LOS ANGELES -- Automakers that want to join social media communities have to play by the social media rules. That can mean taking the bad with the good -- and occasionally losing control of the message.
Nowhere was this more apparent than when Honda created a Facebook page in September to unveil its new Accord Crosstour people hauler.
Unfortunately for Honda, the photo used to accompany the Crosstour was not flattering. Honda fans vented their disgust.
Facebook fan Anthony Haats was not alone in proclaiming: "This car is more of a nightmare than a dream. Go back to the drawing board before it's too late."
Honda rode out the storm, basically responding that the crossover needed to be seen in person to appreciate it.
"It made us re-evaluate what we were doing, but it didn't make us change course," said Jenny Howell, Honda manager of interactive marketing. "We are learning what's smart to do and what's not smart."
Honda continued using Facebook to generate positive buzz for the brand. Today, the Honda Facebook page has 304,000 fans and 3 million connections, Howell said.
What's more, the automaker's Facebook page was the conduit for casting the recent "Everybody knows somebody who loves a Honda" advertising campaign. Half the people in the TV commercial were pulled from the Facebook page and are not professional actors, Howell said. The ads are tagged with Honda's Facebook address, not the conventional Honda.com Web address.
"Social media helps us gather our fans, make them our advocates, build affinity with the brand and ultimately helps us sell cars," Howell said. "And more dealers are asking for our help with their social media."