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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.

TechCrunch wrote:

"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:

Think Your Recalled Toyota Is Fixed? Maybe Not - The Consumerist

Toyota’s fix not working, some owners say - Autos- msnbc.com

Report: Toyota owners experience unintended acceleration after recall fix

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.)

Image: Toyota

Meghan Keane

Published 3 March, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

721 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

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All Publicists

Do you know if anyone at Toyota has created a tool to measure its new social media expenditure's effect on its brand?  As far as I can recall, this is the first time a major company is using social media in order to REPAIR its brand as opposed to promoting it.

over 6 years ago

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Kris

AdAge says that since the recall Toyota's Facebook fanbase is up 10%, implying somehow that folks are coming around. But the reality is that 10% equates to a sum total of 8,000 new fans, a mere 1 tenth of 1% of the actual # of cars recalled. While social media will certainly help Toyota's perceived transparency, it will take a lot more than tweets and Facebook pages to swing the pendulum the other way. I also recently blogged on Toyota's social media efforts, would welcome your thoughts. Great post.

over 6 years ago

Jonathan Moody

Jonathan Moody, Freelance at Language4Communications

If Toyota really wants to know how people perceive both the technical problem and how Toyota is dealing with it, they need a thorough audit of all the spaces on the web across their markets where these things are being discussed. That's more than Facebook and Twitter. The TweetMeme channel is a good idea that they should have considered as a source of potential insight and engagement even before this current crisis kicked off. However, there are myriad channels for people to express their experiences and perceptions, all of which can influence Toyota's reputation. I somehow doubt that those will be trending positive at present although that may well change as Toyota's not unconsiderable efforts gain traction and as other auto brands' skeletons come out of the closet/cupboard (see GM above and recently emerging alleged issues with Nissan). Like most brands, Toyota needs to reach out to the places and people influecing their reputation. The TweetMeme channel is a solid part of this but there are many other media (which vary from market to market, language to language) where they need to be seen and heard to be addressing the concerns. You need to perceive before you can participate to protect and project.

over 6 years ago

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tester

Testing to see how this is working with amplify

over 6 years ago

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