Mercedes-Benz uses social media to drive market research

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The 20- to 45-year-old compact-car driver is a primary target for Mercedes-Benz, and the German automaker wanted a better way to tap into this individual's needs and desires. Since members of this demographic are "interested in cars, are Internet savvy, network with each other and express their opinions," a social network made perfect sense, but as a number of companies have learned the hard way, immersing the brand in social networking can be a double-edged sword. Christian Bauer, head of Mercedes-Benz Communication Insights, describes the careful process the company followed to prevent negative fallout.

To ensure a smooth social networking implementation, Bauer worked with global market research and consulting firm Taylor Nelson Sofres, he writes in a post at Baseline magazine. They identified a platform provider that would deal with moderating, analyzing and reporting on the social input, as well as recruit professional support and community members. They went with a hosted, open-source social business platform from Acquia Commons, which uses Drupal for content management and publishing.

The resulting social networking site, called Stars Insight, launched in May 2010 as the "first online market research community in the German auto industry," Bauer writes. It offers blogs, wikis, calendars and other means of social networking. New features can be added as they go along, such as enhancements to discussion forums like a rating system and rewards.

To sustain visitors' interest, Mercedes-Benz relies heavily on "surveytainment" and a constantly changing array of content, including polls, hosted chats, ad campaigns and contests. The site provides an inexpensive way for the company to test out ads and other marketing initiatives.

For more:
- see Christian Bauer's article at Baseline

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