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I was having a conversation the other day with someone about how effective it is to have everyone in your company Tweeting or if it made more sense to have one branded Twitter account. The discussion immediately made me think about a presentation I saw last November at the Social Media Club of Detroit from General Motor’s Director of Global Social Media Chris Barger (Chris' presentation is available here in its entirety.)

What I heard was GM’s strategy of getting many people from across the company involved in social media. “I would much rather have 400 people from General Motors out there in the organization with 150 followers each than ever want me with 40,000” stated Mr. Barger.

The made me wonder: Does that approach make sense? Isn’t it a bit inefficient to have 400 people on social media platforms communicating for the company?

Mass Twitter

Is there a benefit to having a mass of employees on a social networking platform like Twitter?

I’m not talking about people on Twitter for their own personal benefit. I’m talking about a corporate strategy to get people engaged online for the company’s benefit. There are two primary benefits to GM’s approach:

1.) Reach: Reach is the idea of extending your audience of listeners and participants. Some believe having many brand representatives extends the network of communications.

2.) Relationships: Each person from the company is a contact and that contact will create personal relationships that extend beyond a corporate branded Twitter ID like a @GMBlogs or @Chevrolet. A person personalizes the company.

Reach

Do you really need 10s or 100s of people representing a brand? This is not so clear.

Let’s look at GM’s common relationships across its many Twitter accounts. The graph below shows several of the company representatives of GM on Twitter and the percentage of common Followers with the @GMBlogs corporate branded Twitter account. A high percentage shows the personal account has little additional reach over the brand and is unnecessary if the purpose is reach, since followers are already engaged with the company.

What is also apparent is when someone has a relatively low percentage of overlapping followers. There are a few people this applies to.

Chris Barger (@cbarger): As the lead social media person for the company, Chris does a lot of outreach with bloggers, media, and social experts at many events across the country and those relationships extend his reach beyond someone who just wants to know the latest from GM.

George Saratlic (@George_S):George is the Canadian version of Chris Barger (I know I’ll get corrected on that oversimplification.) With a different country in scope, he naturally appeals to a somewhat different audience and like Chris Barger, is involved in a lot of events that extend his Twitter network.

Patrick Reyes (@patrickreyes): Patrick is not part of the Public Relations team. He does marketing for the Buick and GMC brands. His reach is a bit more broad probably due to his interest in social media discussions and personal connections in his interests less than the Twitter account being all about work. His profile also doesn’t talk so much about what he does for GM or if he even works for the company (he does) so that may be a reason for less overlap with the brand account.

Adam Denison (@AdamDenison) & Lesley Hettinger (@lesleyhettinger): Adam is the product communications lead for the hit Chevrolet Camaro and Lesley does the same job but for the Chevrolet Cruze. With two big product launches demanding a lot of attention these two brand representatives will appeal to the product followings possibly more so than the primary brand’s following.

"Immerse and Disperse"

Personalizing relationships is a very important aspect of social media. Many debates on this topic have led to supporting the idea that names behind a brand betters the connection, since there is a real sole person behind the brand instead of just a logo. Knowing a real person also presents a personal touch with a real face and common voice. Keeping it personal helps a lot with brand image on a platform like Twitter.

A lot of companies build a team of experts and go to them for all social needs in an organization. The approach of isolating your social media people to a dedicated group does “lessen the likelihood of really dumb mistakes,” according to GM’s Chris Barger. The problem: It also makes any learnings come from the social media expert and not from another engineer or marketing person. So the social media expert becomes a conduit for third-party feedback that may not be heard by non-peers.

GM is giving people a one-year assignment to get them engaged in social media, go to events, conferences and simply live social media. This expands the knowledge and increases the expertise across the organization. Chris’s approach is “about building a capability instead of just building up one or two people.”

Conclusion

I do find GM’s approach of getting many participating in social media a great way to expand the knowledge and understanding of this new communication method impressive. I have also seen first-hand how influencers in the automotive industry gravitate to different GM representatives which increases engagement and a relationship with the brand.

There is some inefficiency, especially with accounts where there is a lot of overlap in what is being said, like said image at left, and not a lot of additional information is getting out about the brand. That said, the benefit of having your fans and influencers establish personal relationships with representatives they develop an affinity for is strong enough to not be concerned with the redundancy. Just understand there is some inefficiency with the GM approach if the people do not have a clear distinction from the general corporate account.



Source: [Auto Marketing Blog]

Views: 17

Tags: Barger, Chevy, GM, Media, SM, Social, Twitter

Comment

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Comment by Christopher Baccus on February 22, 2010 at 1:46pm
Thanks for some excellent discussion in the comments here. This blog post could easily be a chapter in a book, especially when one considers the different strategies undertaken by two of the larger automakers in the world.

I do see positives and negatives with the "too many cooks in the kitchen" approach GM has. I can see it causing some issues but so far it's been pretty well executed and those in the company have a very strong sense of what the "New GM" stands for and how it is using social media to get there.

I don't make a big point of it in the blog post, but Chris Barger had stressed to me that the aspect of having people from different disciplines in the company coming back to their respective departments after listening and/or responding to social media conversations is far more effective than having a social media representative sharing what they heard online to a bunch of engineers. Better to have a fellow engineer come back and share what was heard and hopefully some engagement occurred to further understand public sentiment.

But like Keith I do question some of the inefficiency and future issues that can arise from too many talking for the company. For now, that issue hasn't manifested but it certainly can happen. It will be interesting to see how things develop and if the GM social approach will become a model for others to follow or avoid.

Personally I'm part of the model being discussed in today's AdAge article. I am a team member on the Ford Story project so it's interesting to see how different GM's approach is and how our client Ford is proceeding.

I'll add one other thing. I don't think this is a Ford vs GM and we'll see which one's strategy wins. I don't think it's that black or white. I like to see what competitors are doing and I'm very impressed with the teams at both companies. I think it says all about our industry that we are becoming models for other industries to follow and that is mainly due to some excellent leadership from Scott Monty and Chris Barger.
Comment by Keith Shetterly on February 22, 2010 at 8:03am
@Brian: I can give an example of just that. I met and married my wife (1year anniv coming in March!), and over time we've integrated several of the same FaceBook friends (usually after I met them). One of them was posting on fb about his bad experience at a car dealership as a returning customer . . . and, lo and behold, it was a dealership where my friend Mike was GSM!

I called him, gave him the scoop, and he got directly involved--his first reaction was classic, however, as he said "THAT guy? He's happy!?!? I just talked to him yesterday, he's buying!?!?". Turns out the buyer wasn't a buyer due to a problem in finance . . . that Mike stepped in and fixed . . . and turned the buyer into a positive blogger.

Random chance? Yes, but . . . "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" applies more than we know now, especially with Social Media!!! . . .
Comment by Brian Gluckman on February 22, 2010 at 7:53am
Think of social media as the "cocktail party" model for a second, where a site like Facebook is a place where you can interact with a chosen group of family and friends, as well as friends of those folks who you may not know as well.

In the offline world, if you were to meet someone in that situation who were to say something negative about an OEM or dealership for which you work, you'd (hopefully) go into a defense of your employer, discussing why the person has that opinion and working to change his or her mind.

Social media today goes well beyond the corporate Twitter and Facebook presence. I'm willing to bet that every one of us has our own Facebook profile with hundreds of "friends," and that those friends have their own networks of people who probably are a mix of people we know and people we don't. In the course of this, those "cocktail party" discussions can come up, and we may find ourselves working to change someone's opinion of our employer. The difference is that those conversations are now public, and are being read by hundreds of people who may be strangers. In that context, training everyone to understand social media, and the potential implications of how we use it, becomes vital.

For dealers, engaging all your employees in social media can prove a valuable way to improve your reputation among the community, by having your own staff talking positively about the dealer to not only everyone they know, but many people they don't.
Comment by Ralph Paglia on February 21, 2010 at 10:09pm
@David - Great article reference! Very insightful and one of the best I have read in quite awhile on social media. But, I am bewildered... The article says it is published "February 22, 2010". How did you see it before it was published?
Comment by David T. Gould on February 21, 2010 at 9:02pm
Found this relevant link after my post... "Three marketing models for social media
A look at how Ford, Kodak and Best Buy run their programs..." http://adage.com/digital/article?article_id=142221
Comment by David T. Gould on February 21, 2010 at 7:27pm
@ Keith... you bring up a very good point with "what if one of them gets fired"... this is the car business... it's not a question of if... it is a matter of when... I would suggest that every dealership (OEM) should have a digital strategy in place for protecting their digital assets (including Social Media). Dealership (OEM) specifically branded accounts opened by (for) the dealer and run by multiple individuals (sources) will give dealers the benefits of Social Media while protecting their reputation / brand. Personal accounts and participation can be encouraged with company guidelines but should not be the sole strategy. Good Selling, DTG
Comment by Ryan Gerardi on February 21, 2010 at 5:21pm
There is something to be said for too many chefs in the kitchen, or "cooks [to] spoil the broth" as Keith says. But even when you take "social media" out of the equation, it does not change the fact that each employee has his own needs and interests. Some of those needs and interests are shared with the employer and some are not.

Most employees have business cards, an email address, a phone extension, etc. So why not a Twitter line or other forms of social media. These employees likely have company cell phones too where they are texting with others. Again, why should social media be considered or classified differently?

One reason for "why" would be that what you do in social media, with exception of text-messaging, affects the search experience for customers because the information you share sticks around. On this basis alone there may need to be some company policy. And because of this there may need to be a company strategy too. But you can't prohibit employees from communicating in these social mediums and you may not be able to control the company strategy within these mediums any more than you can control where employees network and communicate offline.

Maybe the "strategy" should be approached similar to how other communication tools are put to use between organizations and their employees, by issuing them with clear policy guidelines, keeping them property of the organization.
Comment by Keith Shetterly on February 19, 2010 at 4:12am
I spent many years in corporate America. My initial reaction is still the same: Too many cooks spoil the broth, as they say. A handful of folks tweeting at a dealership doesn't compare well, imho, to the size and scope--and risk--of GM's effort. For Reputation Management alone, either they are risking someone creating something viral and negative, or they are going to be using real people to post everything redundantly. I don't know how effective the latter is, and the former is, I think, a very real concern.

Just my $.02. :)
Comment by Mitch Gallant on February 18, 2010 at 9:16pm
I agree with you Ralph, it's significant that the two manufacturers actually have a strategy. From my personal experience it has been relatively easy to hook up with the Ford account managers and they've even put together an interview for me with a high profile employee in their sustainability dept. for our blog. The beauty of social media marketing, to me, is there's really no silver bullet and as long as your working your ass off and keeping on top of it, it's successful.

My opinion of GM's case is they're going after it with too many people to start and won't have the fortitude to keep all the strings from balling up into a messy, knotted ball of yarn to be kicked around.
Comment by Ralph Paglia on February 18, 2010 at 8:03pm
This is a great blog post, especially when you consider that it is difficult not to notice that Ford, who has been VERY successful by any objective measurement with social media has used a very centralized system of a handful of accounts... I think it will be interesting to watch as the GM and Ford Social Media Marketing strategies seem to be very different from each other. However, the very fact that both companies HAVE a social media marketing strategy may be more significant than the appearance that their strategies are so different.

Personally, I suspect that both strategies can be highly effective... And, with the way my team has been installing Social Media Marketing into dealerships, we have used the strategy of getting as many employees to engage as possible... Different folks for different folks.

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