Toyota’s Initiatives to Reinforce Customer Loyalty and Brand Champions

Posted by Susan Bratton on March 30th, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Doug Frisbie, National Social Media and Marketing Integration Manager at Toyota Motor Sales will be sharing his current social media strategy at the ad:tech SF  “Marketing Masters” series.

This presentation follows my "social approach" framework for coming up with YOUR social media strategy and Dave Evans of Digital VooDoo's presentation on metrics and trends in social media marketing. Doug will take it to the next level of detail by explaining his approach from the top down so you can see how one leading company (one recently in the garish glare of negative publicity) manages their social listening and networking across multiple brands.

Here’s a Q&A between Doug and I as Marketing Master of the Social Media track covering his latest insights.

First, tell me a little about your role at Toyota. What do you oversee?

In October of last year I began a new role developing Toyota’s social media strategy; however, Toyota has used social media in marketing and PR for years.  As an example, we’ve engaged with the Priuschat and the Prius Yahoo! communities since 2000.  My new team is really focused on unifying all of the relevant groups (marketing, PR, customer relations, strategic planning, etc.) throughout our company around a holistic social strategy.

How do you pigeonhole social media marketing in your mind? For example, I think it has two basic buckets, Social Listening and Social Participation. From there would be eCRM, Lead Gen, other kinds of outcomes. How do you organize your thinking about the category?

We really feel no single discipline can own social media, as a successful strategy must include all of the tools you reference.  The key from our perspective is ensuring each discipline has a seat at the table, and that our structure reflects how our customers interact with our brand.  We’ve populated our team with people from key groups in our company who will become social media subject matter experts.  Our goal is for those individuals to take the knowledge and experience they gain back to their teams, helping us spread core principles and best practices throughout our organization.  If we do this effectively, one day we may not need a dedicated social media team, as it will be part of everything we do as a company.

How would you typify your overarching social media strategy?

Our social media strategy is focused on two things: transparency and loyalty.  Given everything Toyota is currently facing, we want to open new channels for communication with our customers and show them that we’re open and honest.  In addition, the volume of support from our owners we’ve observed in social channels has pleasantly surprised us.  We’ve increased the fans on our Toyota brand Facebook page by about 22% since late January.  We plan to build on that by rewarding and reinforcing loyalty through several initiatives over the coming months. We’re looking at how brands like Starbucks and Papa John’s have built loyalty and are adapting it to our business.

What are the laundry list of programs in which you are involved in social media, by corporate initiative and by brand?

We currently have four Facebook pages: one for the Toyota brand and pages for our Prius, 4Runner, and Sienna vehicles.  We also have Toyota accounts on YouTube and Twitter.  This year we’ve also created a Toyota community on Digg and Toyota Conversations, a platform which aggregates tweets about Toyota and enables us to respond to the highest volume posts [at].  Outside of our channels, we use a variety of listening tools to identify high-volume conversations and interact with customers on blogs, forums and in other communities.

Toyota has been in reaction mode to the press and recalls lately. What has been your most effective couple of initiatives that you think have been most valuable in assuaging customers issues and taking a proactive stance to the market dynamics? What's worked well in safeguarding your heretofore stellar corporate reputation?

Social media has been one of the most – if not the most – important crisis communications tools because it enables unprecedented listening and interaction with our customers. Both the Digg and Toyota Conversations platforms have been very valuable additions to our portfolio.  Over a million people viewed the Digg Dialogg video interview with our president, Jim Lentz, in the first five days.  Answering the most popular questions submitted by the Digg community really showed we weren’t afraid to be transparent.

Toyota Conversations is part of a strong partnership we have with Federated Media and will provide us a phenomenal platform for publishing, listening, and responding to the community. Operationally, we’ve turned up the volume on our response level and have created a social media war room that’s staffed with 6 to 8 responders. Our goal is not to guide the conversation in any way, rather to provide accurate and timely information to customers.

How important are "influencers" in your overall social strategy? Do you target them? Try to identify them? Have special programs for them? Or is every follower a potential customer/prospect, all people created equal in your social operating plan?

We certainly want to account for influence in our publishing and outreach efforts, however it’s also important to us provide all of our customers a voice.  The DNA of the Toyota brand emphasizes respect for people, so we want to ensure our channels are open to everyone (including our detractors). Some of our models, such as Prius, have entrenched communities of enthusiasts with whom we engage, as they’re authentic brand advocates.

You have publicly said "ROI" is not why you are involved in social media at this point, instead for your brands it's more important to leverage the transparency into your organization that social media renders. Do you agree that I accurately recapped your sentiments and if so, can you dig a little deeper into if and when you might start to put ROI metrics around your social influence marketing and what those metrics might be?

ROI is certainly important to us in the long run, however we don’t plan to wait to define it before advancing initiatives we know are important.  Over time we will definitely evaluate our efforts in order to determine how they are impacting key metrics. Those results will become the new benchmarks for future initiatives, and ultimately the foundation for measuring ROI.

Ted Shelton, co-founder of The Conversation Group was recently on my weekly show, DishyMix, talking about Open Management. OM is the use of social platforms at an enterprise level, within the organization or externally with vendors, suppliers, partners... Toyota has always been on the cutting edge of technologic innovation in internal systems (I think about Jim Pisz at your company and what he's implemented). Are you using or planning any Open Management-type platforms at this point?

Toyota has always had a collaborative relationship with its partners, suppliers, and dealers so Open Management is certainly consistent with our values.  Executing this for us could mean finding new tools and technologies to better enable the collaboration already taking place.

11 Responses to “Toyota’s Initiatives to Reinforce Customer Loyalty and Brand Champions”

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  5. hmm, toyota is the best. for 10 years I have been using products from Toyota, and there is no problem

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