Amy Corr, Media Post | Edited by Kelvin Chen Direct link: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=118172 Social media can be a powerful tool for a brand. The question is, how are you going to maintain guardianship of your brand identity, or engage your customer? Mercedes-Benz gives good lessons. In June 2009, Mercedes-Benz launched its Chinese social network site Openyourmind.cn for Smart car owners. The site aims to enable Chinese drivers and fans of the car to interact and share their experiences with the vehicle, after research by Mercedes found smart owners enjoy discussing the brand and are active in social media. Openyourmind.cn is a Facebook-like site with simple features that encourage users to create a profile and upload video and pictures of their cars, while featuring news on relevant topics such as driving economically, forums, groups and events. Allowing customers to connect with each other while connecting with Smart, as well as creating a place to introduce new products to Smart’s core demographic, turns out to be an invaluable asset in terms of consumer loyalty. Most recently, Mercedes-Benz started new social campaign and spread the word about its Smart car in China in a new way, using technology that inserts ads into residents’ online spoken English lessons. Now this is an interesting idea. Using a recently introduced concept called Conversational Advertising, Mercedes-Benz was able to embed customized creative into free online spoken English language lessons found at Speak2Me.cn, a website and social network targeting 300 million students and professionals learning English in China. Here’s how it works. Speak2Me uses speech recognition technology combined with a virtual teacher that helps users practice spoken English. In countries like China, students learn how to read and write in English, but there’s a shortage of people who speak English, making it hard for students to master spoken English. Speak2Me’s Conversational Advertising allows users to interact with a brand visually. Mercedes-Benz China created a microsite where consumers could tour Europe in a smart fortwo car while conversing with an avatar tour guide. Users spent between three to five minutes, on average, per visit. They can also share lessons via social networks to garner additional brand buzz. Mercedes Benz China is the first client to use this technology in an ad campaign, and has also signed up for a second round. Results of the initial campaign show potential. Over the course of three months, 60,000 young, Chinese professionals took Conversational Advertising lessons, with each user completing four lessons on average, totaling 1.3 million minutes of interaction with the smart fortwo brand.