By Jason Falls and Geoff Livingston (Posted simultaneously on The Buzz Bin)The following chart from eMarketer.com shows a Burst Media survey indicating the best source for automotive information according to U.S. in-market internet users in December.

eMarketer’s automotive trust chart

The most trusted place? Websites that other than an automobile company’s site (and blog). Thirty-nine percent — much higher than even the 14 percent of friends and family — said they go to automotive websites to find out information about cars and trucks. Certainly Consumer Reports might be included in that array. Auto company websites came in fourth place at just over nine percent.

GM’s WOM Approach

Public relations and marketing pros should be able to recognize this trend. It’s an old one.The credibility of earned media versus paid-for or corporate generated content.Instead of print, now we’re talking about it online.Earned media has always been the heart of brand credibility and word of mouth buzz.

Ironically, this data comes on the heels of the recent Washington Auto show. Geoff took time sit down with GM’s, Mark LaNeve, GM’s head of marketing and advertising, Beth Lowery, GM’s environmental and technology officer and Christopher Barger, director of Global Communication Technology (and social media lead).

GM's CTS-VIn discussions with the three executives it became apparent that their social media strategy 1) understood and recognized this important survey’s results, and 2) that social media was part of a much larger word of mouth strategy.

Chris highlighted their strategy involves getting beyond the company’s blogs (most notably Fastlane) to engage other bloggers and influential writers.The company believes in social networks, and rather creating its own effort, has sought out communities that have already formed (for example user groups on Facebook). These moves acknowledge that GM understands its own social media efforts are not enough to foster necessary Word of Mouth. GM needs other voices.

Further, GM understands that the heart of WOM is great product.Over and over again LaNeve and Lowery discussed great marketing began with product design. GM’s cars are the heart of their strategy. By creating dynamic cars and then getting them into consumers hands, GM believes its marketing will take of.

Lowery said that design is driving the story, that great experiences – reality – was driving the company’s buzz. They are trying to engage their customers one car at a time. Internet experience and excitement is created from the driving experience. And consider just a few of the many, many results:

The company is also much more transparent about its design process, making its challenges and hopes open. Lowery says transparency is engaging suppliers and customers alike, bringing them into the process.

Sound familiar?GM’s onto something and its no coincidence that its WOM strategy is working.They are focused on great products, engaging their community on its terms, and fostering excitement.

Another Argument For Context In Social Media Releases

The conversation about social media releases (SMRs) was rekindled with the Social Media Group‘s launch of Digital Snippets â„¢ (created for Detroit’s other automotive giant, Ford). One of Jason’s suggestions for improved future versions of SMRs was more context. And now that suggestion is supported by these findings.

By offering third-party information, placing Ford’s sales pitch materials in proper context within the industry or even model category, the Digital Snippets effort could provide prospective buyers (or interested bloggers) with a framework for their claims, or at least a viewpoint other than Ford’s.

Ford would bolster the trust factor users of the Digital Snippets effort have for the company and make this valuable online resource feel more like a reliable place to find information than the obviously less-trusted company website (i.e. sales pitch).

Context is based on community-first principles. Companies have every right to say “no” to linking to reviews and perspectives that don’t uphold claims their product is better or best. Yes, we would absolutely produce a digital media resource for a client that lacked context if that’s what they insisted upon.

But when consumers say very clearly they trust third-party information more than the company’s in the industry in question, context can only make the company resource resonate more effectively.

[tags]word of mouth, GM Fastlane, General Motors, Ford, socialmediarelease, social media release, digital media resource, social media, public relations, PR, Geoff Livingston, Jason Falls[/tags]

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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