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9 Reasons Why General Motors Social Media Marketing Competition Was A Success

I recently met Christopher Barger (Director of Global Social Media for General Motors) via a comment on my blog post about social media marketing.

The article was titled “Who Is Winning At Social Media Marketing: Ford or General Motors?“, where I made some statements and observations that he didn’t agree with, (you can read the article and the comment here .. Christopher’s comment is the second from the top).

General Motors Social Media Marketing Competition 9 Reasons Why It was a Success

He also mentioned that they were about to embark on a social media marketing campaign which involved the Chevy brand and was titled “Chevrolet’s SXSW Road Trip Challenge” and I wrote about this in an article with the headline “General Motors Gets Into Gear With A Social Media Competition” which is described by the website as follows:

“Starting the week of March 8 (the week before SXSW), eight  teams of social media folks from across the United States will embark on a combination  road trip/scavenger hunt competition from their hometowns to Austin behind the wheel of some of Chevy’s newest products. Along the way they’ll need to complete 50 “challenges” in order to determine the winner. The winning team will be the one that not only has completed the most challenges, but has done the most interacting with their community on Twitter and their own sites”

One of the clever strategies was the selection of socially vibrant participants in the social media competition.

You can watch the following video to hear Stephen Clark from WXYZ “TV” describe how the competition would play out.

Christopher also offered to update me and my readers on the status of the competition and its results, so after a DM (Direct Message) requesting an update, he replied with the following response via email which provides a great insight into how General Motors is indeed “getting into gear with social media“.

So here is Christopher Barger’s update on the Chevy Social Media Marketing Competition:

“Hi Jeff — sorry it took so long to get these to you (he is obviously busy, which is a good sign.. my comment). Before you look them over, I want to add this caveat:  these are only short-term measurements of success, in my/our eyes. The numbers are great — I’m thrilled with the initial results and increased visibility and connection for Chevrolet.  But for our SXSW program to truly be considered a success, I will be looking months down the line…

If I look at things in the fourth quarter, for example,

  • How many of the people who began interacting with us during SXSW are still connected to and connecting with Chevrolet?
  • Do we see more RTs or see the messages/info we put out becoming more pervasive across Twitter or other networks?
  • Do we see more people watching our video content on FB, or embedding the YouTube videos?
  • How many of the people we met or started talking to during SXSW are coming to local Tweetups when we organize them?
  • Will any of them have asked for information on new Chevy vehicles or if we know if their local dealer is engaged in social networks?
  • Could we offer codes or something that allows us to measure whether anyone who started following us during this activation is actually buying a vehicle?

He goes on to say

If we don’t see continued engagement long-term — and it’s on *us* to make sure we do strong follow-ups and continue the relationships we started, continue to do both online and real-world interaction with our new friends — then this was a nine day marketing campaign that worked really well.  I would consider that a lost opportunity to go well beyond.

I think that by any measure we succeeded in improving Chevrolet’s reputation and perception in the digital/social world… it even bled into the traditional marketing world, with AdAge noting that we were largely seen as the festival’s marketing winner. But in the end, we’re all in business to do business… so I’ll be watching to see how the consideration and sales numbers play out too. That said, here are the short-term measurements:

Here are The 9 Reasons For Christopher and General Motors To Smile

  1. 61.1 Million social web impressions from March 8 to 21 (with overwhelmingly well above 98% of those being positive, as far as the reports and measurements that I saw) with
  2. 15,924 online mentions including
  3. 13,440 Tweets (this is more than double the number of tweets about Chevy in Jan-Feb)
  4. 1,216 blog posts
  5. 1,268 other posts (including comments, photos and videos)
  6. 33,500 page views through Facebook and ChevySXSW.com
  7. More than 300 pieces of positive user-generated content posted to ChevySXSW.com (including 250+ videos)
  8. Chevrolet added 8,764 fans to its Facebook page (up 12.7% in 3 weeks);
  9. @Chevrolet Twitter followers were up +68% in the month of our SXSW activation

Social web influencers like Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble, Jason Falls, Leo LaPorte, Chris Heuer, Joseph Jaffe, Dom Sagolla, C.C. Chapman and others drove and posted positively about  the Chevy Volt, reaching hundreds of thousands more people than we could have reached on our own.”

On the traditional marketing side of the Chevy marketing campaign: Christopher said:

“More than 250 “traditional media” placements generated more than 80 million impressions; included USA Today, C/Net, AdAge, AdWeek, BrandWeek, Charlotte Observer, Detroit Free Press, WXYZ-TV, the Austin American-Statesman, and others. In some cases the road trip teams took it upon themselves to pitch media to generate coverage for the road trip *on our behalf,* without being asked to do so.

I’m proud of what we’ve achieved so far — but please remember that to us it’s just a start.  I’m reserving final judgment on the program’s long-term success until I see how we do with the follow-up and long-term interaction.”

Christopher Barger
Director, Global Social Media, General Motors

If you want to tweet Christopher his Twitter address is @Cbarger

What I have enjoyed about the discussion on this topic is that the Americans love their cars and will defend their preferred car brand with a passion and the tweets and the comments about the topic have certainly displayed that.

So what do you think about the success of the Chevy social media marketing competition?

Jeffbullas's Blog


  • FANTASTIC breakdown of GM’s use of social media. They’ve really been racing for a comeback. Thanks for posting.

  • Jeff – I think it’s great the auto companies are getting on the social media bandwagon and I’m happy to see they’ve had great success, from a PR perspective! But, how are they measuring results, from a business/ROI perspective? More fans, followers, viewers, stories, and blog posts are great for brand awareness, but what did it do to sales?

    If we don’t quickly begin tracking our efforts to sales, social media will become one of those “nice to haves” in crummy economies.


    • Gini its nearly impossible to track how well a TV commercial drives sales from GM’s standpoint because of so many variables. Sure you can have a landing page and track traffic sent to the dealers but are the dealers reporting back on sales from that lead? There are so many levels between GM and their end purchasers I find it hard to believe they could tie in a code or track how the SXSW road trip or their social efforts drive car sales at dealerships. Even if the code or tracking made it all the way to the dealer level Id be surprised if the dealer would care, know or have the ability to track it on their end. Its my guess that social media will never be a “nice to have” but a piece of the puzzle no matter the economy. We are doing some very basic tracking of our new media & social efforts at Hare Chevrolet but we do know for a fact it has driven sales and service, so that coupled with the good PR and publicity we have received from our efforts are enough for us. Once the auto industry vendors and software providers catch up to the times it will be easier to integrate and track roi on our end.

  • 10th Reason For Christopher and General Motors To Smile = US Government Bailout Funds!

    I give Chris and GM props for truly getting the concept of social media as a tool to connect and relate better to customers. However, that’s about it. I can’t get over the fact that they took government funds (*my tax dollars*) to bail them out of a poor financial situation. I don’t believe in “too big too fail.” I’m sure those bailout funds come in handy for managing elaborate, integrated social campaigns that woo endorsements from top social media influencers. Now use social media to take inventory of your BRAND.

    If GM starts using social media to demonstrate how they’re going to pay back taxpayers (with interest), I’ll consider reconsidering their brands. Would I go for a ride in Camaro and love it? Heck, ya! (Bumblebee rocks!) Buy one, or any other GM vehicle, NO WAY. For now, no Tweetup or number of blog posts will remotely influence me to see their brand as anything but “Government Motors”.

  • Jeff I read this blog and the previous one mentioned at the top and enjoyed them both. Im the Director of Digital Communications for Hare Chevrolet, the nations oldest transportation company. GM’s hard work and social campaigns have been a big help in our efforts to grow our dealership through social and new media. We were given the opportunity to piggy back on the SXSW road trip efforts by hosting a challenge at our dealership when Team Lansing passed through town on the way to Austin. We ran a contest concurrent with their stop that had our fans and followers posting and tweeting pics of our logo, dealership etc to enter a 2 day test drive contest. Without GM and Chevy running the road trip we wouldnt have gotten as much traction and play on our contest. Blogs and interactions such as yours allow me to retweet and post comments from outside sources and third parties about Chevy and GM’s efforts. This helps our content not be all pushed from us and allows others to get back in touch with Chevy and GM. I have communicated with Christopher a couple of times and am excited to have him on “our” side to help push Chevy and GM forward in the new media world.

  • Chris Theisen, there’s a serious trust factor issue here:

    GM Used Bailout Funds to Repay Loan: Mostly Irrelevant


    • Interesting article thanks for the info. Some of that stuff I wasnt aware of. Im sure there are alot of industries that receive public money that you dont agree with. I dont know that not purchasing their products is the answer, perhaps it lies with the government. Sure I hope GM does well enough that they dont ever have to be in the position to ask for money but in the end the government said yes. GM is trying and trying to reconnect with their consumers through social media channels to publicize everything they are doing to reinvent themselves and their product. They will never have the ability to become solvent and profitable if people arent open minded about their efforts and cut them a little slack. If GM makes a car that fits your price range, is built well and you enjoy its styling why would you disqualify it? Technically every American should be buying GM products if they are really interested in getting all their tax money back with interest as your link suggests hasnt happened.

  • Interesting data from General Motor, is Social Media Networking Optimization will replace Search Engine Optimization? Maybe sometimes we don’t need salesmen, if we can optimize SocMed? Is this true?

  • Chris Assante

    Thank you for the great article Jeff. I’m glad to hear that GM has finally realized the magnitude that social media is to marketing campaigns. As an owner of two GM vehicles and follower of new GM designs, I hope this finally may be the key to bringing GM into the 21st century marketing atmosphere. The fear I have is if it is too little, too late to potential new car buyers. Car companies like Honda and Nissan have been dominating social media (Facebook, Twitter, and their own social networking sites) long before GM entered that market. American car buyers for the past 10-15 years have put their trust more and more into foreign car manufacturers because they were ahead of the times with both car design and marketing strategies.
    I personally believe that GM should begin a social media marketing campaign blitz through Facebook and Twitter on new car models. Recently, Ford decided to use the Facebook as the place where they would reveal the new Ford Explorer, possibly reaching millions of potential car buyers. I understand that it takes time to transform and adopt new marketing strategies, but I feel as if a company like GM needs to do it quicker since the American taxpayer bailed them out. The old marketing strategies may have worked in the past with an older generation, but now is the time for GM to grab the X and Y generations through social media and keep them as returning GM buyers.

  • Some outstanding numbers. Nice to see GM share out the data on how they see their social media ROI. Those can give other companies an idea on numbers for success (results may vary, of course.) Regarding the influencers – was their input on the car before/during/after the SXSW event? If before, it easily had influence, of course. But during or after? That would also affect the numbers. I’m curious about that.

    Either way, it’s interesting to see a company that sells one-off purchases take social media seriously.

    Thanks for posting.

  • It’s actually a great and helpful piece of information. I am satisfied that you just shared this useful information for us.
    Thanks for sharing.