Why Mazda Shouldn’t Hire a Social Media Marketing Manager

One of the keys to social media is that it is supposed to be sincere. As a result, I always tell companies to get involved on a personal level regardless of whether they’re a local car dealer, a manufacturer, or anywhere in between.

Mazda_FacebookWith that said, I was discouraged by an ad for a Social Media Marketing Manager for Mazda corporate. The ad itself is fine – they seem to be looking for the right person with some of the right criteria around which to hire. They posted it in the right places and will probably receive a huge response.

Mazda_TwitterThe problem that I found isn’t in the fact that they’re trying to hire someone. My concern is that they’re in no position to hire someONE to manage their social media. They don’t really have social media. For all intents and purposes, they are invisible on Web 2.0. At this stage of the game, they don’t need a manager because they have very little to manage.

In an ideal situation, their first “hire” should be a firm. This firm, the RIGHT firm, would establish a social media strategy in the uber-competitive (and exponentially growing) world of automotive social media that caters to and enhances the brand, the qualities of the company and the products, the differentiation between their target markets and their top competitors, and a clear cut series of concepts and plans to give the company viral buzz.

Once that’s established, they (or any other corporation in that situation) would be able to hire the right person to monitor and manage the efforts. To try to hire someone before that, regardless of their experience and qualifications, would be a mistake. Why? Think of it like football:

Football teams that are successful season after season do so because they establish a direction for the team and get the players that fit best within that plan. Troy Aikman turned out to be an amazing quarterback in college and the NFL, but he didn’t fit into the wishbone scheme at Oklahoma. Once he transferred to a more pass-friendly school he was able to be successful and was drafted #1 by the Cowboys. Three Superbowls later, it was clear that he made the right choices and the teams he played for made even better choices.

The same applies here for Mazda. If they don’t set the proper direction and lay the groundwork in social media, they are playing hit or miss with their social media marketing manager. The strengths of the individual do not outweigh the benefits of hiring someone tailored to specific social media styles and campaigns.

Here is where they’re lacking after a quick analysis:

  • Twitter (and no, they’re not @mazda on Twitter)
  • Facebook (and yes, that really is their page with less than 1,000 fans)
  • Social news sites such as Digg (where the vast majority of their buzz is negative)
  • Blogging (do they have a blog?)
  • Buzz monitoring (will they even be aware that blog posts such as this exist and will they reply as they should?)

… and that’s just scratching the surface.

Mazda_Digg

If they do listen, we’ll know because they won’t hire a social media marketing manager before having a campaign already active and designed by a social media marketing team. Why wait? Because they must know which direction their heading and which paths they’re going to take before selecting the vehicle that will get them there.

Here’s a more appropriate analogy: They want to get from point A (where they are today in social media) to point B (success in social media). With hundreds of different paths available, how do they know which vehicle to purchase to get them there? What if they buy (hire) a Hummer and the road that will get them most effectively to point B is long distance and all highway? Had they known the path, they would have bought (hired) a Ferrari (or a motorcycle, or a Prius – all better choices than a Hummer for that kind of path).

Let’s say they buy (hire) a Ferrari, then after seeing the map they realize that it’s better to go offroad and cut through to the other end. They should have bought (hired) a Jeep (or a helicopter for that matter) to get them to point B.

I hope that I’m wrong. I hope that they’ve already hired a reputable and capable firm to lay the groundwork and initiate a plan and that the plan just hasn’t been put into place yet. It’s still not ideal as the plan should be in play before they make the hire, but it’s better than hiring someONE responsible for putting it all together with an internal team.

Sadly, out of the thousands of social media firms out there, I’ve only found a half dozen or so that can truly handle corporate level automotive social media. I would know about it if they hired one of these firms, so if they already do have a firm retained, it’s probably not the right one.

/rant – time to get back to business.

* * *

Read more about Automotive Social Media on this Social Media Blog.

JD Rucker

+JD Rucker is Editor at Soshable, a Social Media Marketing Blog. He is a Christian, a husband, a father, and founder of Dealer Authority. He drinks a lot of coffee, usually in the form of a 5-shot espresso over ice. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

15 thoughts on “Why Mazda Shouldn’t Hire a Social Media Marketing Manager

  1. I got your point here. but let’s put it this way:
    They know they have to go social.
    they don’t how to go there. even if you know your point B, you might not be able to determine which path to follow… who might have a solution ?
    – a social media agency with good skills ? certainely you’re right. but who is going to choose between the different strategies carried by this agency ?
    – a hired pro like you for exemple ? for sure :) you might be the one who will choose easily between one or two different paths. you might orientate the debates and finally consult the 10 to 12 agencies you mentionned to partipate in the setting up of the “final” strategy. this might be a good point to start with don’t you think.
    thanks for your article.
    Erwan.

  2. Hey Erwan:

    That actually crossed my mind – “Are they hiring someone to determine the best strategy, to work with an agency?” The way the ad is worded, it looks like they are looking for someone to set the direction. I would recommend they determine the strategy at a higher level (executive) based upon the recommendations of consultation.

    Regarding hiring a pro like me, I would love to do it, but can’t. I already work in the automotive industry across multiple brands. We’d have a conflict of interests, as they would need a company that can consult in the industry without having direct clients. While I wouldn’t mind pointing them in the right direction, we wouldn’t be allowed to accept them as a direct client.

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment!
    jdr

  3. Trust me, Mazda is listening.

    We appreciate the feedback, advice, guidance, suggestions and — most of all — the enthusiasm and passion you put into the article.

    To address one of your points, we are working with a social media consultancy to establish the foundation and direction of Mazda’s social media strategy, as well as keep us focused on moving forward rather than standing still.

    As a brand, Mazda is very fortunate to have so many enthusiasts in the automotive community who celebrate and share their lives and passion with us. We recognize the importance of that community, and also that we need to be a better partner in that community. We are not simply hiring “someone,” we are changing the way we operate as a company and the way we communicate with our customers. For example, in the last 30 days, we have changed our governance policies within Mazda regarding employees posting on blogs and websites on the company’s behalf, and have integrated members of the Web 2.0 and enthusiast community into our activities and plans.

    We are not looking for buzz or for a quick hit that will simply raise our search engine rankings, we are looking to change the way we communicate with our owners – past, present and future owners included — and make our brand more relevant to their lives. It doesn’t have to appeal to everyone (and we know it won’t), but for those who understand that Mazda is a car company that designs, engineers and builds cars that are more than simply transportation appliances, they’ll get it.

    We want this social media adventure to be authentically Mazda, so instead of sitting on the sidelines idling, we are revving up our Zoom-Zoom and getting moving.

    Great article and thank you for the feedback. The very fact you chose to write about our direction – right or wrong, in your opinion – shows that we have engaged you in the conversation, and that is the very least we can hope for.

    David Harris, Group Manager, Mazda North American Operations
    Irvine, Calif.

  4. Mazda produces a great product but they have not done well connecting with their customers as indicated by the number of Twitter followers and Facebook fans. It’s great to see they are changing things. Can’t wait to see how things progress.

  5. JD – you make a number of valid points, but social media ownership is not limited to just Mazda corporate. Granted, Mazda corporate needs to set a better direction and course — and after meeting David Harris several weeks ago, I know that they will get there sooner than later. Social media does not happen overnight especially in a culture where the concept is not natural.

    With that, there are already many Mazda dealers on Twitter who are engaging in conversations in their local markets – not counting the hundreds of Mazda owners and enthusiasts who are tweeting about their Mazdas. And there are a number of quite active Mazda forums and communities where there are thousands and thousands of user-generated questions, answers, pictures and videos.

    To see how much is actually happening in social media for Mazda, I started pulling together an inventory of their social media and user-generated sites at http://www.squidoo.com/mazdasocialmedia. This is a work in progress and a worthwhile project for any major brand who is starting to dip their toe in the social media waters.

    Tom Humbarger
    http://twitter.com/tomhumbarger

  6. This is an interesting article in that it showcases the difference of opinion that we can have in the car business, while still respecting the skills and experiences of those expressing a different perspective… My perception of the Mazda “help wanted” advertisement was completely the opposite of the view JD expressed. To me, I saw a car company reaching out beyond the insularity of looking within their own walls to select someone who Social Media Marketing strategy would become just another project. Instead, Mazda North America did the right thing, while showing some courage in revealing themselves as seeking new leadership in what will become a mission critical area for them and all car companies. Personally, I applaud Mazda for having the good sense to acquire leadership before establishing strategy… To establish strategy before identifying and/or hiring their internal thought leaders would have been foolish.

    In the book “Good to Great” one of the key concepts was the idea around getting the right people “on the bus” before the bus starts heading in a particular direction. What JD seems to be suggesting is that Mazda should have rented a bus and then tried to figure out who to put in it after it heads out on the highway. In many ways dealers can learn from what Mazda is doing… Identify your Social Media Marketing leaders, or bring the right person on board… THEN, start mapping out details and reviewing what suppliers and agencies have to offer. Leadership first, strategy second and THEN deploy tactics to support strategy and leadership objectives.

  7. Congratulations to Mazda for investing in social media. With a comparatively young audience I was stunned by Mazda’s standing in a recent publication you can see here: http://automarketingblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/automotive-facebook-fans-by-brand.html

  8. Mike,

    Thank you for the congratulations. I was also stunned by the standing in that publication and dug into the data a little. The number that they used was for “Mazda Racing”, a site that we appreciate but it is not a singular representation of our brand on Face book. While we launched our corporate Fan page in December, it had over 1000 fans at the end of that month. What I found interesting was that when I search Mazda on Face book, there are over 540 pages associated with Mazda — that’s more than VW or Porsche. Mazda has organically grown its fan base over the years; now we want to listen and learn from our customers and hopefully help all of us celebrate the Zoom-Zoom.

  9. JD,

    You skimmed the facts a bit on Mazda’s presence on Facebook as well. Mazda3 has a size-able fan base there, with over 11,000 fans. A corporate Fan page is the only route to your fans, some feel a greater affinity with the model they drive than with the manufacturer.

    As an agency parter that works with Mazda on their social marketing strategy, I agree with Ralph and David that Mazda does “get it” and is making the right move by staffing up to do even more n the Social space. There’s already an incredibly loyal and active organic Mazda fan base that will only grow stronger with the right strategy in place and the right resources to support it.

  10. Mazda’s first step should be to learn how to spell “Facebook”. One word, not two.

    Deuces!

    – Mark

  11. Mark,

    Wow… and Touché… I could blame spell check in Word however I don’t want Bill Gates to comment too…

    It still doesn’t excuse the mistake.

    Facebook…. not face book.

    Thank you.

    David Harris

  12. Not sure whether Mazda should be embracing social media when it can’t even arrange a test drive for me. I own an RX8, and want to test drive a Mazda 5. After two weeks of unreturned phone calls, cancelled visits, and generally poor customer service, still no sign of arranging that test drive. Perhaps Mazda doesn’t need people buying its products? To repeat, we will be purchasing a car within the next few weeks, and the company is doing all it can to push us into the arms of another vendor. I’m based just north of London in the UK by the way. I wanted to try and arouse their interest on twitter, but couldn’t find anything relevant.

    Truly epic levels of customer service failure.

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