Our own Tyler Lipa attended the General Motors social media event during the The Chicago Auto Show. The following are his observations.
Last Thursday, a group of bloggers with diverse areas of expertise congregated at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, Ill to participate in Social Media Day during the 2012 Chicago Auto Show. They were an eclectic bunch, and included niche bloggers who teach luxury lifestyle on a budget at PoshPorts.com as well as a tech blogger that covers industrial tech but moonlights at RoadTripForFamilies.com, among others.
Oddly enough, nobody in the group really had much experience in the automotive world, exhibiting the beauty of social media. “Everyone is an influencer, and I mean it”, said GM communications manager Connie Burke, who specializes in social media. In effect, just about anybody can affect and guide the purchasing decision of another, especially when attempting to influence those purchasing in unfamiliar territory. Because of this, General Motors took the time to influence the influencers.
This may be news to some, but the automotive market (obviously) isn’t limited to enthusiasts. The die-hard petrolsexual media covering the Chicago Auto Show makes it easy to forget that more people buy cars based on safety, various luxuries, and usability rather than zero-to-sixty times and lateral grip. In other words, there are people outside of your typical automotive media circles that are just as influential — especially if they have thousands of subscribers on Facebook or followers on Twitter. And influence has become a huge part of what social media is all about.
Social Media makes everyone important — from the smallest blogger to a Twitter personality with a million followers. Never in history of communication has there been a more informed and involved audience, so being effective at social media involves garnering real and authentic relations with these publics.
“We’re not afraid of the competition,” said Burke. To prove that GM head of consumer affairs James Bell led a guided tour of major competitors. To set the tone, the group started at the first-ever 2013 Cadillac ATS — a car that is designed to beat the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class at their own game. “Chevy and Cadillac are global brands,” said Bell. These cars have to be good in the United States, but also have to sell in markets around the world, which is no easy task; the ATS will be a huge cog in GM’s global machine. The untaught bloggers at large were taking notes.
On the way to BMW was Lincoln, a brand that Bell said has, “no focus to it”. Many see Lincoln as simply nice Fords and General Motors doesn’t see it as a direct competitor to Cadillac. Whether that statement is true or not, the group seemed to take it in.
Then came the BMW display. Here Bell spoke in great detail about the stalwart German brand, even sarcastically complementing the BMW 3 Series by saying, “BMW did a good job… making a car that meets European pedestrian crash standards.” The group of bloggers spent a great deal of time with the 3 with no input from Bell or the rest of the General Motors staff.
Altogether, GM’s social media event displayed a hightened level of confidence, conviction, and swagger that the company feels right now. It’s very real, and it should lead us all to expect only the best from the Detroit automaker.
Future products and small doses of snark aside, General Motors seems to understand what it takes to truly connect with social media influencers. Internal decision makers have displayed a great effort in connecting and conveying their message to said influencers on a level much greater and more advanced than The General’s competitors. Contrast that with other companies, which seem to view bloggers as a low-budget investment for quick publicity. As an observer, there seems to be an authentic interest from the GM communications team in what all the bloggers had to say. These bloggers represent the wide array of people outside of the enthusiast realm who can really make or break a car company in terms of sales.
Overall, it is refreshing — if not great — to see a car company as large as General Motors bringing in a human touch to the world of once-forsaken social media influencers and bloggers. And that’s just one of the aspects that’s different about the New GM.