Toyota’s Social Media Marketing

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The Toyota Motor Corporation is an international automobile manufacturer founded and, thus, headquartered in Japan. The company manufactures all kinds of automotives that can be used for all purposes ranging from leisure to racing, and carrying heavy cargo. Having been founded in Japan around 1937, the company can be said to have grown in leaps and bounds over the years given that it has become a worldwide brand associated with the production and marketing of automobiles including luxury and commercial vehicles, as well as engines, spare parts and motorbikes. Considering that it is an international manufacturer of automobiles, the company has about 300,000 employees across the various locations around the world in assembly plants, manufacturing plants and dealerships among others (Brownsell, 2010). The company also offers financial services such as banking, financing and leasing services to its consumers across the globe, thus making them a one stop solution for all their car needs.

Considering Toyota's performance in the recent past, it would be impossible to ignore the product recalls and the global recession. Just like many other business organizations, Toyota had to deal with the momentary crisis in the global economy but as if that wasn't enough, there also was the issue of flawed accelerators. However, these two factors together would be enough to bring down even an empire as powerful as Toyota except that there was an equally powerful mitigation strategy set up by the organization. This strategy happened to be the social media as a tool of engaging the consumers and getting the loyal ones to defend the brand's authenticity. Therefore, the consumers were the company's largest asset in their road to recovery after the recall crisis. The company also continues to take advantage of their expansive reach in the market to attract even more loyal consumers.

Overall Summary of Social Media Use

The social media as a marketing tool has been the Toyota's greatest strategy since the recalls crisis gave the attention that the company channeled towards these tools and just how much efforts were paid off. When the recalls crisis had just started unfolding, the company had a very slight presence online in terms of social media response (Brownsell, 2010).They had pages on Facebook and a Twitter handle, but they didn't have the internal commitment to engage their customers as much as they did during and after the crisis. Currently, the organization has a full time presence on five social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest. In all these platforms, the company focuses on engaging the customers and obtaining their thoughts and expectations on various products while obtaining their experiences and feedback to encourage other consumers to buy those products as well.

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Unlike the traditional marketing options previously used by the organization, including print and broadcast media, the social media was used to do more than to inform masses. The company used it to create an open communication channel through which they listened to the consumers more than they actually had the consumers listening to them. In this way, the social media became the most efficient option for the consumers to get their views to the organization. The company capitalized on this and created a social media response team for real time interactions with the customers on the social media platforms. This ensured that all their questions and concerns were answered by qualified individuals. Making the social media platforms fully active at all times opened the company to more customer interest. They were very efficient and interactive in communicating with their customers than many other automobile companies. It can be stated that Toyota discovered the significance of the social media and have, thus, continued to use these platforms effectively to further their market presence and domination globally.

The company, however, doesn't use all the platforms in a duplicative manner, but rather uses each platform based on its potential. Facebook, for example, is used to enroll the customers and get their feedback and concerns while Twitter is mainly about giving updates on products and events, as well as generating conversations with the company's executives. YouTube is, on the other hand, used to post adverts and customer interviews, as well as other videos related to the company and their products. The overall approach towards the social media is, however, customer engagement with the aim of creating and maintaining loyalty.

Use of Individual Social Media Marketing Tools

Facebook

Facebook is basically an online social networking site that allows people to connect with their friends, family and interests and share information on anything. As a social media marketing tool, the site allows companies to reach out to their clients globally with information on their products, as well as to obtain feedback and generally engage with the customers (Srinivasan & Mittal, n.d). At the Toyota Company, Facebook continues to be a major social media platform considering that they have both a global official fan page and numerous localized pages for the dealerships. The official Toyota page on Facebook has over 1.5 million likes and the company uses the platform in many different ways.

The page is very colorful in terms of pictures and videos about the various products sold by the company. This means that they use the platform to create awareness on the available products while also evoking the customers to foster loyalty in the long term. The company's Facebook page is more of a fan page where the loyal Toyota customers interact and share their experiences with the numerous products, giving each other maintenance tips and recommendations on which new products to try out. In this way, it can be stated that Toyota uses Facebook to create an online family of loyal customers who not only understand the brand, but also trust in its authenticity given their experience of the products.

The page also features videos on interviews with nostalgic customers who may at one time have made a memory with the brand. These interviews are meant to compel other customers to purchase the products or, at least, assure them of the brand's reliability. Other videos represent the dealers and employees in a bid to give the organization a good public relations rapport.

Twitter

Twitter has been considered a great place to start viral conversations online and engage millions of followers. The company uses this platform to direct the course of discussions on their products by setting the record straight and enabling the customers to get the real information without having to wade through speculation and propaganda in the other media. The company's Twitter handle has over 150,000 followers and they major tweets are retweets from the organization's executives and other business partners, as well as loyal customers (Howsocialble, 2014).

Considering the layout of Twitter, it is natural that the organization only uses it for passing on information and directing conversations by providing the facts as opposed to the speculation of outsiders. In the immediate aftermath of the recalls crisis the company had the executive officers engaging with the public in a way that had never been seen before. Since then, the platform has been used to conduct important conversations with the general public on matters affecting the organization.

The site also features videos and links on new products and services offered by the Toyota Motor Corporation and their business partners. This ensures that the site is not just for public relations, but also for the marketing of specific products as released by the company. Twitter is, thus, a platform used more for raising awareness than anything else.

Instagram

Instagram is mainly used for sharing videos and images to show the world what the company is up to. Toyota uses this site to share its various product models and get the customers to talk about them on other sites like Facebook and twitter. This means that the Instagram profile is mainly for distributing the images of the car models in order to influence the desire of the customers. The images posted on this site are often very high quality close up shots that bring out the best in the cars being showcased.

As for the videos shared on Instagram, they are mostly about customer experiences with Toyota products. As a brand,the Toyota family has been in existence for longer than most of the customers. It means that some of the customers have life long memories with the Toyota brand name. The company takes advantage of this fact to implore their nostalgia and get them to buy the products if only for the sake of their memories.

The company also posts videos showing the products being taken for test drives, being endorsed by celebrity personalities, and simply being discussed by car experts. The idea behind sharing such videos is to influence the desire of the customers by giving them the strengths of the products through the eyes of other customers and experts in the automotive industry. Thus, it can be stated that at Toyota, Instagram is a social media marketing tool that is mostly used to influence the desire of the customer by imploring their memories and getting the third parties to endorse the products on the company's behalf. The videos and photos are also meant to excite the customers and get them curious about the products in question.

YouTube

YouTube is a site for sharing videos, and the company has a channel on this site. The Toyota channel has over 30,000 subscribers who are always keen on getting what the company is sharing on the site. It means that they have thirty thousand diehard fans who are consistently interested in their activities on the social networking site (Harrington, 2014). As for the posted videos, the company has received over 50 million views meaning that the world is indeed interested, and that the site is really effective in getting their message to the masses (Howsocialble, 2014).

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Videos posted on YouTube include test drives for the various products in the market, as well as interviews with the company's executive staff on matters concerning the organization and its stakeholders. The Toyota Motor Corporation has divided this site into a number of categories depending on the kind of content that is posted. The adverts include real commercials for the various brands on offer including the 'Swagger Wagon' campaign for one of the Toyota mini vans. The interviews section is, on the other hand, dedicated to discussions on issues affecting the communities and the efforts of the organization towards making a positive impact. There is also a section dedicated to tutorials on how to solve various problems associated with the Toyota brand. The idea here is to enable the car owners to fix minor issues by themselves as opposed to relying on their mechanics and making their vehicle maintenance very expensive.

Therefore, YouTube is a useful platform for Toyota with regards to creating loyalty. The channel is able to generate the long term interest of the customers given that it provides not only product insights, but also maintenance tutorials for self care. With over 50 million views on this site, it is no wonder that the Toyota brand continues to outdo most of the other automobile brands across the globe.

Pinterest

Pinterest consists of boards on which companies can pin information and contests to engage their customers. On Toyota's Pinterest account, the most popular board is the Infographics where the company generates the interests of the customers by providing them with relevant information and pictures on the Toyota products and how they work. This account has about 1600 loyal followers and so far the company has created more than 10 boards (Howsocialble, 2014).

Another significantly popular board is the Dream Car Art contest in which the Toyota Motor Corporation allows its youngest fans to design their dream cars and have the followers check them out. The cars are often fantastical in that they are entirely imaginary and that some may never be actualized. The customers are nevertheless entertained and impressed by the kind of cars that these young fans create, and they are always keen to find out what the latest fantasy car is.

Pinterest may not be as popular as Facebook and twitter or even Instagram, but the company has over the years managed to use it effectively to interact with their customers. The account not only gets the followers interested in the company's activities, but also gets the company informed on the thoughts of their customers with regards to the future product development as inspired by the dream car contest. It is, thus, a useful marketing tool; it helps to raise awareness and encourage trial of the products on offer.

Assessment and Recommendations

Toyota has used the social media in a very constructive way since the recall crisis. It is all due to the efforts channeled in the social media marketing tools that the company managed to successfully recover from the bad publicity that had come as a result of the accelerator issue and the accidents that resulted (Harrington, 2014). With the help of a full time social media response team, the company was able to turn its fortunes around and continue to dominate the automotive industry globally. Considering the Toyota Motor Corporation current social media platform it can be stated that they have much more strengths and opportunities than threats and weaknesses. These are discussed below.

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Strengths

The company's use of the social media is expansive and, thus, in line with their international operations. It means that they are accessible to all customers indiscriminate of their location or nationality.Their most effective marketing platform has turned out to be the cheapest one available and yet they do not take it for granted. Unlike other companies that have considered social media marketing as an additional alternative to the traditional media, Toyota is actually invested in this sphere, thus, they are able to reap more from its outcomes.

Another considerable strength is the efficiency of the social media response team. Customers need to be able to get the responses to their questions and concerns as fast as possible and the response team at Toyota ensures that this happens in real time. Consequently the customers are more engaged, making them more loyal due to customer satisfaction that comes from effective customer interaction. The wide range of social media tools used by the company is also a strength in that they are able to reach far too many customers regardless of their preferred social media sites.

Weaknesses

When it comes to the use of the social media, the Toyota Company has no weaknesses in that they have been innovative enough to make the best out of this opportunity.

Opportunities

While the official Facebook and twitter platforms with an international following are effective, the company may also look into the local chapters and try to popularize them so as to bring the social media marketing initiative closer to the ground. It may be more effective for the customers to interact with the very personnel that they are likely to find when they visit a dealership or a show room within their vicinity.

Threats

The automobile industry is a highly competitive one and the other companies are slowly catching on in the social media marketing wave. This means that Toyota needs to keep innovating in order to stay ahead of the competitors.

Conclusion

Having considered how far the company has come with the social media platforms, it is quite important to note that they have done an exceptional job by taking advantage of a totally social platform and turning it into a marketing opportunity. It has heavily impacted the business performance of the entire organization. With regards to improvement, the company first of all needs to localize the social media and seek to get the local dealers to engage their customers at the grassroots level. The Toyota Motor Corporation should also consider having more localized content in their videos as opposed to focusing on the west. There are customers from other parts of the world watching those videos too and, thus, a varied experience would do much better. The last recommendation would be about the management of the social media response. While it is impressive that the company saw it important to dedicate a department to the social media it would be more effective if all the employees actually get engaged with the customers for a holistic effect of engagement.

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