Getting Social: Alicia Jones, Honda's Supervisor Of Corporate Communications

July 21, 2010

We're kicking off a new feature here at SocialCarNews.com: interviews with major players in the auto industry who use social media every day to raise awareness of products, drive consideration, and connect customers to the brand.

First up is none other than Alicia Jones, Supervisor of Corporate Communications for American Honda Motor Company. At the moment, she's busy with a slew of new product launches and promotional campaigns, but she generously agreed to take time out of her day and answer some of our questions by email. 

Thanks for being our guinea pig, Alicia. How long have you been with Honda?

Five years.

Did you start in the communications department?

Yes, I’ve been with American Honda’s Corporate Affairs & Communication Department for all five years.

What are your primary responsibilities in the department? Can you describe your average day (if such a thing even exists)?

My primary responsibilities for American Honda include our corporate social media efforts, in addition to corporate announcements, events and media relations, as well as support of our corporate website. I also serve as a company spokesperson and manage marketing communications for Honda's ASIMO humanoid robot in North America. (Ed. note: Since this interview was conducted via email, we weren't able to ask follow-up questions, but next time, we totally want to know more about ASIMO.)

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that social media plays a fairly big part in your work. So first of all, how do you define social media?

Social media is definitely a big part of my job. It means different things to different people but broadly I'd define social media as online sites and tools that enable conversation and information sharing. It allows anyone to be a publisher and facilitates consumer-generated content.

We use social media to support our business in a variety of ways, some of which include engaging with customers, launching new products, communicating corporate messages, addressing rumors,connecting with the communities in which we do business as well as connecting with our enthusiasts/racing community. Specifically in my area of Corporate Communications, we use it to humanize the brand, build trust, understand what is being said about the company, deliver key messages about our efforts on topics related to the environment and innovating new technologies, and as an avenue to foster relationships with journalists and bloggers.

We can share more of the “small stuff” now too, like stories, events or happenstance that Honda fans might like to know about but previously we didn’t have any way to share. We also use it to shine a light on some of the many nonprofits organizations we work with as well, many of which have expanding presence in social media.

What sort of social media tools do you use every day?

On a daily basis I use a variety of tools including Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, Flock browser, bit.ly and Flickr. And, I also work with Nielsen for monitoring online buzz.

Is there one that you couldn't live without?

It’s almost too hard to choose just one. I like to connect with people on Twitter, and find that to be really valuable in many ways. Personally, I just had a lot of fun working with our Auto PR team on a live Twitter Q&A with the creator of Gran Turismo video game from the Honda CR-Z display at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). It helped us engage in a new way with the target market for that vehicle. Here's the video:

But if I have to pick, today I’d say that YouTube (youtube.com/Honda) is the one I couldn’t live without right now. It has been a very successful way for us communicate at the corporate brand level. For one thing, we have some innovations that just have to be seen to be believed, like our ASIMO robot and U3-X personal mobility device. YouTube has enabled us to bring those forward en masse and with quality engagement with consumers. And the versatility of video sharing from YouTube with other social media tools like Facebook is great, too…a lot of people continue to love to share videos!

Do you have a favorite mobile device? A favorite app? A favorite Twitter client? Geolocation app?

Twitterlator is the social media mobile app I use the most right now. I have a couple Twitter clients I'm using are CoTweet and TweetGrid. We’re considering a few ways of working in geolocation including Foursquare but we’re not active just yet.

What's the best use of SM you've seen at Honda?

I really like the “Everybody Knows Somebody Who Loves a Honda” program my colleagues in the Auto Division launched on Facebook. It includes a social experiment application to see how many people we can connect through Honda love and features actual Honda customers talking about their experiences. In fact, the TV advertising supporting the program was actually cast from Facebook application users! Now, more than 5 million people are connected by Honda love.

How about the worst, or the one you wish you could do over?

The launch of the Honda Accord Crosstour on Facebook was certainly a learning experience for the company. But you cannot be afraid of failing; it motivates you to succeed. That’s core to what Honda is about…as it happens, check out this video on the topic:

Where do you see SM going, and what possibilities does it hold for the work you do?

The lines between media and corporations are blurring, and brands like Honda are becoming publishers by necessity. I think we’re going to continue to see this, and it is going to mean developing more content and maintaining or developing additional editorial-like functions. Keeping up with "social media" as things evolve and scaling to meet the need is going to be an opportunity and a big challenge, too.

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