Auto brands now spend over 50% of their ad budget on digital. Find out which car brands are driving the biggest social channels and how they do it.

Auto brands are racing to get on top of their digital game.
Automotive now spends over half its advertising budget on digital media. The sector’s spending on advertising is predicted to be $44.0 billion dollars next year, with top brands spending over $2 billion each.
38% of consumers say they’ll consult social media before their next auto purchase. So just how are the top auto brands tackling their social channels?
In our sector breakdown post, we took a look at the auto brands getting the most traffic from social media platforms versus search. The results were not as staggering as the social traffic percentages for the giants publishers, entertainment, and sports. But, there are some notable insights for content and marketing gurus.
The table below reflects the top car brands in regards to their traffic from social versus search, and the difference between them. Traffic is the average from the past six months (May to October 2015) and the data comes from Similar Web.

Social Media Traffic vs Search Traffic for Auto Brands

search social auto brands

Like we saw previously, none of the examined automobile companies broke over 10% social media traffic. Ferrari is our top contender. The luxury car brand burst into our top rankings as the third biggest brand in
social engagement in September.
When we get into the average breakdown by social platform, for all autos, Facebook leads the way. It accounts for over half of all social media traffic for auto brands. The chart below reveals the trends for  over 25 of the biggest auto brands on social media, with data from SimilarWeb again.

auto brands traffic breakdown
The two biggest social channels after Facebook are Reddit at nearly 19%, and Youtube at 15%. Twitter makes up less than half the social engagement that Youtube receives, at 6%. Channels like DailyMotion, Pinterest, and international platforms like Vk and Weibo account for some of the others.

Does High Social Traffic = a High Number of Fans?

Translating that social media traffic into correlations with number of fans per platform is a tricky endeavor.
Many of the auto brands have multiple handles on each of their major platforms, segmenting their accounts into interests or regional markets. Most have a global account and an American account. Jaguar breaks it down to even countries; both JaguarKorea and JaguarDeutschland rank among the brand’s Youtube channels.
This makes it difficult to accurately estimate the number of fans, as there must be crossover. And the numbers of followers differ wildly from account to account. The American twitter account of Fiat has almost twice the amount of followers as their global account. The Volkswagen (global) handle has 52,000 followers on Twitter, while VW (the US account) has 445,000.
We combined the numbers of Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube followers to find the auto brands with the biggest fan bases. Reddit presented an outlier that will be explained further on, but is included in the chart. For a look into all of the brand rankings, check out our sheet.

Auto Brands sorted by Highest Combined # of Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube Fans

social platform fans auto brands
Our top brands on Facebook are primarily luxury brands. Out of the top on Facebook, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Audi, and Jaguar all are considered luxury cars. Numbers 12, and 15 were occupied by Aston Martin and Rolls Royce.
[bctt tweet=”Biggest auto brands on social? Look no further than luxury brands @ferrari @mercedesbenz @bmw #contentmarketing ” via=”no”]
On Reddit, it takes a different turn. The biggest subreddit community is Subaru. Subaru has nearly 50,000 subscribers, while the average is 9,700. Also in the top ten are Jeep, Volkswagen, Honda, and Ford. This could be tied into Reddit’s more communal-forum aspect than the other platforms. Users in these communities are primarily sharing media of their own cars, instead of fantasizing about their dream ride.
subaru reddit subreddit
Tesla Motors has the fourth biggest Reddit auto community. According to a study by Auto Insurance Center, Tesla fans on Facebook are most likely to be wealthy, not have children, and work in IT or business. Some of Reddit’s biggest communities are Science, AskScience, and Technology, so the correlation carries over to this platform.
[bctt tweet=”Reddit is the No2 social platform for auto brands! #contentmarketing”]
On Youtube, BMW takes the lead with over 500,000 subscribers. The next biggest channel is Chevrolet at 350,000. BMW’s subscribers is over twice that of Mercedes-Benz’s.
Those fan bases don’t necessarily translate to sales. According to a study by Auto Insurance Center, our Facebook and Twitter winner Mercedes-Benz, sold over 1.7 million vehicles in 2014. Meanwhile, Ford was our 20th biggest Facebook brand, but it sold more than 6.3 million vehicles in 2014.
But the brand awareness is paying off. High-end luxury car sales grew by a combined 25% in 2014, according to a Bloomberg study. Sales for luxury SUVs jumped 14.2% in 2014 and the sales of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz all grew faster than the overall new-car market.
Social media influences consumer decisions more than ever.

The Social Media Content that’s Winning

Let’s look at our some of our top auto brands and the content they post on their social platforms.
On Facebook, Ferrari knows how to take advantage of the hottest tactic: video. Video is a natural champion for auto brands. Successful car brands resonate with their consumers through visual storytelling. Short and compelling videos encourage their audience to come back for more.
ferrari facebook examples
Over on Twitter, Mercedes-Benz employs plenty of best practices. Their highly visual tweets are cognizant of current events, they use hashtags that followers can engage with, share brand news, and even collaborate with social media tastemakers like graphic designer Sara Cwynar and round-the-world sailor Alex Thomson.
twitter mercedes-benz
Mercedes-Benz also knows how to pair platforms to complement one another. When the company launched their new GLA last year, their visual-first campaign saw a 54% increase in website visits from Instagram and Facebook branding ads. The campaign is now featured as one of Instagram’s case studies. It sourced input and content creation from both collaborators and the entire platform community.
Engaging with followers is a crucial part of social media. People want to join in on the conversations happening with their favorite brands. They want to interact with content, not just consume it.

How Auto Brands Can Take the Gold in the Social Media Age

As more of automotive brands’ advertising spending shifts to digital, honing their social media engagement is increasingly vital. According to research by MediaPost, Millennials account for more than half of all adults planning to buy or lease a new automobile during the coming year. Focusing on the places where Millennials are (hint: 84% of car buyers are on Facebook), is more essential than ever.
[bctt tweet=”Time to rev up social. Millennials account for more than 50% of all car buyers #contentmarketing”]
Consumer-generated content and commentary are equally important. On communities like Reddit, brand awareness comes directly from the consumers, where fans are eager to show off their own cars. By acknowledging that consumers have a voice, brands can build a much more personal relationship with their audience.
Brands need to humanize their own voice too. There is a less of a ‘man behind the curtain’ separating the brand from its audience. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, has over 600,000 followers on Twitter. He regularly engages with followers, like his public sharing and love for this fan-made video. Through his involvement on social media, he builds a two-way community that bolsters his brand.
Next time in auto, we’ll take a detailed look at the most compelling content driving this overall social media marketing performance. Standby!

What’s Next:

1) Take a free trial of Spike, to explore the biggest content in real-time about your auto brand