Automakers have been using traditional marketing medias — like print, billboards, and television — for decades. But there’s a new automotive marketing force in town — social media.

Of course “social media” is the more scholarly term for networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, etc.

And, two major auto-related “social media” initiatives of late have been widely successful, and news travels at warp speed in these social media circles.

One of those initiatives is the Fiesta Movement. As part of Ford’s social media blitz, 100 young, American trendsetters will drive and live with a European-spec Fiesta for six months, travelling as agents on special missions, who then relate their experiences through various sites.

“We were already using social media as part of our regular communication channels, and that made it all the easier for us to try something as bold as the Fiesta Movement,” notes Scott Monty, who heads up social media at Ford (his official title is global and multimedia communications manager). “YouTube videos, Creative Commons-licensed Flickr photos, social media news releases, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, documents shared on Scribd, the development of, bloggers being included in media events — it all meant that we were committed to this new form of connecting with customers.”

The first major auto-related social media attraction for Canadians is — essentially an online stage for 500 creative thinkers to demonstrate their social creativity in “Cube worthiness.” The best 50 will win a new Nissan Cube (winners will be announced on June 23). Winners will then blog regularly for a year, on how their Cubes “interact with their creative lives.”

“The uniqueness of the Cube gave us an opportunity to do something different, to veer off from our traditional launch formula,” said Catherine Green, the advertising manager at Nissan Canada. “Our ultimate goal is to create a community of Cube advocates, to provide the content for the Cube community and ultimately become our advertising.”

It seems to be working.

When the monthlong audition period ended on May 16, the pages had garnered over 1.4 million hits, surprising Nissan with not only the high level of engagement and creativity, but also the “tweet ups” and other “community” activities that sprang up, without any prodding or assistance from the automaker.

Websites The voting’s over but you can check out contestants’ websites, auditions and what they are saying about Nissan Cube. Plenty of tweets, blogs, photos and videos about the Ford Fiesta.

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