Breaking: Volkswagen Study Shows Young People Use Facebook

September 23, 2010

Volkswagen and MTV Networks have just wrapped up a study about young people, driving, and technology. The study reveals that 14-to-29 year-olds (a demographic dubbed "digital natives") spend a significant chunk of their time on social networks like Facebook and that they would "like to see networking extend to the car". We thought that fact was already pretty well established, but we suppose someone had to do a study to prove it.

The study, entitled "MePublic -- A Global Study on Social Media Youth", surveyed 26,000 young people in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. While the general findings aren't terribly surprising, they do reveal some interesting cultural differences in the way that youth around the globe use the web and social media: "In Japan, for example, 40 percent of the young people primarily use mobile access to their social network. While 57 percent in the USA use online sources prior to buying a car, only 38 percent do so in Japan. The young people there prefer to seek advice direct from the dealer." That sort of information could prove very useful to automakers, software developers, and marketers down the road.

Less interesting -- from our perspective, anyway -- is Volkswagen's announcement that it is developing in-car apps to respond to the study's findings. Sure, it's great that VW is moving forward on the tech front, but at this point, the automaker is playing catch-up to Ford, GM, and nearly every other car company. As an example, check this gem from VW's press release:

At the event presenting the study, Volkswagen provided a taste of the future of in-car internet radio in the current Polo GTI: A music streaming service generates personalized music programs from the user’s favorite songs. Internet podcasts can be downloaded in this way, too, easily transforming the car into a mobile information center. Given ever-faster transmission speeds in the mobile communications sector, this service could soon become reality.

Surely someone in Germany has heard of Pandora, right? Right?

There are a few more funny bits in the press release below, but even so, we're happy to see VW throw its alpen hat into the ring. More developers means better tech, we hope.

* * * * *

Volkswagen and MTV Networks present “MePublic” social media study

  • Over 26,000 young people interviewed worldwide
  • Study includes user typology and marketing recommendations for companies in social web

Berlin/Wolfsburg, 22 September 2010 - Volkswagen and MTV Networks today presented “MePublic – A Global Study on Social Media Youth”. The international study gives an insight into media use and value concepts among the group of 14-to 29-year-olds known as “digital natives”. As the study shows, the young people would also like to see networking extend to the car. A trend to which Volkswagen is responding by developing various apps. 

“With just under 500,000 fans on Facebook and over ten million visitors on YouTube since the company profile was set up at the end of 2008, Volkswagen already has one of the largest fan communities in the automotive industry. And together with our fans we are breaking new ground in the social web – as confirmed by the recent “App my Ride” competition where we gave prizes to the best developments for applications in car infotainment systems,” Luca de Meo, Volkswagen Group’s Marketing Head, said at the study presentation event. “Our aim is to gain an even better understanding of young people and their motivation with regard to social media, so that we can inspire them for the Volkswagen brand and its products. The integration of young target groups in the development of social media application products is both contemporary and forward-looking,” de Meo added.

Jin Choi, SVP & Deputy General Manager MTV Networks Germany, underscored: “We already have an excellent presence in the social web with our MTV Networks brands and will be pushing ahead vigorously with the vertical expansion of our brands. We are experiencing enormous interaction among users and with our media brands. In contemporary brand management and the present-day media landscape, that is an indispensable dialog.”

The study confirms the intensive use of media by digital natives: 69 percent watch TV every day, 58 percent spend time on social networks on a daily basis. The 14-to 29-year-olds have the necessary equipment: 94 percent have a mobile phone, 92 percent a TV set and 75 percent an MP3 player. However, as the “MePublic” study shows, there are country-specific differences: In Japan, for example, 40 percent of the young people primarily use mobile access to their social network. While 57 percent in the USA use online sources prior to buying a car, only 38 percent do so in Japan. The young people there prefer to seek advice direct from the dealer.

“MePublic” also defines six user types based on criteria such as frequency of use, motivation and goal: Crewsers, for example, use social networks as a place to meet up with friends. Funatics, on the other hand, are spectators. They like to observe, but are not very active themselves. The most active and most demanding user group is the Mediacs – technically literate, strongly committed and always on the lookout for something new.

The study confirms that the social web is an important resource for a company’s marketing activities. According to “MePublic”, 43 percent of users post their favorite brands on the social web. 50 percent follow product recommendations in social networks. This trend fundamentally changes customer-supplier relations: Facebook and YouTube users become important partners for companies provided rules such as sincerity, transparency, dialog orientation and authenticity are preserved.

For Volkswagen, the study’s findings on the importance of the car for young people are particularly significant. The survey concluded that the car remains the favorite form of transport. However, social networks have been added to the 14-to 29-year-olds’ perception of mobility. Being mobile means being accessible. 60 percent of the young people are convinced that the significance of mobile social networks will increase over the coming years. They want to organize their everyday life online and be able to respond to changes quickly when they are in the car, too. According to de Meo, Volkswagen has these wishes firmly in its sights: “The car is obviously still very popular. What we have to do now is to add meaningful social media applications to existing features in the vehicle. The driver’s safety remains the top priority.”

 Volkswagen is currently developing applications that satisfy demands for networking while driving. For example, an interactive iPhone application that goes by the working name of “Dieter App” is being developed which can give recommendations on driving style, route planning or events and can also be used to communicate with other drivers. As de Meo explained, the application is designed to network the driver with online communities, thereby providing both functional and emotional added value: “The planned application assumes the role of the co-pilot and loyal companion and is in line with the wish for a personalized vehicle expressed by the young people.”

The CO2 monitor is also designed as an iPhone application. Fuel consumption and other driving data are transmitted to a Volkswagen website and included in a driver ranking. Volkswagen is seeking to motivate its customers to develop an awareness of environmentally-friendly and fuel-efficient driving with this edutainment competition. At the event presenting the study, Volkswagen provided a taste of the future of in-car internet radio in the current Polo GTI: A music streaming service generates personalized music programs from the user’s favorite songs. Internet podcasts can be downloaded in this way, too, easily transforming the car into a mobile information center. Given ever-faster transmission speeds in the mobile communications sector, this service could soon become reality.

Volkswagen broke new ground in the new media with the market launch of the Polo GTI on Facebook in June 2010. This was the first time the company presented a vehicle to customers exclusively on a social network.

The research design

The study is based on a solid method mix: International secondary research including over 200 academic research studies, commercial market media studies and quantitative surveys in ten countries (Germany, UK, Italy, Spain, France, USA, Japan, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand) which interviewed more than 26,000 young people aged between 14 and 29. The evaluation of qualitative online diaries, online board discussions and online shadowing in all ten countries put the findings on a representative basis.

In addition to “MePublic”, a separate survey on issues relating to mobility plus ethnographic interviews were conducted in the EU5 countries, Japan and the USA.

[Volkswagen]

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