Hashtag new car: How social media is the new salesman for automakers | autos | Hindustan Times
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Hashtag new car: How social media is the new salesman for automakers

Automakers are now not waiting for customers in their showrooms, neither are they confined to television commercials and roadside hoardings anymore. They’re going online to get into the minds of their target consumers, who are on social media for everything.

autos Updated: Feb 20, 2017 16:04 IST
Gulshankumar Wankar
Almost all automakers are now using social media to market their new cars in India, by making pages, creating new accounts, hashtags. 
Almost all automakers are now using social media to market their new cars in India, by making pages, creating new accounts, hashtags. (HT Illustration)

When “#TheScorpionIsHere” trended on Twitter in August 2015, many would have thought it was some upcoming movie or a cyber-attack. Fortunately, it was just the Italian performance-car brand Abarth’s debut in India.

On another day, #INSVikrant trended across social media, not celebrating the glorious warship but instead marketing the Bajaj V bikes, claimed to be made from the metal of the decommissioned Vikrant.

Automakers are now not just waiting for customers in their showrooms, neither are they confined to television commercials and roadside hoardings. They’re going online to get into the minds of their target consumers, who are on social media for everything, be it politics, movies, India’s economy or a cricket win.

Launching a car is no more a one-day show. It’s pretty much like releasing a movie: First comes a teaser, then an unveiling, bookings open and finally the price is announced at the official launch, all of this takes a period of 30 to 45 days.

The buzz begins with “world premiere” or “global unveil” of a car at an international auto show and news about their speculated India release. Along with special sections on the automakers’ websites dedicated to the car; social media campaigns and YouTube video teasers follow to create the necessary flutter. Even before the car hits the showrooms, netizens already know much about it.

Maruti Suzuki Swift in a still from the movie Bunty aur Babli. (IMCDB.org)

Maruti Suzuki has always taken their product marketing the SRK-level seriously. Their most popular hatchback Swift was first seen in the 2005 movie Bunty aur Babli. Their latest model Ignis was launched last month during an electronic dance music concert at a New Delhi stadium.

What more? The audience at the concert were winners of an online Twitter contest, which ran with #NoneOfAKind and #Ignis followed by a special car emoji. 

At the launch of the 2017 City, Honda released a comic book called Think City, compiled from the sketches by around 2,000 participants. The carmaker had also placed a Twitter kiosk where tweeting for Honda would pop out a cupcake. Yummy strategy!

Amid the Zika virus breakout, Tata Motors had to choose a new name of its small car Zica. The automaker conducted #FantasticoNameHunt on Twitter to let users choose among Civet, Adore and Tiago. Tata is also promoting Tigor, its Tiago-based upcoming compact sedan, as India’s fast #Styleback.

Tata also went around the country asking celebrities to drive its new crossover Hexa and share the #HexaExperience on social media, though the hashtag was often confused with Maruti Suzuki’s @Nexa_Experience. 

“When it comes to high-value products such as cars, people try to seek opinion on social media. The word there spreads by sharing and people expressing opinions on cars they use. Since most of the websites and bloggers also use Twitter to promote their news and reviews, it is this space that the automakers are trying to exploit,” said social media communications consultant Anup Sharma

India’s is the fastest growing online population at 34.8%, and automakers know the power of the internet in swaying potential car buyers their way. May be that’s why Tata Motors asked auto-journalists to “tweet out only facts, no opinions” during a media drive organised weeks before the launch of Hexa.

No automaker wants to lose an inch of the online space, which is why every car has either a hashtag ahead of its launch, or some like @VitraraBrezza, @MahindraKUV100 and @Toyota_Fortuner have their own Twitter accounts.

“Automakers are also using Twitter to amplify their message through media integration, for starting a conversation to lead the generation to on-demand content, and also for customer connect to address issues real-time,” Sharma adds.

Automakers are not just using social media for propaganda. They’re responding to queries in real time to engage with their customers and potential buyers. (Facebook screengrab)

Digital consultant Ranjoy Dey, who worked with Maruti Suzuki in 2013-14, tells HT about campaigns during events like cricket world cups and the Indian Premier League: “During 2012 IPL, based on a car’s uniqueness, we created Facebook fan pages of each IPL team, and correlated them with a particular car. There were match-based quizzes and games, and at the end of the tournament, there emerged one winner. We just wanted to bring all Maruti Suzuki fans on one common platform to enjoy cricket,” he said.

Automakers are also trying to cash on nationalism on social media in their campaigns. Bajaj V was teased on the eve of 2016 Republic Day, a reminiscent of the days when Hero Honda was “Desh ki Dhadkan”. This Republic Day too, Nissan India had released a commercial showing their new GT-R outlining the map of India on a barren flatland. The Japanese carmaker claimed it was the world’s largest outline of a country’s map. The hashtag was catchy too: #OMGTR.

A new car or a bike today not only needs to be good-looking or technically sound, but also needs a strong marketing pitch. Social media is the new word of mouth as it gives the necessary head start. At the end of the day, it is not about trend setting but at times it is about ‘trending’.

AutomakerFacebook likesTwitter followersYouTube subscribersInstagram followers

Maruti Suzuki

340,990

54,333

4,404 NA

Honda Cars India

1,400,71371,40316,8861,882

Toyota India

3,59863,3655,978255

Hyundai Cars India

8,271,001276,32921,117168K

Renault India

1,759,98583,87946,1909,857

Tata Motors

742,79654,468NANA

Mahindra and Mahindra

816,923495,3782,912NA

Audi India

3,651,547316,52942,21542K

Mercedes Benz India

2,720,045312,50312.11163.6K
BMW India3,363,662776,69311,576102K
Volkswagen India29,186,52779,68014,9535,464

Data from respective websites and social media accounts as on February 20.