Only in the upside-down world of social media can an industrial powerhouse advise people to smile at strangers or write poems and stick them on the refrigerator.
Those are the kinds of musings Toyota posts every day on the Facebook social-media site, in a feature it calls "Random Acts of Prius."
The idea is to keep people coming back to the site to read the latest posting and thereby constantly expose them to the Prius name.
Keeping up with the social-media revolution means automakers must get creative. On Facebook, the worst fate a company can suffer is to be "unfriended" or dumped by a fan who loses interest.
For about a year, Toyota has used the Prius as its test bed for social media, says product manager Doug Coleman. It made sense, considering the vehicle's highly engaged buyers.
The automaker even has crowned nine Prius enthusiasts "experts," allowing them to critique the vehicle online and answer questions from the public.
"We don't censor them at all; they say what they want," says Coleman. "If we censor them, the whole point of the program is lost."
Carmakers are reacting to a public that likes to get information from third-party sources before making a buying decision. Says Coleman: "They don't necessarily listen to traditional advertising the way we think of it."
This year Ford Motor Co. launched the Fiesta Movement. It lent the 2011 model of the Fiesta subcompact to 100 "agents" who regularly share their experiences with the car, including photos and videos on social-media sites.
Ford also hosts an online community at thefordstory.com that combines company-generated messages with content submitted by the community, including blog entries and videos.
Scott Monty, who heads Ford's social-media efforts, says companies must get people's attention, but in a way that builds trust. He says the objective is to tell the story through people the public can identify with. "We're humanizing the company," Monty says.
Volvo used social media to build interest in its XC60 crossover. The vehicle launched in March, but Volvo started the vehicle's campaign five months earlier, using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr , a photo-sharing site.
Honda has a Facebook application called Who Loves a Honda? It combs through a person's friends list and measures the number of "love connections" the person has to people who say they love a Honda vehicle. Users are ranked on a leader board according to the number of connections found.
So how do you measure success?
Alicia Jones, a social-media manager at Honda, says her company looks at factors including how many people forward items posted by the automaker to their friends and how many people on social-media sites are making comments.
"How that transfers into sales is another story," she said. "What's more valuable is how many conversations we're having."