Inside GM’s Chevy’s Social Media Strategy

Given all the material out there about GM pulling out of Facebook advertising, Digiday thought it would be interesting to get the carmaker’s take on what it is doing in social media.

Digiday interviewed Carolyn Probst-Iyer, social media manager at GM’s Chevrolet, about a current Chevy promotion and the company’s overall social media strategy. Here is what she said.

Can you talk about Chevy’s approach to social media?
We engage where our customers and fans are. Chevrolet has a wide-ranging social footprint, which is seamlessly integrated in the overall marketing and communications strategy. Our social presence covers Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and other social networks, but it also encompasses community outreach as well as influencer and testimonial programs. We currently aggregate about 7 million fans to Chevrolet social channels — and that number is growing.

We offer compelling content related to the Chevrolet brand, our products and services as well as lifestyle content stemming from a vast variety of deeper integrations and programs that Chevrolet activates with the support of a large network of partners.

Aside from engaging our communities with rich content, we aim to have an ongoing (two-way) conversation with our customers, fans and followers. We are there to have an open dialogue, answer their questions and help them see our brand and products as something they should consider.

What would you say the biggest challenge is with social media?
Social media is not a marketing strategy or just another channel but rather a philosophy. Social media has to be embraced by the organization as a whole. That said, it does not sit with nor is it “owned by” one particular function. Different parts of the organization have to work hand in hand and speak with “one voice.” For an organization as big as GM, with many layers, functions and departments, this poses quite a challenge.

Social media demands that companies reach out to their customers by talking and listening to them (vs. pushing a message or content). The conversation is ongoing; comments and questions are posted at any time of day, seven days a week, and people expect immediate response. With a brand like Chevrolet, there are far more conversations happening at any given time than we are physically able to participate in. As a consequence, a lot of effort and thought (as well as tools) are needed to discover which conversations and branding moves will benefit both the company and the community most. The organization also has to be nimble enough and empower respective teams to respond and engage in those conversations at all times (while, of course, coordinating with other stakeholders in real time).

With social media being “always-on,” the community dictates the pace you are going at. It’s not campaigns you manage; you do not turn it on or off as you desire. As a result, not just conversations have to be managed, but also content has to be planned and created at a much more frequent and quicker pace.

What’s the strategy behind the new “Chevy CampusLIVE Challenge?”
The Sonic [car model] is aimed at the Millennial generation, those between 18-30. This life stage is very much about discovery and firsts (first job, learning new things, new relationships, etc.). Sonic can help them discover new things and have some of these first experiences.

This generation is also likely to never have driven a vehicle with a manual transmission. We thought we’d give them a chance to learn how to drive a manual and win a great prize. Players also get to learn more about the Sonic along the way. Most of the Sonic launch has happened via digital and social media channels with very little traditional advertising, so the fit with “CampusLIVE” was natural. The program was developed in close collaboration with “CampusLIVE.” It is designed for this specific audience and the notion of taking challenges and trying firsts.

We haven’t seen another contest out there that will help winners learn a new life skill like driving a manual and get to go Major League Baseball’s All Star game. [We’ll measure success by] keeping tabs on engagement with the contest (visits to the site as well as UGC submissions and registrations) and with video views and shares.

You have a strong social presence; why is “CampusLIVE” a good example of what you are doing to drive social action?
Social media is about more than just having a Facebook page or responding to tweets. Our activities reach beyond the boundaries of our owned social channels. Having a presence and integrating with other communities, third-party sites and partner platforms with activations that are centered around these specific audiences and their lifestyle and passion points in a relevant and authentic way has been a cornerstone of our approach to social media. “CampusLIVE” offered us an opportunity to activate their social network by posting a fun and engaging challenge. We will see our fans in action through their video submissions, and we’ll get to meet four of them when they come out to Kansas City to join a hands-on driving session and join us at the MLB All Star Game.

Other recent examples of Chevy’s social initiatives include our engagement and partnerships with SXSW in Austin,TX, with Billboard and the Billboard “Battle of the Bands” as well as with MLB and the “Diamonds & Dreams” youth baseball program.