Social Media In The Auto Industry – A Tour Of The Chicago Auto Show

Jackie Lampugnano offers her Millennial perspective on yesterday's Chicago Auto Show Social Media Day 2011. She saw a few common themes, all designed to help consumers get a 360 degree view of the brand. Read on to find out what impressed her.

We hope you remember Jackie Lampugnano‘s last guest post, 10 Things Social Media Marketers Should Know About Millennials. Today, our self-described PR girl and social media enthusiast reports on the social media action at this week’s Chicago Auto Show. Lampugnano is an Account Executive at Walker Sands Communications. Join her conversation on Twitter and her blog, Gen Wise Perspective.

For those of us in the marketing/advertising/PR world, social media is not a new concept. We’re constantly talking, writing, blogging and tweeting about it. But has social media trickled into other industries?

I wasn’t so sure until I was invited to attend Social Media Day at the Chicago Auto Show 2011 yesterday. It was quite an experience.

I had already been following the Mercedes Benz Tweet Race prior to the Super Bowl, tweeting away to help the cars stay fueled. I thought it was a great way to bring Mercedes fans together via social channels in a fun competition. Talk about building brand advocates.

One of the members in charge of training the Mercedes Tweet Racers told me they experienced great brand loyalty and community: Different dealerships were supporting their city’s race car, and social media users from each city came together to help in the Tweet Race Scavenger Hunt by building Google Docs and sharing information with their drivers to help them get further along in the race.

Many of us are familiar with this, but how are other auto brands taking the social media drive?

There were a few common themes I noticed at the Auto Show, all designed to help consumers get a 360 degree view of the brand.

Bringing together social media and face-to-face interaction

Auto brands such as Audi, Ford, Hyundai, Land Rover and Suzuki made the effort to bring together social media and in-person interaction as a way to build in engagement.

Audi prompted consumers to check-in at the Audi Auto Show stand with Facebook Places or Foursquare, asking them to leave a comment or attach a photo with their favorite car. As soon as consumers checked in, Audi would send them a message asking them to visit their counter to receive an Audi augmented reality calendar.

The best part about this calendar? There are no cars on it…yet. By visiting, consumers can download the Audi car and hold it up to their calendar to show it on the many different driving scenes for each month.

When I spoke with someone in charge of social media for Audi, he said the goal behind this was to “Give people the sense that, ‘they’re here.'” This is a perfect example of elevating the customer experience by bringing social media engagement to the level of face-to-face engagement.

And what better place to do so than an event where the public has the chance to directly interact with the brand?

Hyundai offered the chance to compete in the Hyundai Social Media Scavenger Hunt for the chance to win an iPad and other prizes. Hyundai also gave social media influencers the chance to meet racing champion Rhys Millen, while they amped up with the Red Bull street team during a preview of Hyundai’s Blue Link infotainment technology and newest products.

Just another example of bringing social media influencers face-to-face with the brand so that they were able to get an engaging, firsthand experience with its ambassadors and products.

Using social media to build loyalty among brand advocates

Part of taking online engagement and turning it into in-person engagement happens by using social media to build loyalty among brand advocates. Once again, I was impressed by Audi.

Last August, Audi reached out to its Facebook followers at the time and said “we’ve got the opportunity to consider bringing Audi TTRS to the U.S… will you help us?”

They put a petition asking Facebook fans to help gauge interest in this car – tell us on a scale of 1-5 what you think. Are you interested? Willing to pay? Put a deposit down? The goal was to get Facebook fans to help Audi demonstrate the business cases for bringing the TTRS to the U.S.

In less than a month, 10,000 people told Audi to bring the car to the US and by mid-September Audi made announcement that the Audi TTRS would come to the U.S.

Yesterday was the U.S. premiere of car. What did Audi do? They reached out to Chicago area Audi TTRS petition signers and invited them to join Audi at the unveiling. They showed the car, had its Product Manager talk to the Facebook fans in person, giving fans the chance to get in and experience the car up close and personal.

Connecting social and mobile

Audi and other auto brands took the opportunity to connect social and mobile. Smart thinking, considering everyone is walking around the Auto Show with their smartphones out, ready to take pictures and videos of the cars.

Many auto brands had a check-in feature, but one of my favorite uses of mobile had to be the quick-response (QR) codes. Both Audi and Volkswagen had QR codes next to each car. If you scanned it via your mobile device, you would be taken to a landing page with more information on that car.

VW was actually successful in making me laugh. The QR code brought me to a landing page with Saturday Night Live comedian Bill Hader and the VW Product Specialist to discuss a few of the new 2011 models in what they described as “Inside the VW Academy.” Needless to say the videos were hilarious – Bill Hader was in different VW models, testing how they measured up to other VW competitors.

Creating a community with innovative technology

Another theme I noticed was using innovative technology to create a community around the brands and products. As I mentioned earlier, the goal for many of these auto brands is to give consumers a 360 degree view of the brand. In some cases, this was literally the case.

Mercedes and Scion both had 3D glasses available for us to watch 3D videos of their cars in action. Others used augmented reality screens.

One of my favorites was the remote-free racing video game set up at the Chevy Volt station. I literally mimicked the action of driving a car to make it through the obstacle course. Let me tell you, this was a blast. But I should also warn you: the game will take a video of you playing it – beware that you will look ridiculous “air-driving” a car.

Another great example of using technology to engage and excite consumers was Ford’s graffiti screens. Ford had large touch screens featuring digital Ford Fiestas, and people were able to choose different colors and stencils to literally graffiti their own cars. When finished, you can simply email your graffiti Ford Fiesta to yourself.

My takeaway? Integration and innovation across channels

I felt like a kid in a candy store at the Auto Show yesterday. But honestly, I was impressed with the auto industry’s adoption and innovation with regards to social media.

After all, as I was told at the Audi booth: “People don’t buy a new car every day. These days, people are interested in engaging with brands, so the more windows we can give our fans and advocates to interact with us, the better sense they have of, ‘Is this a brand I want to be engaged with?'”