After recalling 8.5 million cars and sending its CEO around the world to apologize, automaker Toyota is in crisis mode. But the company is hoping that a few tweets will help repair some of the damage to its brand.
The Japanese company has partnered with Federated Media to launch a branded channel on TweetMeme to help get control of its reputation back.
Toyota Conversations links to news stories, videos and other information tweeted about the brand. At first, reports came in that Toyota was filtering out some negative content on its Tweetmeme channel.
"You may notice after taking a look at all of the top stories that are being aggregated on the site, that most of the news is positive. That doesn’t seem to match the general tone of the media writing about Toyota, which has been quick to criticize the car company for its manufacturing mistakes. If you take a look at Twitter sentiment app Tweetfeel, the sentiment of Tweets mentioning Toyota lean more negative. Tweetmeme channels can be set up to pick up only certain news sources. It looks like Toyota picked the friendlier ones."
But Matthew DiPietro, director of marketing services at Federated Media, responded to a report from The LA Times:
"Negative stories are not filtered out of Toyota Conversations in any way whatsoever except for offensive content and the like. The channel is based on Tweetmeme's technology, surfacing the most relevant, useful content based on community activity."
And negative stories now on Toyota Conversations help prove that point. More than a few of the links on the site right now point to stories documenting problems with recalled Toyota vehicles that have supposedly been fixed:
If Toyota really is letting unfiltered content onto its channel, it's a pretty brave move. The company received a drubbing after many people were underwhelmed by Toyota President Akio Toyoda's testimony before Congress last month and many are still unhappy with the company.
But Toyota is working hard to redeem itself. The company is currently processing 50,000 returned vehicles daily, according to Chattanoogan.com. That means paying for loaned vehicles, as well as paying rental fees and taxi expenses for customers who are affected.
That's an expense that a competitor — General Motors — is not taking on with the 1.3 million cars that it is currently recalling due to steering problems.
It's going to take a lot more than aggregating real-time info in one place to change consumer sentiment. But if Toyota is willing to devote the kind of work it will take to making sure that those mentions start trending more positively, it could be a good sign. (However, it might have made sense to wait until more mentions were trending their way to get them all in one place.)