Social media websites are the next great frontier for automakers. So far, no company has really hit a homerun in that arena -- not even Ford, with its vaguely annoying and cloying "Fiesta Movement" campaign. In fact, we may be witnessing one of the first social media strikeouts, brought on by a couple of curve balls thrown by Facebook and Twitter. We're speaking about the unfortunate fate of the 2010 Honda Accord Crosstour.
The problems began when Honda's enthusiastic PR staff set up a Facebook fan page for the Crosstour, hoping to generate buzz before its official rollout this fall. Unfortunately, as anyone who's spent time on Facebook knows, once something has been posted, you can't really control the tone of comments (apart from deleting them). Positive or negative, you take them as they come. And the Honda Accord Crosstour has taken a lot of negative comments.
Of course, no one has actually driven the vehicle, so the comments have only to do with the vehicle's appearance. Still, having potential (and sometimes loyal) customers saying things like, "Oh God, it looks like the mutant redheaded offspring of a Chrysler Crossfire and a Pontiac Aztec" is never a good sign. Chances are, a test run around the block isn't going to change such opinions -- if Honda salesfolks can even get buyers behind the wheel in the first place.
Things aren't going any better for the Crosstour on Twitter. Go ahead: pop over and run a quick search for "Crosstour". Apart from the article on Mashable.com (cited below), most of the comments we're seeing right now read like "Ugly! ", "OMG!", and "What were they thinking?" This is the problem with Web 2.0: yes, it engages and encourages interaction, but that interaction doesn't always go as planned. Just ask Sacha Baron Cohen.
Sadly, for Honda, there's nothing to be done. Twitter is an unruly beast with no real means of control. Facebook is slightly different in that Honda could opt to take down the fan page, but that would generate even more negative publicity -- and likely a great deal of outrage from Honda enthusiasts who want to be heard. Things may improve by the time the vehicle appears in the flesh, so speak, but we're not holding our breath. Maybe it's time for Plan B?