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How Toyota Reached 105 Million Readers With Its Social Media Marketing Campaign

It has been duck shooting season lately with Toyota being the duck with recall after recall and legal class actions announced after numerous faults had been discovered in its cars.Toyota Social media Marketing There had to be some good news about Toyota somewhere  and as  I  have been on an automotive blogging binge on social media marketing recently, I decided to look at Toyota’s efforts, to keep some perspective on the role  of social media and people’s passion for their cars.

The binge on social media marketing included reviewing Ford’s social media marketing in a post “The Seven Secrets to Ford’s Social Media Marketing Success”  I also had a look under the bonnet of General Motors Social media marketing forays with an article titled “General Motors Gets Into Gear With A Social Media Competition“.

The speed of the responses from Ford and General Motors Global Social Media Directors, Scott Monty and Chris Barger to the posts were to put it mildly “impressive” so I was becoming a touch more curious about how Toyota was playing in the social media pond.

So some search research discovered that Toyota was working hard at monitoring, listening and then responding to the buzz created by the brand crisis by assembling a Response team that on February 1 created a social-media response room, always staffed with six to eight people monitoring the online conversation and responding at all times. It answered consumers on its four Facebook pages; it created a Twitter chat with Jim Lentz, Toyota Motor Sales USA president-chief operating officer; and it created two new platforms,

  • Digg channel platform
  • Tweetmeme channel called “Toyota Conversations” to aggregate online chatter and allow Toyota to respond directly

According to Adage “Mr. Frisbie said the Digg dialogue attracted nearly 1 million views in its first five days after launching February 8”.

Toyota has approached online brand loyalists and asked if it could repost their

  • Tweets
  • Blog posts
  • YouTube Videos

on its inhouse platforms.

How Toyota Reached 105 Million Readers From Its Social Media Marketing Campaign

Frisbie said “We have proactively reached out to those creating some higher-volume conversations online,” ….. “We are creating a series of video interviews with customers, associates at our plants and some dealership personnel to tell those stories proactively on our YouTube channel and other outlets. They provide that frontline perspective and an authentic response to some of the issues we are facing right now.

So that was part of the crisis management response that I am sure was quite successful but another article by adage also mentioned that “Tylenol, Toyota and Tiger: Almost Impervious to Flak” and the main point was that it takes a lot to ruin the image of a major brand with just one crisis.

Then I discovered the fun stuff with a Toyota social media marketing effort in the UK.

So this is a summary of the iCrossing UK, a global digital marketing agency’s report, when they ran a programme of social media activity for Toyota Great Britain to help raise awareness of its iQ city car. It was based on an iQ core blog and a series of activities designed to create word-of-mouth referrals that drove traffic to the blog and generated interest in the car itself.

So  what were the objectives of the marketing campaign

The Objectives

1. Raise awareness of the iQ and its attributes among hard-to-reach but influential environmental, automotive and technology blogs and to connect directly with people who use social media platforms such as Twitter and Flickr.
2. Increase the visibility of information about the iQ brand in the results of major search engines via links and traffic back to the ‘This is iQ’ blog.

Note: And this is important folks “Influential blogs are ranked highly by Google and other search engines as authoritative sources, meaning that links and traffic from these sites have a more positive effect on the rankings of recipient sites. As a result, mentions and recommendations on social media sites can have a significant influence on a brand’s overall online profile that is above and beyond the simple value of the blog’s own readership”.

The Program

The attempt saw two of iCrossing’s ‘This is iQ’ bloggers attempting a 500-mile road trip in a Toyota iQ, all on a single tank of petrol. The trip would take the two drivers to 18 UK cities and every step of the journey would be shared through social media.

The drivers reported their journey on

  • The iQ blog,
  • Reported their status on Twitter
  • Uploaded photos to Flickr

How Toyota Reached 105 Million Readers From Its Social Media Marketing Campaign

Their position was tracked via a Google Maps mashup using the GPS function on an iPhone. Given that the activity had a clear editorial rather than marketing focus, all of the creative output to these social media sites was presented in a deliberately ‘lo-fi’, human and non-commercial manner.

The social media team contacted high profile blogs to point them in the direction of the ‘This is iQ’ blog which contained all the information they needed to find out more and write about the activity. This ‘light touch’ approach meant the team generated additional links and traffic back to Toyota’s site from all coverage of the attempt.

The Numbers  and the Facts from the Toyota Social Media Marketing Campaign

For the environmentally minded readers out there, on the drive, the car exceeded its official combined cycle figure of 65.7mpg, reaching 71.6mpg.

  • In terms of coverage, the hypermiling activity resulted in 64 blogs, including Wired, the New York Times and Treehugger reporting the attempt
  • Toyota reaching a potential audience of over 105 million readers worldwide
  • It reached a possible 3.7 million in the UK alone.
  • Traffic to the iQ blog increased by more than 212%
  • The origin of incoming traffic fundamentally changed with visitors that were previously arriving predominantly from search engines and the Toyota website now arriving from third party sites rose from 15% to more than 50% of traffic – representing a 32-fold volume increase in referrals.
  • Readers were also likely to be high value, being pre-disposed to view iQ in a positive light because of the independent advocacy of the editorial coverage
  • Toyota had succeeded in reaching new audiences – readers of influential blogs who might not have otherwise visited Toyota’s site.

Toyota will also continue to benefit from the long term impact of the activity because links from influential blogs will remain and continue to deliver tail traffic to support natural search rankings.

So do you think Toyota is winning with its social media marketing?

Jeffbullas's Blog


  • Another fantastic post, Jeff. Thanks for all these automotive industry social media case studies. Small businesses may not be able to dedicate 8 people to the effort, but this is a great reminder on how even smaller brands should be monitoring the conversations in their industry, and reaching out to their brand evangelists to kick start their social media channels. I study several website’s analytic data regularly and a boost in referral traffic is a super positive trend. Google traffic is hit and miss as far as qualified leads, so it’s nice to see that companies are succeeding in using social media to improve their website traffic and overall marketing goals. Ford in my opinion has more momentum in this arena, but it’ll be interesting to see if Toyota can use social media to reclaim their association with “quality”.

  • It’s unfortunate you didn’t take a look at how the U.S. and U.K. Toyota PR teams have responded to the recall. The differences are drastic with the U.K. having a clear lead in my opinion of what to do especially in how they have used their YouTube channel early and often to help communicate the response. Also look at the two landing pages for Toyota and tell me which one is more effective (I think the choice is clear.)



    I particularly like the UK’s version with the Facts and Figures content.

    Where you lose me a bit with this article is bringing in the old 2008 iQ hypermiling event that was featured in a Forrester article last year. That’s a very different kind of social media outreach and while there is some good data there, it really is disconnected from the social media marketing efforts Toyota has been doing on Digg, Facebook, etc. to handle the recall situation.

  • It is possible that Toyota can reclaim prestige again. I have an older Toyota, never been on a recall list, drives without any problems, etc. I can recall the tons of calls we got when we sold one son’s Toyota before he left for college. Even used, we got a great price for it.

    Point being: people were loyal to Toyota. They can be loyal again. Social media could be a part of that.

  • An excellent break down of how to handle a huge PR bungle. The bottom line is Toyota figured out a way to consolidate all of its responses into one area and respond accordingly. The new SM model seems to be all about consolidation. Being a Social Media professional myself (I dislike the term “expert,” feels disingenuous) it is really tough to respond when messages are spread all over the net. An excellent case study indeed!

  • Hi Jeff,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to put this information together – very interesting!

    Kris Putnam-Walkerly
    Putnam Community Investment Consulting

  • Sharon Barry

    Thank you for such a thorough commentary. Another blog referred to Toyota’s “death by a thousand cuts”. Has Toyota done enough to recover it’s reputation? Time will tell.

  • Great case study. One question: can you define “potential audience”? My comment is reaching a potential audience of 6.8 billion people.

    • Yeah I’d like to see a little math on that too. Maybe it’s the combined traffic of these blogs, feeds and twitter following over the past months.
      Potential is a rather broad term, but don’t you think a potential of 6.8billion readers is a rather
      cocky statement? 😉 Don’t forget all the babies and illiterate people out there….

  • Hi Jeff, thanks for the excellent analysis.

    One question, though: do you think Toyota is interested in addressing it’s reliability crisis through social media?

    As the AdAge article says, “Bad news doesn’t kill a good brand”. So do you think Toyota is cunningly focusing on raising awareness on new products and new topics of interest rather than trying to address the crisis online at the risk of prolonging it in people’s minds ?

    Thanks again,

    • I don’t think they are taking brand reliability crisis lightly..As far as competitive market is concern, each brand have to keep them strong and need constant improvement.

      You must be aware of “united breaks guitars” story !!! Brand loyalty is very important for any business.

  • Scatteredmom

    “Toyota will also continue to benefit from the long term impact of the activity because links from influential blogs will remain and continue to deliver tail traffic to support natural search rankings.”

    Right. Then they release a commercial that says they don’t make cars for bloggers.

    I love my Toyota, but if a company is going to insinuate that I have no credibility because I choose to self publish online, I’m not going to use that space to promote them. In fact, I’ll call up their competitor and see what they have to offer.

  • Anonymous

    Toyota had a great market too. There are many reviewers and analyst who keep on studying Toyota’s production system.  It has a great quality of products. And I think Toyota use social media marketing in a proper way and continuously learning the tool for marketing advancement. This is a great topic to discuss. Thanks.


  • Linda Graanoogst

    Prachtig voorbeeld hoe negatieve publiciteit om te bouwen is naar positieve.

  • Social media has indeed taken over online marketing. We are seeing a real revolution in,not just SEO or Social Media,but a combination of both, Social SEO which a lot of companies and brands are using to stay ahead of the curve. Thanks for the detailed article:

  • Jeff you are always writing great post.. real value for the time we spend to read it..

  • Rashmi Jha

    Thanks for sharing the details of this interesting SMM campaign Jeff. Customer centric experiential marketing is the focus for brands across all segments. We are noticing a paradigm shift in terms of level of engagement and virality for a campaign, be it in the Auto, Hotel or Aviation industries. Keep up the great work!

  • Hey jeff,

    Again the great article.

    A perfectly planned and a well executed campaign.
    Obviously, If the main plus point of social media campaign is their long term benefit. And Toyoto has taken care of all aspects.

    Great campaign.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Steffy

    Hi Jeff, Great post again thanks:)
    Don’t you think  this ca-road-trip-social-media campaigns are getting a bit overused? It was firstly Ford that organized a trip with influential bloggers, GM does it as well with some challenges, Mini Cooper too and now Toyota. Is this really the only think car manifacturers can think of? I am getting a bit bored by all this campaigns:) What do you this guys?