Understanding Social Media: It’s not just Facebook advertisements

GM Renaissance Center Global Headquarters Displays New Lighting

© General Motors

General Motors has been in the news a lot recently. First, the company announced that it decided to pull a $10 million ad budget from Facebook and shortly after it announced it planned to sit out of the advertising rat race in the upcoming Super Bowl. The corporation has been derided by competitors, blogs and pundits as not understanding the changing advertising and social landscape. There’s a lot of press out there saying that GM appears to have a “traditional philosophy” to advertising and social media (like Brian Solis said) or that they’re not a company we should look at when trying to gauge whether advertising is successful on Facebook (as seen on Hubspot).

I wrote a blog post a month ago stating that it doesn’t matter whether or not GM said it didn’t find value in Facebook advertising. That is one company’s opinion of the media. If you agree, fine. If you don’t, that doesn’t mean that you need to run your mouth (or twitter feed) off to say that they’re bad at what they do (I’m still looking at you Ford).

I didn’t have a horse in this race a month ago. I drive a Nissan Sentra that has served me well for the past six years.

But, with a background in journalism and working in B2B PR for high dollar technology deals, I’m compelled to tell the other side of this social media story.

After writing my blog post about GM and Ford, I witnessed first hand the strength of GMs social strategy and what they’re using to “turn the dial” on consumer purchases – and let me tell you, it’s not a banner ad on Facebook.

General Motors has 17 customer service representatives actively monitoring blogs, twitter, Facebook and all other channels for customer complaints and compliments. Add to that the other employees in public relations and marketing that are keeping an eye out for the brand on social channels and that’s pretty hefty team that is authorized to respond to crisis or compliment situations.

“Why? Because once you’re in the family, we want to keep you in the family,” says Connie Burke, communications manager for General Motors. “We don’t want to sell you one vehicle this year; we want to earn the right for you to consider purchasing 10 vehicles over the next 30 years.”

Connie is a regional employee who focuses on social and traditional media in the Midwest. She found my post a month ago within an hour and a half and responded in the comments section agreeing with the sentiment. It’s part of her job to scour the internet and respond to the good, the bad and the ugly and she says she and the GM team don’t shy away from doing so.

“I truly believe that if the “new” GM is going to gain new ground, [we] have to go into places you either haven’t been, or are perhaps a little unfriendly,” she says. “I make it a point to go into unfriendly territory every week to simply set the record straight or present a different side.”

That doesn’t mean that she’s spending her time arguing with trolls on the internet.

“I guess I’ve developed a sense of who is a friend, foe or persuadable,” she says. “I go for persuadable. You can tell when folks are just never going to listen to another side.”

I guess that means I must be persuadable. Connie offered me the chance to participate in General Motor’s “Cars to Consumers” program – an initiative around the idea that everyone is an influencer. Not many people are going to look to a corporate representative when they’re going to buy a new car. Instead, people ask their friends, neighbors, coworkers and family for advice meaning all of those people are influencing the buying habits of others.

The cars to consumers program allows a a driver to “mentally move in” to a car for a week to get a real feel for how a certain car will fit into their every day life. I was fortunate enough to live out a mini-quarter life crisis in an inferno orange convertible SS Chevy Camaro. And even though I’m not planning on running out to buy my own Camaro, Connie said the program is worth it because it tends to trigger people’s memory of others they know who are in the market for a new car.

The past month has been a fascinating insight into how one of the “Big Three” approaches social media. I don’t claim to know whether Ford or Chrysler does it better, but I do know that contrary to what other sources are saying, GM is dedicated to and understands the social space. It has training policies in place to get as many people in as many business functions as possible comfortable with social media. It has employees that reach out through a number of social channels to try to get and keep people in the GM family. It even launched the Chevy Sonic on social for six months – heck, they even featured the car in an OK Go video.

I’m not saying I’m going to buy a GM car when I finally pull the plug on my Sentra, but you can bet that I’m going to tell my story of how great GM has been every time we’ve interacted. And really, that was their whole point in talking to me anyway. So here I am, Liz on Biz, a blogger on Twitter and Facebook and I’m talking about GM. You can’t say they don’t get social.

Post By Liz Harter (70 Posts)

Liz Harter has a degree in English Writing with a minor in Spanish from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind. She is an award winning journalist on the collegiate level with a strong background in journalism. She currently works in PR and is a social media autodidact Google+

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About the Author

Liz Harter has a degree in English Writing with a minor in Spanish from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind. She is an award winning journalist on the collegiate level with a strong background in journalism. She currently works in PR and is a social media autodidact Google+

Comments (3)

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  1. Connie Burke says:

    Thanks Liz – I’ve really enjoyed our ongoing dialogue. I find that the true power of social is all about simply being yourself, or at least being human.
    Really appreciate your honest opinion (…whether or not you end up buying one of our products!).
    And, I love the pic of you as a hood ornament on the Camaro SS! Glad you enjoyed your time in it.
    It’s been a pleasure getting know Liz on Biz.

    Kind Regards,
    Burke at Work

  2. Tiffany Hudson says:

    Great blog, Liz. I’m really impressed with GM’s new strategy. I have yet to be influenced by a single Facebook advertisement, but I will be taking friends’ and family members’ input in the coming months when it’s time to purchase a new car.

  3. Liz Harter says:

    Thanks, Connie. I love your sign off – I feel like we should do a radio show together – Liz on Biz and Burke at Work. And thank you for being so incredibly open and authentic in our interactions. Even working in the realm of using social media for business I find that it’s rare to find someone who can do so much for their business while being entirely personable like you. Loved getting to know GM – I never paid attention to cars other people were driving but now I can’t stop seeing GM brands!

    Tiffany – I’m hardly even aware of Facebook advertisements, and if one does catch my eye it’s because I’m wondering why in the world one of my friends would like “THAT” brand. Not really an incentive to like it myself or start buying their products. Stay tuned, having worked in the tech industry I think my next post comparing B2B tech with B2C large-ticket items like cars might be of some interest to you.