8 Feb 2013

UK car companies attitude to social media and bloggers

The past 7 months has seen the transformation of Speedmonkey from a small website with a small readership and one article a day into a modern motoring website which produces several articles per day, a healthy and growing daily readership, and an increasing presence in search engine results.  I started Speedmonkey in June 2012 and have written and produced more than 600 articles on a variety of automative subjects - mainly focussed on cars and car culture, rather than out and out consumerism.  More than twenty people have written articles for Speedmonkey, some on a regular basis - all enthusiasts, none professional journalists (although some are motoring journalism students).

My knowledge of cars and the motoring industry started as just a reasonably well informed enthusiast who liked to write about all things automotive but over time, as I've immersed myself into the motoring scene, I've learned a hell of a lot.  I've been given top advice by experienced journalists, I've researched as much about the industry as is possible, I've read other motoring journalists work (not to plagiarise, please credit me with some integrity), I've registered with the appropriate agencies and manufacturers so I receive press releases for the subjects I think the website should cover.  In short I've done everything possible to make Speedmonkey a plausible, creditable, interesting, original read.

The one thing missing from the above list is that I (and other Speedmonkey writers) have been given cars to drive by benevolent automotive manufacturers who feel they would benefit from exposure on a young, growing website.  Not just Speedmonkey - I've seen and spoken with plenty of other bloggers at manufacturers media days.  Those manufacturers know that as a combined force the bloggers and smaller websites capture a young, and social media savvy, audience who have disposable income - to buy their cars.  They wouldn't provide their machines for us to drive if they didn't think they'd benefit somehow.

So we drive the cars, we come back and we write about them - directly and indirectly.  Knowledge of a particular model is useful when writing about other models in the range, or about competitors cars.  And if we haven't experienced the competitors car our opinion can be rather one sided.

I always make it clear if I have or haven't driven a particular car.  The full list of drive tests is here.  Over the course of my life I've driven hundreds of cars but, for example, not a Vauxhall Adam.  So any Adam article is written based on the information on the screen in front of me rather than from experience.  This provides limitations but I do my best (and so do all other journalists, no-one has driven every single car they write about) with what I've got.

The enlightened manufacturers who have involved me and other bloggers are Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar Land Rover, Infiniti, Renault/Dacia, Porsche, Mitsubishi and Honda (who invited me to a launch but I couldn't spare the 2 days it would take to cover it - such are the limitations of also working for a living).

The manufacturers who have yet to find enlightenment include BMW, Audi, VW, Lexus, Vauxhall, Aston Martin, Bentley and Maserati.  In particular Audi and BMW sell volume cars to an increasingly older audience and would benefit from exposure to bloggers and social media in order to increase their demographic reach - which will in turn sell more cars.  Audi, in particular, snub their noses at any and all smaller bloggers.  In order to register with Volkswagen's media site you need to be a member of a journalistic union, which is rather a 1970s mindset.  

Mercedes-Benz have purposefully adopted a social media strategy to attract a younger audience, which has worked.  Younger buyers are targeted and younger buyers are buying A and B Class Mercedes.  Their strategy is working.  An example in Speedmonkey terms is when the Superbowl advert for the CLA was shown, the website went crazy at 3am UK time.  The CLA article suddenly became the months' highest read article.

Driving a particular car doesn't automatically mean it will get a good review.  But it does mean it will get an informed review.  And when it is spoken about in other arenas it will be from a platform of experience, rather than mere facts and figures.

The point of this article is simple.

BMW, Audi, VW, Lexus, Maserati et al.  If you want further exposure for your product let the bloggers drive them.  Me included.  Contact details are here.

The bloggers already have some clout with your potential buyers, our strength can only increase.

Article by Matt Hubbard