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.