Did Toyota "Digg" itself out of Trouble?

Looking for a good way to handle crisis communications in light of the negative stories about its recalls in January, Toyota looked to the website Digg for a way to calm consumer sentiment.

Toyota already was an advertiser on the user-voted news aggregator, but the auto company’s executives felt that ads weren’t going to be enough. So it  offered Toyota Motor Sales USA president Jim Lentz for one of the site’s Digg Dialogg live interviews.

Conducted February 8, the live-stream interview with Lentz was more popular than any of the Dialogg interviews to date, generating more than 1 million views in the first five days alone. Toyota executed a big ad buy around the effort and a Digg microsite that aggregates Toyota stories on Digg in one place.

The question is did it work? You’ll find both sides of the story in Adweek.

Toyota says yes, pointing to the carmaker’s huge March sales results, up 41 percent from the same period in 2009.

Others aren’t so sure, noting that the company also offered unprecedented incentives and discounted leasing deals and it was more likely that those boosted sales in March.Besides, Lentz also was seen on most major news outlets like NBC, ABC and NPR. Plus, Toyota was running a national advertising campaign attempting to win back consumers’ trust.  J.D. Power and Associates says the link between the social media outreach and the sales boost is far from proven. It may be that consumers simply got tired of the story and moved on to other topics.