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Despite the opportunities offered by social media, the UK car industry seems to have been slow to catch onto it as a way of promoting its products and talking to customers.

In the US, brands like Ford, thanks to the efforts of its social media director Scott Monty, have placed a high importance on engaging with customers through social media, yet I can think of very few examples from the UK.

Auto manufacturers have plenty of enthusiastic customers who like to talk about their cars online. For instance, a quick Google search for most automotive marques and you are likely to find a number of websites and forums full of people talking about their passion.

Given this enthusiasm surrounding car brands, it seems odd that the UK auto industry isn't taking advantage of the opportunities to engage with customers, especially since it offers a low cost alternative to other forms of marketing.

So why has the UK car industry not adopted social media?

According to Terry Hogan, co-founder of Motoring.co.uk, the economic growth over the last decade has made it easy to sell cars through dealer networks, finance offers etc, all direct sales channels, whereas social media may be perceived as less immediate and harder to measure, though there are plenty of ways to measure social media success.

He thinks that the impact of the recession on both sales and marketing budgets, as well as the continued popularity of social media will force the industry to take a look at the opportunities offered by social media engagement.

Examples from the US

Ford has been widely praised for its use of social media in the US, and rightly so. Social media director Scott Monty has been active on Twitter and his own blog, and has encouraged the rest of the company, right up to executive level to get involved as well.

The company's has been imaginative in its use of social media to promote its cars. The Fiesta Movement campaign gave 100 new Fiestas to applicants with 'a strong presence on the web' to test drive in advance of its release. 

These 'agents' were encouraged, through monthly 'missions' to blog, Tweet and create videos about the new car, generating a buzz around the product amongst the targeted age group (18-34).

For a relatively small investment, these 100 agents have so far generated plenty of positive mentions on its Twitter account, a Facebook group, as well as a number of videos on YouTube.

It's not just Ford either; GM also has an active presence on Twitter, and a number of blogs for car owners to discuss products, issues and latest news.

Examples from the UK

While there are plenty from the US, I'm struggling to find too many UK examples of social media use.

Nissan's campaign to promote the launch of its luxury brand Infiniti seems to have taken social media into consideration for its marketing strategy, to create a buzz around the launch.

However, the Facebook group, with 560 fans, seems a little bit corporate, while the YouTube videos haven't attracted too many views so far. I may have missed its efforts in other areas, but it doesn't seem to match the efforts of Ford.

The company also seems to have a wasteful and expensive PPC strategy in place, buying ads for the term 'new car' which seems way to broad for what is supposed to be an exclusive product, as well as for its own brand name when it ranks top anyway.

VW's campaign for the new Tiguan is more innovative, with its 'People's Reviewer' competition which has invited people to apply to review the car via YouTube, while there is also a Twitter account linked to the campaign.

UGC on websites

Auto websites could do a lot better too, and could learn from etailers' use of user-generated content to promote their products. Reviews are a proven sales driver, yet no UK car websites offer car reviews from customers.

People will want to do their research online before deciding which car to buy and whether to buy it, and reviews from both 'experts' and users will form part of this research for many customers, providing information on long term reliability. 

If users cannot find this information on manufacturers' or dealer's websites, they'll look elsewhere for it, so why not provide objective user reviews to keep them on the site. Perhaps there is a fear of negative reviews, but showing these reviews will make positive comments more credible and increase customer trust.

Customer service

Social media can also be a great customer service tool, if companies are prepared to get involved and listen to customer complaints.

If your customers have a problem with your car or service, they can easily blog about it, or post negative comments on Twitter, or various forums and message boards, all of which may be picked up by Google and viewed by other prospective customers.

Nissan seems to have had this problem with some of its Navarra models, leading frustrated customers to set up a forum around the issue. After engaging directly with customers on the forum, Nissan seems to have turned the problem around, and you can now find plenty of positive comments about the company on the site.

I'd like to know what people from the car industry think about the issue. Have I missed some great examples of social media use in the UK? Are you working in the auto industry and have an opinion on this? Let me know below...

Graham Charlton

Published 27 August, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (11)

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Automotive may be slow on the uptake but Car Hire is definatly taking up the challenge, take a look e.g. europcar uk's twitter campaign - Hot Summer Tweets


over 7 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Philip,

That's a great example, thanks. Wasn't ignoring it on purpose!

over 7 years ago


Al Cox

Hi there,

Happy to report that Honda is also engaging in social media ... going back as far as the 'Honda to Talk About' blog and the Hondamentalism campaign where the website could be 'broken up' and taken away by visitors (pre widget).

More recently, their was a blog supporting the live Honda Accord 'Jump' advert and the launch of Honda Jazz with a UGC campaign (with Facebook integration) where advocates could share their love of Jazz - ending with a 24 hour customer homepage takeover.

Over the summer we also launched Honda Insight with a live webcam and used a brand character Al_Honeysuckle to provide a human voice for the campaign that visitors could chat to through Twitter.

Al Cox
Head of Strategy

over 7 years ago

Jonathan Moody

Jonathan Moody, Freelance at Language4Communications

From our experience with the automotive sector I think you can say that the European auto sector is a little behind the US on the social media learning curve.

Having said that, there are defintely some examples of brands testing the waters (see above) as they wake up to the role that social media plays in informing purchase decisions. It's a big ticket item and people are prepared to invest the time in order to make the right choice.

The social media available for doing the online equivalent of asking friends, colleagues or family for advice on which car to buy are myriad. Journalist car reviews have their role but potential buyers also want to hear from people who've owned (or at least test-drived) the car for a while - this gives them a more realistic picture of the pros and cons.

Opinions can be subjective but we have definitely noticed consistency regarding perceived strengths and weaknesses of certain models across social media and even across markets.

BTW - Wasn't there a EConsultancy post on car brands using customer reviews in the last couple of months?

over 7 years ago

Jonathan Moody

Jonathan Moody, Freelance at Language4Communications

Just for the record - a recent Facebook initiative from Audi in the US. I wonder if they're considering it for the European market?


over 7 years ago


Nathan McDonald

Hi Graham,

I'm a little late to this post, but I would point out that Ford of Europe have been working with us since September 2008 - http://www.thisisnow.eu is almost one year old.

Although it's not a UK specific campaign, the UK was one of 5 European markets included in the campaign.

We posted a case study back in May if you're interested to know more:

And you may want to stay tuned for some UK campaigns

Nathan McDonald
Managing Partner, We Are Social.

over 7 years ago


kelvin newman

It's a shame it's not easier to think of examples, I mean if ever there was a product that had the potential to be a social object it's a car!

Although I think the examples illustrated demonstrate the potential; for most car manufacturers they should really start by making the websites moderately usable and not unintuitive flash behemoths...

over 7 years ago



I find as a blogger we are often ignored by car companies as a legitimate media outlet which begs the question whether they are genuinely committed to social media or just pay it some attention as a passing fad. I recently attempted to subscribe to the press site of huge German manufacturer and very well known brand. My registration was refused on the basis that they prefer to give material exclusively to media outlets and journalists. That is to say, we weren't to be considered a serious media outlet because we use the blogging medium and apply the "rules" of online communities and blogging (transparent sources, possibility to comment etc.). I was most unimpressed. And fear we have a long way to go yet before companies understand we are a significant part of how the public interprets their brand. I rather wonder what their PR team might have said...



over 7 years ago



How much do you think the landscape has changed since this article was posted in August 2009? Are more UK Car Dealers now embracing social media? We are a newly established website company operating in the Automotive sector listing used cars for sale in the UK (except the price of every car drops daily on the www.ukcarexchange.com website). We are on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites listening to both car buyers and sellers. We are the first to admit that we are not the experts, but we are taking part and enjoying the ride.

about 7 years ago


Car Database


It's a nice example. UK Car industry must have more social media compared to US. It needs to be think about it.


almost 7 years ago


Automotive Blog

Although UK Automotive industry is slower in embracing the Social Media than the US but we are picking up quickly and many of the manufacturers are doing well particularly Vauxhall and Volvo. However, I think many of the car dealers are still sceptical about the Social Media as they associate it with complaints!

over 6 years ago

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