promoted posts to boost their engagement but since that information is not shared by Facebook, I can only speculate.

However, DC Design’s engagement doesn’t flatter me much because their posting frequency is very low and it only shares photos of its cars with no call to action. The engagement is not bringing forth any added value.

Rexton disappointed again with its performance on Twitter. It hardly managed to engage users. Mercedes is the clear winner on Twitter with regards to engagement. With more than 21000 re-tweets and 555 replies, it is miles ahead of BMW and Audi, in terms of engagement. It has also received the maximum number of mentions (1851) in the period studied.

 retweets/replies/favourites

 

mentions counts

The huge number of mentions that Mercedes received is largely thanks to the contents it ran. This again brings us back to the argument of engagement v/s value-addition. Is engaging the wrong (read, contest hungry) set of crowd the best way to generate engagement? I don’t believe so. What about you? Feel free to share your views in the comments below.

Twitter also saw these brands running hash tag campaigns. Needless to say, they mostly revolved around the Auto Expo. Of these, #mercatautoexpo2014 was the most popular one as it saw a humongous response from users (more than 20000 tweets by users). Since the hash tag was a part of the contest, such a huge number was not unexpected.

tweetsI am not taking anything away from Mercedes here, they have put in a good effort, but such numbers are easy to achieve with the help of a contest.

Customer Service

Unlike Telcos or banks, social media customer service is not of much importance to these luxury car brands since their customers (existing and potential) would prefer a call or a visit instead of a public tweet or wall post.

Nevertheless, their social media team needs to be alert as any customer’s grievance can turn into a crisis; Audi has learned it the hard way after the incident with Vishal Gondal.

As you can see in the chart below, Audi is now taking its customer service over social media very seriously. With a response time of ~30 minutes, it is faster than most of the telcos, BFSI and e-commerce brands who should be more alert, in comparison.

 replies

BMW and Mercedes, on the other hand, take a lot longer to respond to people on Twitter while Rexton doesn’t care to respond at all.

Sentiment Analysis

Audi, BMW and Mercedes, all have an overwhelming positivity around them. With more than 50% positive tweets addressing them, they are the envy of every other brand in the service sector.

sentiment

Mercedes, however, has a little amount of negative tweets around itself which needs to be addressed soon. And having a slow response time is not helping them.

Note: Unmetric’s sentiment analyzer examines all tweets that are directly addressed to a brand and are responded to by them. Since Rexton doesn’t respond to any, it’s difficult to gauge the sentiment around it.

Conclusion

These brands know their branding and creativity. All they need is a proper action plan on how they can leverage their community size. They need to focus on adding more people who fit their “ideal customer” bill and create content that helps them get more sales.

I can see BMW and Mini offer financial services to their customers, but they hardly mention them. In price conscious country like ours, sharing such information on a regular (and interesting) basis helps in converting fans into customers.

I would also hope that Mini, DC Design and SSangYong join Twitter and leverage it the way BMW, Audi and Mercedes have.

 

Analytics support courtesy: Unmetric

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