How Auto Brands Can Rev Up Engagement With 360 Media

Opinion: Should auto brands bother with 360 content? What’s the return on investment?

How can auto brands effectively use 360 photos and videos?
VanderWolf-Images/iStock

Facebook introduced 360 videos and photos with the aim to let people share a “more immersive view of the world.” This innovation was met with enthusiastic participation from marketers, and to date, brands have published more than 28,000 posts that contain 360 media.

Take a look at the sector-wise split of 360 content for North American brands:

Ranked by volume of content published globally, auto brands occupy the third position.

However, based on a sample of content from the U.S. profiles of the top 15 car brands, the amount of 360 content being published has declined.

Between June and December 2016, Audi, Buick, Chevrolet, Dodge, Honda, Hyundai, Jeep, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Peugeot, Porsche, Rolls Royce, Toyota and Volkswagen posted 35 pieces of content with 360 media. This plummeted to 17 between January and August of this year.

This prompts the questions: Should auto brands bother with 360 content? What’s the return on investment?

Why 360 videos and photos?

The strongest reason for auto brands to continue creating 360 media is the huge boost in engagement it brings. 360 content posted by these brands through the end of August has generated more than twice the interactions per post brought in by their other posts on average.

Here’s a more detailed split of interactions per post brought in by 360 content vis-à-vis the overall numbers:

In addition to lending audiences an immersive experience, 360 content demands greater audience interaction. They have to click around the photo and video. Whether the greater interactions received by this format is because of its novelty has yet to be seen in the coming years.

How can auto brands effectively use 360 photos and videos?

  • Give virtual demos: Most consumers will want an actual test drive before buying a car. But in the online research stage, customers can get a virtual experience and check out the car’s different features with 360 content. This medium allows customers to mentally put themselves into the driver’s seat, which creates a greater feeling of authenticity as people get to look around for themselves. Here’s a great example from Mercedes-Benz USA:
  • Give audiences the feel of a major event: This application of 360 content allows brands to cover events such as races and expos in an immersive way. Porsche brought in 2016 Le Mans winner Marc Lieb to show its audiences how it would be to drive a 919 Hybrid on the Circuit de la Sarthe, where the Le Mans was set to happen:
  • Let your audience be part of your projects: Auto brands can use 360 content—and especially its virtual reality adaptation—to let their audience feel like they’re part of the things that the brands are up to. This could be details on what the brands have in store in terms of updates on existing products, their plans for totally new ones or something as imaginative as what Rolls Royce did below. One of the most engaging examples of 360 content published by auto brands was Honda’s initiative last Christmas. It was able to give children who were confined to the hospital during Christmas a virtual tour of Candy Cane Lane.

Your 360 content checklist

Here are some questions marketers need to ask before jumping into 360 content:

  • Why do you need 360 content in a particular Facebook post? If you’re trying to show your audience features of a new model, a 360 video or photo would work. Not so much if you’re sharing an interview featuring your CEO or a celebrity or an employee. When you decide to use a 360 photo or a video, there should be a clear reason why the format will help better communicate what you want to tell your audience.
  • How does a 360 video or photo fit in with your social media plan? You should be able to clearly lay down why you’re going to do a 360 video in terms of your larger social media plan and goals. If a large budget and effort cannot be justified, then consider doing a 360 photo with very little cost and effort. According to your social media objectives, the way you frame your 360 content can be altered. Many brands are adding in a contest component to 360 photos and videos. You can get people to locate hidden objects, like Honda did here. If you’re promoting a particular product that is set to hit the market in the future, timing the 360 content can be crucial. It’s important that your audiences are aware about the launch. You can boost their interest with other content before the 360 video or photo. This way, they’ll be more curious to learn more about the details of the vehicle.
  • What’s our story? Before capturing a 360 photo or a video, script the story you want to narrate. You need to decide what you want to tell your audience and what you want them to experience. Think of the best way to show a potential consumer how awesome your new sports car is. A 360 video of the car on the racetrack might work better than a 360 photo. If you want them to be looking at your new car, decide which features you want to highlight and how you will do that. Remember, you can always direct them to look at a particular detail. If they want to pan out and look elsewhere, they are free to do so. The challenge in creating such videos is to make the audience focus where you want them to without restricting their freedom to look around.
  • Should we put budget behind 360 content? It always helps to promote content that’s incurred significant time, money and effort. The boost that paid posts provide to reach and impressions is reason enough for marketers to set aside some budget for promoting posts on Facebook. While Facebook does its part to show that a particular piece of content is 360, you should make sure that your copy mentions it. It would be disappointing if your fans miss your incredible video or photo because you did not catch their attention with a line or two.
  • How can we measure? It’s important that marketers evaluate how each and every aspect of their content performs on social media. With 360 videos and photos, Facebook provides some useful measuring tools, including a heat map. This gives you an idea of the extent to which your fans looked around, what hooked them the most and where they spent most of their time. This is invaluable feedback that you can incorporate when you make your next 360 video or photo. You can also figure out how your efforts to publicize the video have paid off. It’s essential that marketers remain aware of how competitors and aspirational brands are utilizing 360 content and how they fare.

The biggest hurdle marketers face is people’s ever-diminishing attention span. Along with this curse, social media offers something new each day that audiences flock toward. Marketers can stand out only by paying keen attention to innovations like 360 content and live videos and figuring out how to insert their products into these conversations.

Darsana Vijay is a social media journalist at social analytics firm Unmetric.