Instagram for luxury cars: making automotive social media work

Connecting with a willing audience has been something of a smooth transition when it’s come to automotive social media, largely because their product is essentially the marketing.

Of course there are huge amounts of money spent on crafting the look, but when the product is as unique as this, not much needs to happen beyond the photograph.

As a result, luxury car brands have been able to ‘rest on their laurels’ when it comes to automotive social media. The content they’ve been creating brings their brochures to life through some well-worn techniques of shooting the cars themselves in a variety of beautiful and occasionally challenging environments – and naturally, new drone technology has upped everyone’s game, increasing the wow factor.

However, the results mean that profile after profile, they are pretty much indistinguishable – apart from the products themselves.

But with tens of millions of followers across the board and automotive not especially known for its marketing endeavours outside of the trusted big ad and brochure space, these brands have no doubt questioned the need to do anything much more – after all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

The exclusive nature of luxury was historically perceived to sit at odds with the very openness of social, but other types of luxury brands are now fully embracing it and the tactics used to build and engage an audience.

So how are luxury car brands using Instagram – the channel that ultimately showcases a brand visually at its best?

We looked at the top luxury automotive brands over the past six months and how they express themselves when it comes to…

 

Content on Instagram

As above, the majority of luxury automotive brands aren’t veering from the norm; literally appropriating content from other channels for social use.

That’s not to say there’s not some beautiful content…

 

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A legend rises again. #RollsRoyceSilverGhost

A post shared by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars (@rollsroycecars) on

Yet most of the luxury brands are spoilt for choice in terms of inspiration for content: their domains of interest reach way beyond the cars themselves and into affiliated areas like motor-racing, events, licensing, sponsorship, clothing and merchandise amongst other things. Of course, this brings its own challenges; how to weight content favourably and how to create a cohesive feel in the fragmented space that is Instagram.

In essence, a luxury brand needs to speak of ostentation, skilled craftsmanship and hard-to-acquire reputation earned over time with prestigious clients.

The former is easily shown with what I’m calling the tried and tested ‘brochure’ method (see above) and the craftsmanship is often painstakingly showcased through high quality close-ups of interiors and features.

Bugatti goes further weaving its key execs and creatives into the content and amongst the cars, all shot like they’re in the likes of GQ.

Of all the brands, Bugatti has the most artistically crafted feed, often using a three-square distribution technique to give a more qualitative look to the feed.

When it comes to reputation, these brands have the luxury of heritage achieved long before Instagram, however, many feature historic glory days as well as new restorations to remind us of their backgrounds.

 

Collaborations on Instagram

Naturally, Instagram is the perfect space to reveal the type of collaborations luxury brands are known for – particularly around merchandise. Again, these see our friends opting for highly-stylised versus realistic approaches.

Aston Martin showcases its involvement with its Grand Prix teams but shows it’s at the cutting edge of technology through its involvement with Tag Heuer and Triton Submarines as well as Lego around the James Bond brand.

It’s also one of the few brands looking to actively source user generated content (UGC) from its followers under #astonmartinlive – at the time of writing, there were 34k posts.

 

Instagram Influencers

In luxury, ‘celebrity’ has historically been used for ‘retention’ purposes, reassuring clients of their purchase rather than to drive sales.

Arguably, social has disrupted this approach since celebrity now has its own social channels, so illusion, elusiveness and exclusivity have gone out the window.

Luxury brands have gradually shifted towards a ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ approach, revealing and working their powerful connections just like other brands do.

As a result, the luxury car sector has begun to work with ‘influencers’ and often they are lucky enough to already have these in their midst through their sponsorship programmes.

 

While automotive social media doesn’t naturally sync with the ‘how-to’ content agenda so big on Instagram and in sectors like beauty for example, there are other types of influencer automotive brands are looking at.

Travel naturally reflects a shared romance of the open road: for example, Jaguar supported this influencer’s trip from California to Oregon.

 

Interestingly, Mercedes Benz seems to be unearthing the most unique influencers in this space. Yes, there is a 21 year-old-vehicle engineering student with 58k followers – who knew?!

And they’ve collaborated with a feed that features the ‘best pics of pups and super cars’.

And yes of course, any automotive social media campaign wouldn’t be without the big hitters, Lamborghini collaborating with NBA Stars and Porsche supporting a version of Carpool Karaoke with James Corden and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine.

Instagram Stories

At the time of writing there were yet to be any brands showcasing long(er)-form content through IGTV – give it time though! – but stories are now actively being used by all the luxury brands mostly to showcase their models as they would in a brochure – as Ferrari has done for example.

For most other sectors, stories align themselves best to live events or the here and now, content the automotive sector is often lacking.

Aston Martin’s activity at the Geneva Motor Show 2018 doesn’t tell the whole story but indicates what can be created in the live space and how Instagram can be used to build excitement around new models and experiences.

 

Brand Personality

Do these brands have a personality? Over to you on that, but apart from BMW’s wry choice of influencers, there are *some* flourishes of humour and fun – though they’re in the minority.

Porsche acknowledges the fact some of its users are parents:

It also uses its Stories to engage with its users via quizzes – sample question: turn on your audio and name this exhaust system! But it’s a tactic BMW have tried too…

Instagram profiles are non-political spaces: however Jaguar was the only brand to have acknowledged Saudia Arabia lifting its ban on female drivers, launching this interesting mini documentary on ‘World Driving Day’.

Having said that, automotive social media feeds feel like a stereotypically masculine space – there’s little here to truly excite anyone looking for anything beyond ‘car porn’.

Yet it would seem things are changing – Porsche have also used one of its Stories to discover which types of content their users are most interested in.

If that’s symptomatic of all brands, it’ll be interesting to see what appears next as they get used to this medium (and maybe even have some fun).

 

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