Toyota social media case study for 'less successful' auto manufacturers

Toyota Conversations opened up as a TweetMeme channel, in addition to COO Jim Lentz making a first-ever corporate executive appearance on Digg Dialogg. Both of these venues established an image for Toyota: Lentz, the face of the brand.

In just a few days, the Digg show provided millions of viewers for Toyota, and the TweetMeme platform continually supplies fans with answers and the company with insights.

Toyota-philes are contacted and then asked to tweet, post blogs, and make YouTube videos about their experiences with Toyota. This is another “free” method of spreading a message in social marketing. Often, brand enthusiasts do this without being contacted; but personally contacting customers warrants a heightened response from those eager to be activated for a cause.

Since the boom in Toyota’s social marketing campaign, which began a few years ago, its traffic has come from third party sites (nearly 50%). Whereas before, nearly all of its traffic was generated from, or from search engines. This 50% is in addition to the previous presence of Toyota online, and not merely a shift of current fans from one source to another.

Toyota's most recent social media success was with the Twitter chat that Lentz hosted the day after the Prius reveal at the 2011 North American International Auto Show. Using the hashtag #PriusDetroit, Lentz addressed fans and customers' questions and concerns, as well as questions about Entune and the future of fuels.


They also announced the Prius poll that they were conducting, encouraging users to cast their vote for the plural version of Prius.


Toyota’s success in social media involves viral videos on YouTube, featuring celebrities like Bob Burnquist; Facebook fan page incentives like Toyotathon Shareathon, which also interacted with Twitter; and live appearances on programs, from NBC’s Today to NPR.

So what has Toyota done right?

  • Jim Lentz has proved that Toyota customers and fans are important to him by being the face of many social network endeavors.

  • Toyota has had various campaigns where the consumers were asked to input their opinion, giving them a deciding voice in the outcome (like the Prius Plural Poll ... say that three times fast!)

  • The company hasn't stuck to a "tried and true" method because it's afraid to venture further. From Digg Dialoggs to Twitter chats, it's always up for something new to reach fans.

I think plenty of other car manufacturers can take note of Toyota's success. It's come up with great interactive and engagement campaigns, and has utilized the appropriate networks for reaching its audience in a fun, yet "brand representing" way.

Reaching more than 106 million readers, video viewers, and customers with its social media campaign, Toyota is a perfect case study for other big brands.

Though Ford and GM have also been set aside for their social marketing success, Toyota alone is successful in spite of minor setbacks and brand misconceptions. Toyota has proven it can weather any storm (including the recalls last year), and come out of it with an entire (Prius) family intact and stronger than ever.

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