Nissan at Social Media Week Chicago

Erich Marx of Nissan

The Social Media Week Chicago session “Nissan: Test And Learn: Nissan’s approach to taking risks in social media” (#smwtestnlearn) took place at the beautiful Chicago Cultural Center. Led by Erich Marx, Director of Interactive and Social Media Marketing for Nissan North America, this was easily one of the best presentations I went to this week.

Nissan’s tagline is “Innovation that excites” and that’s just how they run their social media too. Marx wanted the car company to be “a cool brand in the social space that people want to invite into their newsfeed.” Marx mentioned that online issue resolution is becoming a bigger opportunity for Nissan, and most likely for other brands as well. People are using social media to solve issues immediately. Customer service being handled via social media is a common theme throughout a lot of events I’ve attended this week. It’s been brought up several times as part of the speaker’s presentation and as an audience question during Q&A.

“I want our Facebook brand page to be just like Nordstrom’s CafĂ©.” said Marx. He explained that you don’t have people bringing you sales racks, or showing you different shoes to buy. You’re not being sold. He doesn’t want his FB page to be about selling to customers. The online place for that is nissanusa.com. On FB they are building a relationship, not selling cars. Some companies are different. People buy cars every 3-5 years, not every 3 months. So they don’t want to bombard fans with sales.

Marx says to be open to trying new things. Nissan really enjoys Vine. They put together a contest to leverage this channel. They were going to have customers create Vine videos about their new Versa Note. A week before they were to launch, Instagram came out with their 15-second videos. They knew people would be using that platform more for it’s longer video capability and didn’t want to lose out to that. So to adapt, they decided to make their contest a “InstaVine”, where contestants could use either platform to enter. Marx then - and this is pretty cool - showed us their new never-before aired commercial. It showcased 3 winners’ videos from the contest.

The #1 thing they always ask themselves before posting a message is “Is this shareable?” If it’s not shareable or exciting, they don’t share it. Marx then talked a little about comedy in social. He said it has to have a purpose. Ask yourself, how does your brand tie in? Your brand should not be the punch line of any joke. Your brand should not be Gilligan, Urkel or Sheldon. It has to make sense when you use it. On the same subject of posting, Marx said they don’t post more than once per day. “I don’t even want to hear from my best friend more than once a day.” Wow does that makes a lot of sense!

In exploring new-to-them social channels, Nissan partnered with mommy blogger Amy Lupoid Bair.  She worked with the company before in different ways, so she was a trusted partner. She helped Nissan with their Pinterest pinning party. It’s important to take calculated risks and make sure there is a ceiling to your exposure. What Nissan learned from this is that when doing something for the first time, be sure you trust who you’re working with.

Another thing they learned is to do what works. One social media goal for them was engagement. They gave their fans the opportunity to build their own race car. Their fans told Nissan what kind of engine, suspension, breaks, etc. to use on the new car. They used this crowdsourcing to actually build a car. Project 370 Z was a collaboration of what their community wanted. When the program ended, a lot of fans were sad, so Nissan extended it. It showed their community that they were listening to them and that they care about them.

If you learn to do what works, you also have to learn to not do what doesn’t work. An example of this when they held a Google+ hangout to promote their 2013 Nissan pathfinder. It didn’t work out as well as they would have liked, so they haven’t done one since.

Then Marx brought up a term that I’ve never heard of before. The “COI” thing. That stands for Cost Of Ignoring. Marx believes that social ROI is elusive. Not well-defined. He thinks people spend way too much time trying to figure out the ROI on social media. He said “losing sleep over ROI is crap. Don’t worry about it. Worry about the cost of ignoring.” The fact is, is that people are online talking about brands. Companies need to be on social and realize it’s an important way to connect with customers and build loyalty. He said COI is every bit as important as ROI, if not more.

Takeaways from this talk:
·      Be open to new and unexpected outcomes.
·      It’s not social just because it is on social media.
·      Set aside a small budget for experimentation.
·      Basic marketing rules of thumb still apply.
·      Make good relationships with innovative partners.

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