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Over the past few months I've been looking at how different global brands make use of the main social networks, but so far I've neglected the auto industry.
I've rectified that this week by turning the spotlight on BMW, which as it turns out has a surprisingly strong Facebook presence.
And without further ado, here's a quick look at how BMW uses Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+...
BMW has attracted 13.4 million fans to its main page and entertains them with daily updates featuring images of its cars.
A majority of the content links to photo albums, car reviews and YouTube clips, so in general it’s a fairly standard Facebook page.
However the number of responses it gets for each post is quite astonishing compared to other brands I’ve looked at – it probably averages around 50,000 ‘likes’ and it’s not uncommon for posts to exceed 100,000.
Personally I can’t see any reason why it should achieve such impressive results as the social team makes no great effort to respond to the hundreds of comments left by fans, so can only assume that the German car brand has a particularly loyal following.
One of the most noteworthy features on the main BMW page is its range of apps. It has six apps that allow you to explore the various aspects of each of its car models, and others for BMW TV, Worldwide and Imprint.
But as with most Facebook apps, BMW’s efforts appear ill-conceived and badly executed. The Worldwide app forces you to ‘like’ the page before you can use it but it then turns out that it has zero functionality, while the car apps look good but offer limited incentive to use them.
For example, each car app has a neat tool that allows you to arrange a test drive for almost any country in the world, but unfortunately in the UK it links to a 404 page.
This is a bit of an oversight on behalf of BMW and it would be a good idea to either alter the CTA or update the link. Some of the models offer the option to ‘Stay informed’ rather than a test drive, but the execution is still a bit sloppy.
It doesn’t really outline what you’re signing up for, then once you’ve entered in all your details it states: “Your data has been transferred.”
It’s hardly the most warming user experience and I can’t really see any incentive for signing up. I can’t imagine that many people use these apps, so it would probably be a good idea to can them altogether.
It’s also worth flagging up a user-generated video competition that BMW launched through Facebook and YouTube in February 2012.
In an interesting pre-cursor to Twitter’s Vine, fans were asked to create a six-second advert to promote the launch of the new BMW 3 Series.
The car goes from 0-60mph in just 5.9 seconds, hence the limitation on the duration of the ads. It received more than 2,000 entries, with the eventual winner taking home a brand new car.
Though it wasn’t specifically a Facebook competition, it’s a good example of a campaign that requires some genuine creativity from fans in return for a great prize, and resulted in some excellent user-generated content for BMW.
They all have similar content plans, including competitons, photo galleries, links to articles and the occasional Spotify playlist, however none achieve anywhere near the level of engagement as the main page.
BMW hasn’t attracted quite the same following on Twitter as it has on Facebook, yet its various feeds seem to do a fairly good job of responding to customer queries and @mentions.
As far as I can tell BMW hasn’t gone down the route of having a dedicated customer service feed, which is a common tactic among brands I’ve previously looked at, but each of its accounts appear to be happy to direct queries to the relevant channels where necessary.
Both feeds tweet roughly once per day and include a photo or a link in almost every post, so for car enthusiasts it must be quite an interesting source of BMW information.
Overall BMW appears mainly to be using Twitter to educate consumers about the brand by posting relevant product information, while shying away from any hard sales tactics.
It also clearly appreciates the potential for interacting with customers and tracks hashtags as well as @mentions so it can respond to customers where necessary.
Though various local dealers have gone rogue and setup their own Pinterest pages, there doesn’t appear to be an official BMW corporate account.
This could be because cars potentially aren’t among the most popular topics on Pinterest, however car brands do tend to produce some striking visuals so in theory it could be a good platform on which to share branded content.
Both Honda and Chevrolet have official accounts and have attracted several thousand followers each, so it might be in BMW’s interest to test the waters.
BMW’s popularity on Facebook is mirrored on Google+ where it has some 2.7 million followers, which is far more than most of the consumer brands I’ve looked at so far.
The daily updates are identical to its Facebook posts, which is probably a sensible strategy considering the low level of interaction that takes place on G+.
That said, BMW achieves a relatively high level of responses on G+ and frequently achieves more than 1,000 +1s on its posts.
Overall BMW’s accounts are more proof of G+’s weakness as a social network, yet brands are forced to use it because it’s a Google product.