Tweeting At Automakers Is A World Of HurtS

Recently, after four years of expressing my thoughts in 140-sentence papers, I finally got a Twitter account. There were a couple reasons for this, none involving upping my Klout score. One was to keep up with the ever-eccentric tweets of Taki Inoue. The other involved making unsolicited car recommendations to people. Only one of these things has been successful in practice.

Sure, Twitter has its share of fun moments, mainly when Edmunds's Scott Oldham went after Ralph Gilles over a Viper test car, demonstrating that even full-fledged grown-ups can still argue about sharing toys.

Thankfully, my experiences with Twitter haven't come anywhere near that. Mainly because I have only 22 followers, which hasn't helped the Klout score. That and I can't figure out how to express things in under 140 characters after four years of being a history major.

Having a Twitter finally came in handy (or so I thought) a month-and-a-half ago when I asked certain car manufacturers what their advertising slogan was. I ended up tweeting at 35 car companies, asking what their slogan was or if it had changed. Only 12 responded within the next 24 hours, effectively a hit rate of a little over a third. Which I have to say is pitiful.

Up to that point, I had used Twitter for only two things: not finding Travis Okulski and Matt Hardigree during Pebble Beach weekend and giving Doug DeMuro an unsolicited car recommendation on what to replace the CTS-V wagon with. (For the record, I suggested a BRZ/FR-S. He promptly shot it down as “too common.” His loss.)

But back to my paltry results. Maybe I’m naïve as a two-month-old Twitter user, but you would think that the person in charge of a company’s Twitter feed would at least know their company’s slogan. But the fact that more than half didn't respond or don't have a corporate tagline on their corporate website perhaps speaks volumes.

Some of the companies that did respond obviously had to go to their company’s YouTube channel or find the latest print ad in order to determine for themselves. Such was the case with Mitsubishi and the UK division of Skoda.

Despite this, it seems Twitter is not used for promoting a company's tagline. You would think the social media marketing gurus of all people would know or work up a company tagline, since they create numerous hashtags and other things that have to fit within 140 characters. But I have to venture that many of them probably don't due to the paucity of responses. As a result, they don't respond to a simple question of "What is your company's slogan?"

What apparently does warrant a response is when people tweet like this:

Drove the @VW Jetta to @Safeway with my @KennethCole watch, while watching @rushthemovie on my @NokiaUS@Symbian phone. #GonnaBeACrash#yolo

Meanwhile, my tweet,

@FerrariUSA Does Ferrari have an advertising slogan?

deserved no response. Instead they retweeted Maria Bartiromo promoting the Ferrari F12 on her CNBC show.

I can understand the logic behind that, since she probably has wealthy followers on Twitter. But would you seriously take car recommendations from Maria Bartiromo? Wall Street doesn't even take her investment advice.

Now, I've done a little bit of research of who does the corporate Twitter feeds, and it's usually not the company itself. They outsource the tedious work of updating a corporate Twitter to an outside firm, who perhaps doesn't know the latest advertising campaign of the car company. Such was the case with Chrysler a few years back, right up until we saw tweets like these. It probably still is, and these social media marketers probably just don't know the slogans.

So I guess I wasn't dealing with The Man at the car companies like I thought before. Instead, I'm dealing with underpaid employees of social media marketing firms, who are seemingly contractually obligated to inform followers of sales promotions, corporate charity programs, and retweeting owners' tweets at the company praising the product. Which takes a lot away from my future adventures with Twitter.

In the end, I think I'll shy away from asking automakers' Twitter feeds questions like "How do you plan on meeting CAFE requirements?" or "What is the most popular color on your cars?" that'll make the people behind them actually work a bit to answer.

It turns out I'm perfectly content reading the out-there tweets of Taki Inoue and voluntarily providing car recommendations to people who didn't ask for them.

And I just discovered my Klout score went up to 30. Which makes Twitter all the more worth it.

Satish Kondapavulur runs Clunkerture, named because "Clunker.com" was $82 at auction and would've taken 30% out of the balance of his Eagle Vision for LeMons fund. In between contemplating cross-country runs, he spends much of his time attempting to convince others that his MkV Jetta 2.0T Wolfsburg is indeed a sports sedan.