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GM’s Approach to Social Media and Change from Social Media Week Toronto

As part of Social Media Week Toronto I signed up for the presentation by GM and Chevrolet that took place at the Canadian International Auto Show on their approach to social media, change and storytelling.

Am I ever glad I went. It was one of the best talks I have ever been to, hands down.

Mary Henige took the stage for the talk and was very up front and honest about GM’s approach to the constant state of change that social media is in as it evolves and how they went about building their online presence post bailout.

In order to survive, GM needed to ‘humanize’ itself and show that real people who care about their jobs and community work at the company, they are not a faceless, heartless corporation, quite the opposite in fact! How to get this message out? Social media.

One of the wonderful examples used was how GM started their ‘Faces of GM‘ blog. They intentionally kept production values to a minimum, they even used a FlipCam to put together the first installment. This may sound insignificant to most, but to me, this immediately showed genius on their part. If the piece had gone out with a full-production team behind it, looking like it had been made with the top camera equipment and digital editing, it would have completely backfired. GM needed to show that they were making changes and this  simple act showed that indeed they were thinking about costs and the image being projected to the world of the company. What does this kind of production say to the public? It says we are using our money wisely, these are not paid actors, this is not a set-up being designed and orchestrated on Madison Avenue, this is real.

GM are using the site and its stories as a ‘gateway to get those overlooked stories out’ to the public. Did you know GM employees raised $95,000 for Toys for Kids last year? Did you even know that their employees and company did any of this? I didn’t, but I do now. Was I impressed? Again, yes.  How did they get this story out? They used their blog!

Social Media and GM’s approach to it: Focus & Engage.

Is there social media fatigue out there? For me, definitely. I’m always trying to keep up with the latest outlet for content and it is a struggle. Mary talked about how this isn’t just the case for us bloggers, GM too had to look at which outlets would be most effective and focus on them. Even they can be spread too thin and when you’re everywhere but there’s no current updates, it does not project a positive image does it? So they worked and focused and looked at the question ‘what value can you add?’ to determine which channels made the most sense. They determined their social media purpose was to build relationships and they kept that in mind in all of their platforms.

I tell people when they ask me that you need to look at your audience and determine where they are and go there. GM did the same. They are on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+. An example I use often is teenagers. If you want to reach teenagers or engage them on social media platforms don’t focus on Twitter, they are always on Facebook though! If you want to reach the 25+ groups, they’re on Twitter, I know, I’m one of them.

Keep in mind you can be on these channels but still not be effective if you’re not actually doing the work. People again ask me ‘how do I get followers?’, ‘how do I stand out?’, the answer is simple in concept, time-consuming in application: You have to put in the work, you have to actually be there and talk to people. When you see my tweets, my posts and my reviews, it’s me doing it. Yes, I do in fact try everything out myself, how else can I expect you to trust me?

GM approached this as more companies should. They are being authentic (which I learned about at BloggyCon), and true to the company. They have a team monitoring the accounts and their response time, by actual people, averages just two minutes! Is that realistic for all of us? Not necessarily, but sending out personal responses sure is! This is why I don’t use automatic responses, they are not authentic.

Would I have looked at a GM vehicle 4 years ago? No. Would I consider one now? Absolutely.

Building Loyalty.

Companies that take the time to build a relationship with me, talk to me like a real person and respond to me are companies I do take a look at. I hate being ‘a number’. I had an experience with that as a teenager with an optometrist I tried out after I was too old for Sick Kids. She barely even looked at me other than to check my eyes and never chatted with me like my previous doctors. I never went back. Just about 2 weeks ago now I saw my optometrist who I have been going to for, he noted on my file, sixteen years now! He chats with me, makes me feel like my eye health is a priority so I’ve always gone back to him.


Fairly new to the social media mix is Google+ and this was one of the key reasons I went to the seminar in the first place. I wanted to learn more about how to use it for my blog and to engage more people.

Again, GM approached this with a well thought out plan. Mary calls it ‘piloting’ when she tries out something new, I hope she doesn’t mind but I’d like to borrow that term from time to time, and they piloted their presence on Google+ and are now very successful with it. How have they done that? They’ve used the circles to segment with the customer as the centre. I was having trouble with my Google+ and how to use it effectively for NonMom’s continued evolution and just the way she described this process it clicked for me. Use NonMom, aka moi, for the centre of my Google+ world and have the parents in one circle, non-parents in another and the curious in another. There is a lot of overlap content-wise, but there’s also content that can be segmented and this is the way I can do that. I am so excited about this evolution so stay tuned, I’ll get that up and running asap!

As you can tell, this presentation made quite an impression on me. I think Mary got a kick out all the head-nodding I did during this presentation too, I did a lot of it, but it made so much sense and it was so wonderful to have my thoughts and feelings re-affirmed by someone who is actually doing what I dream of doing and am trained to do. Is NonMom a blog designed and purposed to make money? No. Its purpose is to inform, engage and share information between parents and non. What does that mean to my social media presence? It means ‘piloting’ new mediums to see if my audience goes there and if they do, joining them there and building more relationships.

I hope this post gets you thinking on how to use some of these tips for your growth online too. I found it illuminating and inspiring and empowering.Thank you Mary, GM, Chevrolet and Social Media Week!


9 Responses

  1. Great information and what a novel idea for acquiring information at the car show! Thanks!

  2. Thanks Patricia! It was fantastic, I am so glad I went. 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for your kinds words and great post! I’m glad I was able to inspire you. Your post really captured my message: try stuff, adjust, and keep up the hard work – there are no easy ways to build relationships.

    Good luck with your Google+ adventure. Please keep me posted. Oh, and let us know when you’re ready to buy a car!


    • Thanks so much Mary! I’m slowly working on the Google+ page but I know if I sit down and focus on it it will indeed add to my NonMom ‘experience’ online.

      I admit I’m more than partial to ‘Bumblebee’ but we did love that Sonic! I’ll keep you posted for sure 🙂

  4. Interesting and educational blog, Amy. There is so much to learn in the SM arena. Much rather rely on experts like you and I stick to helping folk have amazing vacations. Keep up the great work!

  5. Thank you for the detailed report on Social media and the insider on Gm’s new direction of thought. Firstly, there were many things that I had not considered prior to reading this blog and it has made me pay more attention to the reality of what companies are doing for the media attention; especially the aspect of how businesses spend their money on advertisement and how real or relevant the end product becomes. The fact that GM had not used the now traditional of expensive, and high profiled actors and recording devises. But in fact by using a flip camera to produce their recordings proves that they are become wiser with their money.This shows that GM is listening, and learning and most of all reacting to their current situation. I think the world needs more honesty in social media and GM’s has brought the goods with that so it seems. lastly, I want to thank you for giving me so many idea’s and inspiration to progress my social media knowledge. For that I thank you and wish you all the best.

    Rodney Albert

    • Awww! Thanks Rodney! My offer stands to show you the ropes, I’ll email you and we can set it up asap 🙂

  6. I really enjoyed your post. Thanks for all the great tips!

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