In an interview with Brian Solis, Mercedes Benz Global Social Media Manager Eleftherios Hatziioannou talked about the importance of social media at Mercedes. Before creating a social media strategy, the company first listened to customers, monitoring what they were talking about online, where they were talking about the company, and how they were talking about them. Today, Mercedes uses YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus to reach customers. Through their social media strategy, they implement all five of the primary objectives outlined in Li and Bernoff’s Groundswell.
The first objective suggested in Groundswell is listening. As previously stated, Mercedes Benz listened to what customers were saying about them online before creating and implementing their social media strategy. Through this time of listening, they created a “short list” for a two year social media strategy. They also discovered, much like Mini did when they conducted similar listening, that their customers were drawn to Mercedes for the type of image and lifestyle that it portrayed, so that gave them a starting point for how to construct their media to best display the Mercedes lifestyle.
The second objective Mercedes fulfills in their social media strategy is talking. Unlike other companies, Mercedes Benz has spent no money on digital advertising, including email campaigns and Facebook ads. Instead of using this old style of one-way marketing, Mercedes talks to create conversations. They create these conversations through platforms like Twitter and Facebook. With this method, Mercedes talks to customers, but customers also talk to Mercedes.
Groundswell’s third objective is energizing. Over the last couple of years, Mercedes has launched several campaigns to engage customers through social media. They have an annual fashion week in New York City, but added a social media element to that for 2012. Through the “Star Style Challenge,” which has a special page on Mercedes’ Facebook fan page, people could answer the question “what does ultimate star style look like on the red carpet at the Academy Awards” by creating “sets” using fashions by featured fashion week designer Naeem Khan, and Mercedes-Benz cars. This reached out to a different set of people, fashion enthusiasts instead of car enthusiasts, but perpetuated the idea that Mercedes Benz is the best in glamour cars, as these sets paired world class fashion and the red carpet with their vehicles. Over 5,000 people entered the contest. In addition, Mercedes launched the Mercedes Benz Tweet Race in 2010, leading up to the 2011 Super Bowl. In the race, Mercedes created cars powered entirely by tweets. The cars raced throughout the country, and the campaign led to thousands of tweets devoted to the race. The race was so popular that one of the team name hashtags actually became a trending topic on Twitter.
Supporting is Groundswell’s fourth objective. This objective includes the importance of interaction among customers. Through campaigns like the Mercedes Benz Dealer Social Media, Star Style Challenge, and Tweet Race, Mercedes creates a community among its customers and fans. The Star Style Challenge gave people a chance to compete, but also an opportunity to build community with Mercedes fans who also had a fashion interest, as well as see the sets of other people in the competition. Through the Dealer Social Media Contest, Mercedes dealers across the country worked together for the “Community Stars” campaign, which was handled over Facebook. Local charitable organizations submitted videos in an effort to win up to $125,000 toward their cause. Once 15 finalists had been selected, the Facebook fan community would choose who the 5 grand prize winners were. Again, this gave customers the chance to feel like they were doing something charitable, all while getting to interact with one of their favorite brands and others who like Mercedes, and it made the company look good for wanting to support positive, local causes.
The fifth and final objective is embracing, or the ability to integrate customers into the way the business works. In January, Mercedes released its new mbrace2 technology. Mbrace2 is a service directly built into Mercedes vehicles and allows customers to connect to social media outlets such as Yelp, Facebook, and Google directly from their car. With mbrace2, customers become a Mercedes’ products.
Through their social media strategy, Mercedes Benz has become a worldwide competitor in the social media market. The company has created effective social media on a number of platforms and integrated customers into its market. By employing each of the five objectives in Groundswell in unique and innovative ways, Mercedes Benz serves as an example of successful and effective social media marketing.
Bo & Riley