Features & Interviews

New ideas: The role of social media in the transport sector

15 September 2014 #Features & Interviews

Do you think social media and the commercial vehicle sector are mutually exclusive?

If so, perhaps you should think again. Many companies are using the new media on the web to keep in touch with their customers, communicate new product ideas and updates as well as receiving feedback.

While the idea of communicating through a medium where you are restricted to 140 characters might sound inane, most companies use the text simply for a headline and then have a link to a story or a video on the web for full information.

One brand that has been using Twitter to great effect is tyre giant Michelin. The firm launched a dedicated Twitter account for commercial vehicle operators three years ago, and the company’s online presence now boasts nearly 3,000 followers.

Chris Smith, Head of Trucking Marketing at Michelin, says, “Provided you use it in the right way, Twitter can be a great business tool. It’s particularly effective at bringing the Michelin brand closer to some of our smaller customers.

“Only last month we had a guy in the UK with a bespoke expedition truck tweeting us for advice on what pressures to run his new Michelin XZT tyres at. We were able to reply promptly, putting him in direct contact with one of our Technical Managers – the same Technical Manager who works with some of our largest national fleet customers. The customer was understandably very pleased he’d Tweeted us.”

As well as using the account to share news, views and provide best practice tyre tips, Michelin runs exclusive competitions to reward followers with a chance to win free Michelin merchandise. One such competition this year attracted more than 500 entries.

“We also like to engage with issues the industry is talking about,” adds Smith. “The golden rule is remembering that Twitter is not the place for endless sales messages. It’s a powerful conversational tool with an engaged audience, and needs to be treated as such.”

Information videos are an important part of the scenery on the digital landscape. According to Volvo Trucks’ UK Press Officer Nigel Hanwell, social media, of which the firm’s YouTube Channel is a part, is playing an important role in gathering and disseminating customers’ and drivers’ stories about their trucks and their life in the transport industry.

He says, “We are very pleased that so many people are engaging with the channel. It testifies to the fact that our messages are relevant and have contributed enormously to a new way of seeing B2B communication.”

Visitors can watch videos on subjects that include truck launches, road shows, and driver information videos. The latter includes a series of short CPC training films presented by trucking journalist Brian Weatherley. However, the most viewed film is called The Epic Split where a man stands astride two moving trucks to demonstrate the tracking control of the vehicles.

Taking video stunts one step further, Renault has commissioned creative agency We Are Social to make a parody of the Knight Rider opening sequence using a charcoal grey Trafic van. The business case for spending time and money on what sounds like a frivolous project is not simply to amuse subscribers – rather it is to get the brand recognised and talked about in those ‘water cooler’ moments with people who may not have ever previously thought about the VM’s vans.

Caroline Mechai, Global Advertising and Media Director at Renault, says, “The intention is to give Trafic a more dynamic image and reach out to a broader audience than simply business users.”

Darren Matthews, Business Development Analyst for freight and logistics software house WiseTech Global believes that using social media can bring benefits, but if done incorrectly can cause problems.

“The ‘Customer Experience’ is ingrained into many industries already, and while they may not always get it right, the retail, telecommunications, and even tourism industries, are investing time and effort into enhancing the customer experience,” he comments.

“In the technological times we live, the fallout from poor customer service is reflected online through social media. 51% of Facebook users expect a response to their complaints within a day, and 52% of Twitter users expect one within a two-hour period!” he exclaims. “It stands to reason that if customers are using technology to make their complaints known, then we ought to use technology to prevent the complaint in the first place.”

So, if you are thinking of delving into the realm of social media, be sure that you follow up any ‘live’ issues on the comments. However, don’t let this put you off using these exciting and free new media to drive your business forward.

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