VW: what a social media fail looks like

Posted by jamess — 4 January 2012 at 10:44pm - Comments

What I love about social media is that you can’t fake it.

For all the hundreds of millions of dollars companies like Volkswagen pump into their advertising machines (for VW it’s a cool £1.5bn every year) they can’t crack social media. And that’s down to one simple reason: they fear honesty. 

For a company like Volkswagen, whose dangerous anti-climate policies are hidden far beneath its cool adverts and smart reputation, truth is something to be feared.

Truth wasn’t a threat when you only communicated with your audience through the one-way media of TV, radio or print. Back then it was easy to craft an image of a shiny green company and pay for that lie to be plastered everywhere.

In the social media world the reality is different. To engage their audiences, companies like Volkswagen want to talk to you, joke with you, and supposedly listen to you. It’s the digital equivalent of trying to be one of your mates.

So when Neil, a volunteer from our Camden group, pointed out Volkswagen’s latest Facebook post, which was chattily asking for advice for 2012, it seemed a good opportunity to chip in.  Because we’re friends, right?

It wasn’t us giving the advice and asking questions. After telling our supporters on Facebook that VW was shopping for tips for 2012, over 800 people quickly hopped on their page and told VW to stop lobbying against climate laws.

The problem for Volkswagen is that when friends start asking awkward questions about your hidden dark side, you’ve only really got a couple of options:

  • Try to justify yourself
  • Confess and weep apologetically

So what does Volkswagen do?

It decides on a third, distinctly anti-social option: to cover its ears and run around shouting “la-la-la-la”. Despite the 800+ comments, there’s not been a single word in response from the car giant.

But let’s be clear: this isn’t a case of an intern asleep at their keyboard. Volkswagen has been busily responding to the handful of other commenters, it’s just ignoring the hundreds of comments about its anti-climate lobbying.

Why? Orders from above. We know that Volkswagen’s head honcho Martin Winterkorn has refused to sit down and talk to us.  So I can only assume a diktat has been passed down from on high: ignore all Greenpeace supporters.

Will it work? I very much doubt it. If the brief history of social media has told us anything, it’s that ignoring people doesn’t make them disappear, it just makes them angry.

Either way, it doesn’t seem like such a smart move when over 90,000 of the 480,000 people calling on Volkswagen to change are VW drivers.

Or at least they were.

Add your comment to VW’s Facebook post. Let’s see how many it takes before we get a reply.

Update: more than 1,000 comments and still no reply.

Dave? Was it not Neil?

@dave indeed. I suffer from dave-neil confusion. corrected.

Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I am no longer on Facebook, but had I been a member, you can well assume I would have given them a piece of my mind .. Love Greenpeace for what they are, and more so for HOW they do it. 

I step away from social media for just a couple of days and look what I miss. Great work Neil!


why you ask for our wishes for 2012 if you are not intrested in changing your way ?

Why you are still not talking about Blue Motion for every car ?

Why you are still working on cars which need much more fuel then cars in the 80th. ?

What's wrong with your company ?

Human influence climate change is still very much an understudied hypothesis which western governments are jumping on in order to create a green energy bubble (see Germany). How typical of a leftist organisation to take pseudoscience as fact and propagandize to an ill informed public. VW are well within their right to oppose climate legislation just as it is within the right of GreenPeace to support it.

How does hijacking a thread intended for positive personal responses from readers into asking rhetorical propoganda to the company, which you know will not be read by people authorized to answer, make a positive statement for you?  How is it brilliant? 

It's not that the company is ignoring you, it's that it's SOCIAL MEDIA.  Their CEO's and presidents might care about public opinion to degrees, but if you think they're going to sit around reading and responding to hundreds or thousands of facebook parrots, you're a complete moron. 

This isn't about provoking answers, it's about annoying everyone else not involved, just to get attention.  Do you guys ever even elaborate to the rest of the world or even your sheep exactly what wrong is being done, who's responsible, or why they should care?  Every blog I've read just makes a very vague claim and calls for rallying.  It seems you don't want anyone on either side being able to form their own educated opinions about what you're rallying them for.

Volkswagen are using their power and money to undermine European
laws, which is at best selfish and amoral. Given that those laws are
necessary to tackle climate change, Volkswagen are ultimately
threatening both my future and safety, as well as that of my family, so
actually annoying them seems perfectly appropriate.

There are any number of reports, and studies to demonstrate what VW are
up to, and yet they refuse to even meet to talk about what they're doing.
Dragging their brand through the mud, seems like a step in the right
direction, and I'm very glad Greenpeace has taken a lead on this.

They'll always be a few naysayers, and climate skeptics commenting on this site, the bottom line is we need to act f we are going to do anything about climate change, and this is a fairly easy way to get at one of the big bad guys - so let's go for it.

"annoying them seems perfectly appropriate"

But you're not affecting "them".  My point was that you're annoying people who CAN'T respond to or make decisions affecting your issues or concerns.  It's just a social site, where people read news updates about the company in their local areas.

"this is a fairly easy way to"

Also part of my point exactly.  It's just an easy way to attach yourself to standing for something.  You get to feel better, proud, with extremely little effort, tho you're not actually accomplishing anything but annoying/harrassing people who can't do anything about the issue you're discussing.

At least, I'm not going to buy an VW ever again

But this was virality at it finest:

1st big virality from the VW ad ( Superbowl, Youtube, etc. )

2st the big Greenpeace reevenge.

best regards,

Mark - ultimately everyone working at Volkswagen has responsibility for what the company is doing, and arguing that it's not the fault of the people in their PR division, and/or that those folk are just doimg what they're told / don't have the power to do anything about it, is a poor argument.

Those PR people need to complain to their bosses, and ultimately bring pressure onto the people who can make a decision. The alternative of course is to deter as many people as possible, from buying a VW, which of course will make a difference.

Volkswagen are being so bloody obstinate about this, in refusing to even talk about the issue, that I think it's appropriate to do a whole range of different things, to bring the company either to the negociating table, or to its knees. Posting on a Facebook page is easy, writing to the company (I've done this) is a bit harder, doing those bigger Greenpeace events is probably not for me, but there's plenty of other thngs happening which go beyond Facebook, and I'm sure more things are planned.

But the bottom line is VW are a big (huge) bad car company will all the power and money to behave like irresponsible idiots, that are threatening all of our futures. It's up to us to fight back, and bring them down.


Simon, I'm not saying any people in any PR department don't have an obligation to PR.  I'm saying that your average employee or non-employee fan of VW has no power to force the CEO of the parent company overseas to suddenly agree to meet with whoever you're wanting him to meet with.

My problem is from that perspective.  Positive entries to the credit of the laborers and future of the company and their jobs, being hijacked to disrespect the company and all it's members as a whole, by people doing nothing more than parroting what they're told.


None of you ever mention what the legislation proposes, how you know what VW is doing to block it, how you know what they're spending to block it, or why exactly they would want to block it.  On the painfully long propaganda page that Neil linked for me, there is still little direct information, but rather repeated claims that VW just simply is doing this or that. 

Within that same page, it mentions in comparison Toyota nearly meeting emissions targets 6 years early.  And you guys were also jumping up and down with joy attacking VW because of a picture of a truck next to a tree.  Yet that truck gets twice the gas mileage as a Tundra.  It seems to me like VW just has the biggest target painted on it, and those wishing to easily attach themselves to standing for something are jumping wherever they're directed without really knowing what or why.

I've also seen some of you parroting on the facebook pages suggesting that VW should just simply make their cars all better and cheaper.   I doubt many, if any of you, would have any clue as to the actual emissions comparisons between most manufacturers worldwide, or which companies take advantage of lax standards in different nations.  But some of you will sit here and just conveniently suggest that with all of their power and money, they should simply refit all of their factories, retrain all of their tens of thousands of laborers, and just suddenly start putting out nothing but electric or 60+mpg vehicles with no increase in price.  What company does this?  And what company couldn't do more to improve their emissions?

And that's the real bottom line... VW is a car manufacturer, and it's your target
because it's the biggest one in Europe.  That's it.  There's nothing in
any of your arguments which lay out any direct referenceable particular things they are
doing which makes them in particular an evil company.

Mark - Volkswagen are a huge multi national company, with with what I think is the worlds biggest advertising budget - £74 million in the UK alone in 2010. And this is just the advertising budget, not marketing or PR, where the substantive costs are probably in staff capacity, but one can imagine they have an proportional spend.

So when a few folk ask a couple of questions on their Facebook page, it seems rude and daft, that they can't be bothered to respond. If the PR machine can't get an immediate response together, then they have the power to go find someone who can.

If the PR folk don't respond, then yes the ordinary workers, and the customers, might need to respond instead - and again if they want an official response, then they can go talk to their bosses, or their local VW representatives until they get a response.

The bottom line is that Volkswagen have all the power and the money to sort this out, either by reponding to some of these questions, or by meeting Greenpeace f2f to have a more thoughtful conversation, or preferablyactually using some of that technology they keep on boasting about to change the car industry.

Until then, although vastly outnumbered by this corporate monstrosity, we all need to do what we can, to bring them to the negociating table. Then once we've dealt with Volkswagen, then Mark I'm hoping you can lead the next campaign to sort Toyota out - you seem to think they're worth a go out, and I agree, but one car company at a time please. Like I said we're vastly outnumbered here, let's not make this too difficult for ourselves.

I would say that daft is the expectation of any person that their posting on something like a social network, would get them a response from or insight into the decisions of the CEO of a "huge multinational company."  Despite their money and power, they have no obligation to you to cut certain production, or their sales and profits, by limiting their production to your standards, just because you demand it, especially without you presenting any argument as to what exactly they're doing out of porportion to any other similar company. 

Again, from all your rhetoric, I can only gather that they are the target in this campaign because of the size of the target and that's about it.  And maybe they will use their technology to change the car industry, but right now most people don't drive super efficient vehicles, and no company focuses on offering higher efficiency for lower cost.

That fantastic! realy! these website is way better then everything I ever saw. Thanks admin.
Play over 30.000 free online games at http://www.y8friv.com

the number of comments has increase to more than 2000, but still no reply. they fear something?friv

Follow Greenpeace UK