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Social Media Case Study 2011 Toyota

Company: Toyota
Toyota is a Japanese motor vehicle production and sales company with its Head Office in Toyota City, Japan. Founded in 1937, the company is guided by Kaizen, a Japanese principle that entails making continual small improvements to business processes, which possibly has contributed to its wholehearted adoption of social media.

If you happen to have produced a lemon, make lemonade!
Somewhat active on social media since about 2008, Toyota stepped up its activity in 2010 after having to recall 2.3 million vehicles because of faulty accelerator pedals. Overnight, Google and Twitter were a-buzz with bad comments. Since at the time Digg had between 37 and 44 million unique visitors, the company chose to address the situation through an interview on Digg Dialogg. The clip that features Jim Lentz, President of Toyota USA, runs 28 minutes and is still available online.

At a company annual event a year or so later, Toyota data analysts presented a study they had done with data collected from Facebook and Twitter. The study showed it was possible to identify people who were in the market to buy and in the process of deciding between a Toyota and another make. The company invested in further R&D and Toyota’s sentiment-analysis system was born.

Create engaging content, monitor, repeat
Using this system, Toyota analyses free text and other content to see what people are saying about its brand and models. The information gathered is then used to make more accurate sales forecasts, determine customers’ favorite t.v. shows for ad and tie-in placement, identify problems and determine engagement with the brand.

Since the more active it is, the more data can be collected and examined, the company is very active indeed. Every opportunity serves to get its message across and engage in conversation, starting with its several websites, the pages of which can be shared on every imaginable application or social media site.

In a very informative interview conducted in 2009, Scott DeYager, Toyota Social Media Supervisor, shares the company’s strategy related to its online news room, how channels are chosen for specific campaigns, how trolls are dealt with, whether accounts are moderated and other important issues social media marketers need to consider. The audio clip, too voluminous to embed on this page, is available here. The interview also covers the use of personal accounts for brand promotion and choice of personal vs corporate accounts for social media channels.

The customer as “part of the family”
Toyota adopts various styles of communication, from offering prizes through Facebook and YouTube, to engaging with people on Twitter and seeing to everything from public relations to customer service. To create a beehive effect, Toyota trains staff in social media and allows them to engage directly with customers. Its approach also covers community building and just plain socializing as a friend. Toyota social media department meetings include several other departments and content is developed by anyone with a good idea and shared where appropriate. Even the company’s strategies and insights are shared on the Toyota Social Media Marketing Facebook page, created for dealers and their employees as well as suppliers. Toyota car owners and fans can also access this page that connects Toyota Social Networks and Online Communities. This access goes a long way toward giving the impression of transparency, a feature that is now almost required due to changing customer expectations. As an added bonus, the strategy increases customer loyalty.

Open and available at all times

Toyota runs creative social media campaigns such as the 15 second video above. These short productions are posted on instagram and pushed through Facebook ads. Advertising costs are low, but the target market is reached and the videos garner likes and foster positive sentiment toward the brand. Clients and fans can also share on other photo-sharing apps like Vine and Snapchat, which further increases trust and engagement.

Sharing images such as the one above-(Toyota’s current facebook cover pic)-and videos through its Facebook pages helps Toyota get fans to connect with aspects of the brand as a whole. Open-ended questions are regularly asked on this channel, a strategy that allows customers and fans to express themselves while also providing data that otherwise would not have been available. Toyota also published another custom Facebook page that allows fans to do good works by voting for a charity they feel should receive a free car. (The campaign is called “100 Cars for Good.” )

On YouTube, Toyota features car models, commercials, how-to segments and community stories. In October 2014, Toyota USA’s YouTube channel had 62,641 subscribers and had been seen by over 81 million people. Clips like the one below featuring B.B. King engage at an emotional level.

Lessons learned

  • Public relations fiascos can be used as an opportunity to increase trust on social media if dealt with in an open manner.
  • Customer engagement means listening to what is being said and acting accordingly, a strategy than can pay off handsomely in increased business performance, brand loyalty and customer retention.
  • The more you engage, the more feedback you obtain to increase your business performance.
  • Thinking through strategy and making sure staff are trained is important to social media success.
  • Transparency and the use of all styles of communications foster customer engagement, loyalty and retention.
  • Being available on several channels increases engagement.

Submitted by: Hélène Montpetit, University of Waterloo Student.

Author Contact: hel_montpetit@hotmail.com

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Programme Director.


Toyota’s use of social media has been covered extensively. For more information, see the following:

Stieglitz, Stefan and Krüger, Nina, “Analysis of Sentiments in Corporate Twitter Communication – A Case Study on an Issue of Toyota” (2011). ACIS 2011 Proceedings. Paper 29.

Toyota Social Media Marketing Breakdown, Social Toaster, Sarah McNew blogpost

Toyota Goes All-In With Social Media Monitoring, CIO, How-To, CIO Executive Council

Toyota is Using Instagram Videos in its Facebook Ads

Smallbusinessbc.ca, What Small Businesses Can Learn From Toyota’s Social Media Marketing Strategy

For more on social media and customer engagement, see:

Building a brand and lifestyle through customer engagement.

What is the definition of customer engagement?

 5 customer engagement strategies.

Customer engagement optimization (video)



   communication styles in social media, corporate websites and social media, customer engagement, customer loyalty, customer retention, customer trust, Digg Dialoss, Facebook, free text analysis, google, Instagram, public relations crises, Scott DeYager, Sentiment analysis, Snapchat, social media, Social Media Marketing, Toyota, Toyota social media strategy, twitter, Vine

About Helene Montpetit

Hélène Montpetit is currently Managing Editor and Assistant Communications Director at the Quebec Association for the Production of Renewable Energy (www.aqper.com). She describes herself as a clarity junkie, curious about life, lifestyles, changes, worlds, universes and the state of becoming.

View all posts by Helene Montpetit →

6 ways Toyota Used Social Media to Rebuild Its Reputation

Posted onApril 18, 2011byMARKIT Group

The automotive industry has a long history of trying its hardest to come up with the most innovative commercials, promotions, and means of garnering fresh views and interest. With so many dealerships to choose from, customers must be courted expertly in order to be convinced to choose a particular brand, style, or business location.
So what does a company do when its brand goes south?
Toyota is a classic example. This dependable, award-winning brand has encountered some tough luck over the last several years – but it chose not to let its misfortunes dictate its future success.
In this article from Ragan.com, Russell Working points out that social media has been a big part of Toyota’s road to recovery. Using this online space to market to potential clients has helped Toyota restore its good name, and there is a lot to be learned from this industry giant’s strategies. Read on to see how your own business can employ social media marketing to help bring new business, fresh visibility, and positive reviews to the table.
Follow this link to see the article in its original location at Ragan.com.

6 ways Toyota used social media to rebuild its reputation

A recall crisis damaged a respected brand; the carmaker has employed Digg, Facebook and other venues to restore its good name.
By Russell Working | Posted: April 18, 2011
What do you do when your brand’s reputation—considered one of the best in the business—crashes, leaving damage that will take years to repair?
This is the situation Toyota was thrown into when it was forced to recall 9 million vehicles in the United States because of accelerator pedals that could become stuck or trapped by floor mats, potentially causing high-speed accidents.
Toyota even stopped sales, and it marshaled its social media resources to respond to the crisis, reassure customers and rebuild its good name.
The carmaker used platforms like Digg, Facebook and Twitter to respond to criticism at a time it was taking a beating from consumers, comedians and Congress. Along the way, it changed its corporate culture.
“The reputation damage is one of the hardest things to repair,” says Kimberley Gardiner, national interactive marketing manager, “because it gets back to what people perceive as what went wrong, what happened, how did they handle it? To rebuild that trust, and rebuild the sense of Toyota is a strong brand, it’s a long-lasting brand, it’s a brand that cares—those things take time.”
In August 2009, four people were killed in an accident in San Diego after the accelerator in a Lexus was stuck and the vehicle could not stop. Owners were soon notified to remove floor mats, and by early last year, Toyota was issuing orders to stop sales and production of its vehicles.
Some critics also claimed that electronic flaws were causing its cars to accelerate, but a study released by NASA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration debunked that. Unfortunately, that came in February, a year after the height of the recall.
So what lessons do Toyota’s social media efforts offer in the rebuilding of consumer trust?

1. Have a team in place.

In late 2009, Toyota created a social media group that integrated PR, marketing, customer relations and agency partners. This came at the beginning of a crisis that made it the lead story on national news broadcasts on many nights for weeks.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time for us,” says Florence Drakton, social media and integration manager.

2. Plan for the worst.

No one expects a crisis, but you should prepare for one anyway, Gardiner says. “Have the communications channels available and open so that, as you go through something like a crisis, you have the immediate means to get to the right people to provide information,” she says.

3. Get your executives out in front.

During the height of the recall, in February 2010, key Toyota leaders held community chats via Digg Dialogg and Twitter. This put executives like Jim Lentz— president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor Sales, USA—before the public in new ways.
This had not been the protocol, Gardiner says. Toyota’s identity lay in the collective, but it realized that consumers needed to see a face and know that high-level executives were taking their concerns seriously.
Says Gardiner: “It personifies the idea that, yes, Toyota is a brand, but Toyota is also a collection of leaders and people who care and who want to assure customers that we’re making every effort to do the right thing. … It humanizes the brand.”

4. Inform and direct consumers.

Toyota used Facebook and Twitter to update drivers who were worried about the accelerator issue and the subsequent recall but weren’t clear about what to do, Gardiner says. “They were thinking, ‘Is it my car that’s involved? What do I need to do? What’s the next step? When am I going to hear from Toyota? What does it mean?’”
Toyota directed customers to its “recall hub,” a micro-site that enabled the company to inform the public directly, says Toyota spokeswoman Carly Schaffner. This helped people cut through the whirlwind of information and misinformation about the recall, officials say.
In June it created a “safety hub” amid a campaign that included another Digg Dialogg, this time with Dino Triantafyllos, vice president of quality.

5. Let consumers be your advocate.

One might think the wake of a public relations disaster would be a bad time to invite customer responses. But Toyota was gathering support on Facebook from loyal drivers. “We found a lot of owners who were really positive and who’d advocate for our brand,” Drakton says.
So Toyota created Auto-Biography on Facebook as a platform for owners to share stories about their experiences with the brand. Cars tend to be one of the largest purchases people make, after a home and a college education, Toyota officials say. And people tend to have strong memories of their experiences in the car.
Toyota played on those affinities, getting responses ranging from family vacations to memories of driving cross-country to college. Thousands of stories were submitted, and the number of Facebook “likes” shot up.
6. Blend traditional and social media.
Toyota launched a nationwide promotion of its Sienna van, and its “Swagger Wagon” campaign took off on YouTube as self-proclaimed “world’s greatest parents” touted their own coolness to a hip-hop beat.
“A lot of parents, and a lot of people, can relate,” Gardiner says. “Minivans aren’t necessarily the coolest thing on the block. But actually, you know what? They’ve transformed over the years.”
The social media efforts helped contribute to a turnaround. From April 2010 to April 2011, according to polling for Toyota, its brand opinion improved by 22 percent and “purchase consideration”—whether people were thinking about buying Toyota—increased 29 percent, Schaffner says.
The lesson? Social media “strengthens the connection people have with the car itself, with the dealer, with our brand generally speaking,” Gardiner says.

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About MARKIT Group

MARKIT Group is a full-service traditional and digital marketing and public relations firm with an emphasis on social media, reputation management and monitoring, as well as brand management. Headquartered in Bonita Springs, Fla., with offices in New York, Pittsburgh and Charleston, S.C. www.markit-group.com.

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