Recently, there has been much buzz surrounding the Toyota debacle where Toyota car owners are complaining about brake problems and sudden acceleration issues with several of the car manufacturers most popular models like Camry, Tacoma, Tundra and Prius. Even their Lexus brand is involved. As a result, a number of people died in accidents traced to sticky accelerators and braking problems which plague their cars for the last two years.
The grandson of the founder who took the top post last year, Mr Akio Toyoda, conceded to an appearance in front of a Congressional panel to explain the situation. Besides the expected apology to their biggest car market, the session basically outlined some improvements and changes they’ll be making in the next year to correct these quality control issues.
It all began as a supposed floormat problem last year which escalated to a global recall of many of their cars and a potential electronics defect in their cars. Now, recalls by themselves are common and no manufacturer is immune to them. Pressures to cut costs (corners) and the drive to sell more cars lead to problems down the road for many of these manufacturers. In most cases, the public has a short term memory and the problem is forgotten a year or two later. Cases such as the Ford Pinto ended up costing the company much more than the internally calculated $50 million. The reputation damage and cost is estimated to top $121 million once the Pinto memo was made known.
In the last few years, however, the landscape of business has changed dramatically. With the advent of current social media titans Twitter and Facebook, companies have to learn how to manage their reputations quickly and effectively. Just a simple press release or televised appearance is no longer enough to contain bad publicity. In Toyota’s case, it isn’t even the largest recall in history. Yes, the recalls sparked a brushfire that spread quickly online and the damage to Toyota’s reputation for quality cars is expected to be felt for many years to come.
According to CNBC, Toyota didn’t stand a chance to salvage their reputation on Twitter:
Anyone with access to the Internet is now a micro-Nader, an antlike information-gathering-and-broadcasting agent who can contribute his experiences and interpretations to the data stream. This is why the Toyota recall has achieved brushfire velocity and stunned a company that, just two months ago, was literally on top of the world, with the most loyal customer base arguably ever assembled by a carmaker. With the monster recalls of the past, it was as if a manufacturer had been hit by a heavyweight punch… For Toyota in 2009, it was very, very different. This time, it wasn’t the big blow. It was death by a million tweets.
Just maintaining their Toyota Twitter account wasn’t enough. They needed to respond quickly and assign an experienced full-time staff with tact and in-depth company knowledge just for damage control. The slow response just made things worse and preparing themselves before it spread like wildfire could have saved them hundreds of millions instead of a few million.
Social media is here to stay and as a business, companies need to realize their reputation can quickly be marred by a small incident and their company perceptions tainted for years. With our social media marketing service, you take the first step to protecting yourself. We help maintain your social media accounts and keep them updated. We track what’s going online and keep you informed of any potential reputation issues so you can quickly respond to them. No longer can you ignore this important facet of online marketing.