Social Media: Another Engagement Avenue for Motoring Brands

Social media doesn’t, as yet, have very wide reach in South Africa, but it still offers the ability to create greater depth in the relationship between the consumer and brands.

For car manufacturers, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter offer a much better relationship-building solution than can be achieved with a typical vehicle website. “Additionally, from a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) perspective, social media provides a platform for one-to-many communication, while at the same time giving clients an opportunity to have personalised conversations with the brand,” says Ben Wagner, Chief Marketing Warrior at NATIVE, the largest independent, fully integrated digital agency in the country.

With these two key considerations, it would be short-sighted for vehicle brands to leave social media out of their marketing campaigns.

“People have changed the way they make purchase decisions,” explains Ben. “Rather than narrowing down their options and making a choice, consumers look at their particular segment and then add and subtract brands according to a number of different factors ranging from service delivery to peer influence, as well as the interaction they may have with a brand within the social media environment.”

Twitter and Facebook profiles therefore play a large part in the decision-making process. Facebook allows for longer, more in-depth conversations, while Twitter is a great response mechanism and is being used more frequently for addressing service queries. Both play a complementary role but should be approached differently.

Ben adds that regardless of the platform used, content has to allow for engagement. “For good consumer interaction, engaging content should be received in context too – it has to fit into your life in a way that is not intrusive but instead adds value. This enables consumers to talk back and participate.”

South African motoring brands are slowly taking to social media, but not any slower than other industries or brands in the country. “The South African market wants to see critical mass first and wants to see examples of successful case studies before cautiously adopting social media. At the moment there are few marketing departments in South Africa that have adequate resources to manage and maximize the feedback that comes out of social media. There are also not many agencies like NATIVE, which offer full community management,” says Ben.

NATIVE provides social media, content creation and web design services to General Motors. Last year Stonewall+ was awarded a bronze Bookmark for its work on the Chevrolet “Hot New Spark” campaign. The agency created a “Thank Spark” microsite, which invited users to create humorous, personalised thank you messages that could be sent to friends via, email, Facebook or Twitter. Rich media banners with similar quirky humour were also created to complement the online and offline campaign.

“We were really pleased with the project. We used humour that appealed to the South African market, ensuring we delivered a localised campaign that would appeal to the audience,” says Ben. “The microsite received more than 20 000 unique visits and resulted in almost 500 test drive bookings.”

Creating content that appeals specifically to the South African market, thereby producing a campaign that resonates with your audience, is key to local social media success. However, if we compare local productions to international campaigns, one key difference is the full integration of all marketing channels.

“There is complete buy-in across the board with media neutrality. In other words no particular medium, whether it’s TV, radio or online, is more important than another. This allows for far better integration and it’s evident in the work produced.

“If you look at any of the successful international campaigns, you’ll see they have one thing in common: they place a high premium on production value. In South Africa many companies end up spending a fortune on television or billboard adverts but then they give little attention and tiny budgets to online channels. All channels should be considered equally important,” concludes Ben.

Written by Robert

Respected Kenyan blogger, tech evangelist, and social justice activist. Robert is known for his hard-hitting articles and opinions disseminated through his Twitter handle @RobertAlai or Facebook page (

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