In 2011, the three American automotive industries consisting of General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Chrysler Group LLC combined to sell 13.2 million automobiles (O’Neill, 2012). Also, the combined annual revenues of the “Big Three” came out to just above 341 billion dollars in 2011 (O’Neill, 2012). This specific industry is one of the most profitable and most important industries in the United States today. Each company recorded record sales in 2011 and is projected that there will be greater sales growth in the years to come. With the auto industry being a large key in the U.S. economy, the use of public relations has become very important to the image of each company’s brand. Since the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler Group LLC in 2009, each of the companies has stressed the importance of building customer interactivity, building upon promotions of new vehicles, sales, and events, surpassing the competition, building awareness of charity given to various foundations and organizations, and building all around positive value in the brand. With the creation of social, media such as Twitter, all of the goals of the companies are conveniently achieved. The public relations offices of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler use Twitter as a strategic management tool to build relationships with their customers, hype up the release of new vehicles and sales promotions, build positive value in comparison to the competition, create a positive image through examples of donations, and create an overall positive brand image.
The reason why I chose to follow General Motors (@GM), Ford Motor Company (@Ford), and Chrysler Group LLC (@Chrysler) is because I have a personal relationship in this industry. My family owns a Ford dealership; therefore I have been around cars my entire life. I also believe the auto industry is one of the most important and competitive industries in the world. The reason why I chose to follow these three specific car companies is because they are the three largest American automobile industries, have incredible customer loyalty, and have very similar target audiences that they heavily compete for. Overall, following these three companies was engaging and helped me build valuable knowledge in the field of public relations.
Target Customers and Customer Interactivity
One of the most important parts of public relations is building a relationship with the customer and making the customer feel apart of the company. According to the book, “a successful public relations campaign takes into account the shifting dynamics of audiences and targets those segments of an audience that is most desirable for its particular audience” (Wilcox, 2011). With Twitter, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler are very similar in their attempt to target different audiences around the globe. Each company sends different tweets to the specific target audience that is selected. For example, Ford has had the most sold vehicle for the 30th consecutive year in the F-150. Therefore they released a tweet thanking truck drivers for choosing the manliest truck on the road. Like Ford, General Motors uses specific tweets to target certain audiences. An example of this would be GM’s use of new innovation in its popular hybrids. General Motors tweets nonstop about the Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ATS and how these two cars are the vehicles of tomorrow in the modern day. Chrysler builds similarities to Ford and GM by tweeting specifically to NASCAR fans recently after Brad Keselowski, who drives a Dodge, won the Sprint Cup. Chrysler has been boasting to NASCAR fans how no Dodge engine in NASCAR failed all year, stating that Chrysler develops reliable and tough engines. Combined, Ford, GM, and Chrysler have developed similar styles of tweeting to focus on target audiences that have helped grow the profits of the companies.
Like the way each company targets certain audiences, each company has attempted to build a connection with consumers by following prospective customers, responding to customers tweets at each company, and “retweeting” customer’s comments about the company’s and its products. One of the biggest comparisons of each of the company’s trends with dealing with customers is the amount tweets, followers, and followings that are accumulated over time. General Motors has tweeted 8,170 times, Ford has tweeted 9,989 times, and Chrysler has tweeted 13,123 times. The biggest differences of the tweets to customers were the way in which each company attempted to reach out to its customers. General Motors did an absolutely phenomenal job at responding to customers. When someone ever tweeted something positive about GM, General Motors would respond with a thank you for the complement or sharing of positive information about the company and its products. For example, “Glad to hear it! What color did u go w/? RT Drove my new to work today! LOVE IT! ^RH.” This is just one of countless examples from the past few months of how General Motors engages with its followers. Chrysler, uses similar tactics of positive responses with its costumer’s tweets, but does not engage customers at a constant rate like General Motors. Chrysler seems to go in spurts of tweeting customers back, which seems less interactive. Chrysler will have days that they tweet customers or retweet customers at an incredible rate, but then there will be long stretches of days where there is no customer activity. On the other hand, Ford rarely tweets back at customers in comparison to both GM and Chrysler. When Ford does retweet a customer, there is seldom-positive feedback for the customer. Also, a negative complaint of Ford was posted back in late September regarding a “MyFord Touch” problem in a person’s new Ford Edge that was never responded to and has since been deleted. Ford has by far the most work to do regarding customer interactivity. While there are many similarities regarding these three companies, there are several differences in the way each company deals with customer interactivity on Twitter.
Tweets on New Vehicles and Promotions
One of the key ways in which car companies build hype in new vehicles and sales promotions is to create a lot of buzz. Twitter has become a hotbed for creating excitement in customers regarding the release of a new cars or a sales promotion that can save potentially a lot of money for the consumer. As discussed in class, promotions are important for public relations. The use of Twitter as a public relations tool for promotions has become an innovative way to reach out to clients and consumers. One of the companies did a great job in hyping a new product by using a sales promotion on Twitter. That company was Ford and its extremely successful 2013 Ford Fusion. Ford used a campaign called the “Fusion 47” which symbolizes the amount of miles per gallon the new Fusion Hybrid receives. The “Fusion 47” was 47 fun ways to win a new 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, which included tweeting about it. For example, Ford used the promotion with tweets such as, “Today's the last day of our challenge, so let's make it good. Show us: Where in your world do you see the number 47?” Ford used this Twitter promotion to build hype in its newest vehicle. In comparison, Chrysler also tweeted about events and promotions, but does not tweet nearly as much about its new products. Chrysler consists of tweets like, “If you're in or planning to attend trade-only , Monday 7pm at S Hall. More details to come...” Chrysler continues to tweet about car shows and the unveiling of new cars, but does a poor job hyping up new releases and promotions. General Motors does not have as much overall build up for its new vehicles as Ford, but has instead focused directly on the hype of its hybrid and electric cars such as the Chevrolet Sonic, Chevrolet Volt, and others. Each company uses Twitter to inform consumers about its new products and promotions, but each one brings something different to the social media world. Ford uses much more sales promotions and overall build up for its new vehicles. Chrysler promotes car shows and other events where Chrysler products will be physically present. General Motors has built a strong social media promotion regarding its innovative and economically friendly hybrid and electric cars.
Having an Edge on the Competition
The textbook states “Competition is inevitable and omnipresent. It occurs when two or more groups or organizations vie for the same resources” (Wilcox, 2011). The American auto industry is easily one of the most competitive markets in the United States. Each company has adapted to social media to try and gain an edge on the increasing competition. Surprisingly, Ford, GM, nor Chrysler has posted a negative tweet regarding the competition in the last few months. Each company tweets the growth of the company through innovative products and sales success. For example, Chrysler has significantly greater sales growth this year than Ford and GM, and Chrysler is not afraid to boast about it. One tweet states, “Chrysler Group had 10/2012 U.S. sales of 126,185, +10% over 10/2011. Total 2012 sales= 1.376+ million.” General Motors and Ford have also use Twitter in much of the same way as Chrysler. General Motors, while very similar, was more specific on the increased sales of certain models. For example, “@Chevrolet posed 34% Cruze sales increase, record sales, plus Spark & Sonic drive 12% increase in car sales. ^MS.” Ford, won several more awards this year than the other two car companies, and like Chrysler, Ford boasted the awards to build more value in its own company. An example of this is, “Ford Motor Company, the winner of the 2012 NMSDC Corporation of the Year Award! Congratulations .” Each of these companies tries to build momentum over the competition by posting tweets about the their overall growth as a company. None of the companies posted negative articles about the competition, but instead uses slightly different tactics on Twitter to try and compete for the same resources as the other companies.
Donations and Charity
Donations and charity is a big key of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. These acts of good will can be seen as a sign of genuine generosity, or can be seen as a direct other way of trying to compete for resources and customers. The textbook explains this very well by stating, “An intrinsic desire to share a portion of one’s resources, however small, with others—an inherent generosity possessed in some degree by almost everyone—is a primary factor. Another urge—also very human, if less laudable—is ego satisfaction” (Wilcox, 2011). Recently, from Veteran’s Day to Super storm Sandy to Thanksgiving; there have been events for these companies to give back. Each one of these companies has taken advantage of Twitter by posting everything generous that has been done. General Motors posted “We manage ~2,500acres of wildlife across 25 global sites. 4 are newly certified by Wildlife Habitat Council ^MS” General Motors is trying to prove that they as a company that isenvironmentally friendly as a company. Ford has posted “ is making a donation to help victims of Hurricane as part of the Red Cross Disaster Responder Program .” Ford is trying to demonstrate that they care about the people who have been greatly affected by the storm by donating money to help the victims. Also in this tweet, there is an article attached to the tweet to openly demonstrate how much money is not only being donated to the victims of Sandy, but also what other donations are given away over the course of the entire year. Much like Ford, Chrysler posts about charitable donations, but included an attached video from YouTube showing Chrysler employees working at soup kitchens for this Thanksgiving. The tweet stated “Chrysler Group employees & Foundation donate food to help needy have Thanksgiving meals. Details at ^MD.” In this specific category, each company was very comparable. All of them have tweets posted about Thanksgiving, Sandy, Veteran’s Day, and many other charities. Overall, the key question to ask is whether this is all apart of being generous companies or whether all of this is tweeted to impress the social media world and try and create distance over the competition.
The public relations offices of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler use Twitter as a strategic management tool to build relationships with their customers, hype up the release of new vehicles and sales promotions, build negative value in the competition, create a positive image through examples of donations, and create an overall positive brand image. General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler use Twitter in many positive and innovative ways. The use of Twitter has completely changed the way public relations offices of all three companies can get the word out about new cars and news about the company. While it is very early to tell, the use of Twitter may have an open affect on the sale of vehicles based solely off the efforts of the public relations teams of Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. Twitter has created an ever-changing public relations environment. As a potential public relations practitioner, it is important to view Twitter as a tool that can help build relationships with consumers, build a wider range of new customers, and keep and eye on new trends from the rest of the industry.
O’Neill, E. (2012). US automotive industry records 10% growth in 2011. Reporter Linker.