Targeting Influencers: A Case Study With Chevy Volt
Targeting Influencers: A Case Study With Chevy Volt
by

I don’t write about cars. I don’t really even write about gadgets. But I’m writing about the Chevy Volt electric car today. Why? Because the folks at Chevy are using influencer targeting as a method to get the word out about their car. No, I’m not succumbing to the power of a good pitch. The car is cool and there’s a fun video below featuring Robert Scoble and Guy Kawasaki that will show you some of that. I want to share the influencer outreach approach they’re using as an example of good PR and interaction with the social media space.

Cristi Landy, Volt’s product manager, told me technology bloggers and influencers were logical outreach targets for them because of the innovative technology in the Volt. The car not only features a mostly electric engine that can go up to 40 miles without using gas, complete with the pick-up, torque and handling you’re used to from a gas-powered vehicle, but is tech and gadget heavy. The car will have a smart phone app that enables you to lock, unlock, heat, cool, check charge status and more from wherever you are. For folks like Robert Scoble, Guy Kawasaki and Leo Laporte, who all write about technology and have large audiences, the outreach targeting was spot on.

What Chevy did for these influencers is invite them to test drive the car and experience the power first hand. The only thing they had to agree to was be interviewed for Chevy’s content after. There was no commitment to produce content about the car in the arrangement. Just test it, tell us what you think and you’re done. Chevy would produce all the content they wanted. Anything that Scoble, Kawasaki, Laporte or even I produced was gravy.

SME-TV: Robert Scoble, Guy Kawasaki & Jason Falls test drive the Chevy Volt from Jason Falls on Vimeo.

What Chevy did was give influencers in a relevant target an exclusive opportunity. The Volt isn’t on the market yet and not everyone can test drive one. They allowed us to take all the pictures, video and ask all the questions we wanted. There were no complex legal issues, trademark talks or even proprietary information non-disclosures. Just drive it, tell us what you think and thanks for coming. The individuals they chose are naturally going to produce content, even if it’s just a Tweet about the car. Certainly Chevy would love it if all the people they targeted blogged about their experience, but they’ll take what they get and be happy with it.

Perhaps more importantly, the audiences that are inspired and excited about new technologies will get a glimpse from their favorite source for tech-related information.

The point here is to keep in mind that your brand or client may find unusually productive niches of authorship in peripheral verticals to your core. Chevy didn’t target auto bloggers with this effort. (I’m sure they did separately, but they got involved in South by Southwest for non-auto bloggers.) If you’re a spirits brand, the spirit and cocktail bloggers are your core but radiating from those on your list should be the food, night life and lifestyle bloggers.

It’s not hard to think a little outside the box from your core media list but you’d be surprised how few do it. Just a reminder that even a social media and PR blogger might find something interesting in your electric car.

Dislcosure: Chevy’s arrangements at South by Southwest included transporting me to and from the mall where the road course was set up. They also extended an unrelated dinner invitation (which I accepted) to join several other bloggers and notables from the social media space including David Meerman Scott, Peter Shankman, Valeria Maltoni, C.C. Chapman, Liz Strauss and more. Chevy bought. Otherwise, I received no payment or promise for writing this. In fact, because I don’t focus on tech specifically, the Chevy folks didn’t really expect me to write about it.

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About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at JasonFalls.com.
  • Thiago

    I heard this really interesting comparison to a canvas-stretching-machine(I’m a painter) this week which really helped me understand this. In that context, this is a great article. Here’s hoping that these studies show more advancement each time.

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  • Used cars industry is growing rapidly and more buyers are turning towards used cars rather than new cars. This is because Japanese used cars are well-maintained and good graded as compare to the used cars exported by other countries.

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  • Electric Cars has miles to go. The most important thing is to have more than 250 miles range. The current versions are around 200 miles in theory but in practice, it is not more than 150 miles. 

    Chevy volt is good for this, it has more than 300 miles range, but still this must be improved. 

  • This is a great marketing strategy by the Chevy Volt team to invite marketing experts and techie bloggers for test drives. This tactic can help consumers trust and become convinced to buy a Volt.

  • I'll back again for sure, thanks for great article :D

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  • Great article, and very realistic as well. In my opinion targeting is one of the most important activities when it comes to doing business. There is no possible move to be made at random. I especially liked the quote “technology bloggers and influencers were logical outreach targets ” which is used for this case but I believe that it applies to every case.

  • Great article, and very realistic as well. In my opinion targeting is one of the most important activities when it comes to doing business. There is no possible move to be made at random. I especially liked the quote “technology bloggers and influencers were logical outreach targets ” which is used for this case but I believe that it applies to every case.

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  • SEO

    the devepment of electric vehicle is great today..

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  • Good insight Jason. I'm the Director of Digital Communications at Hare Chevrolet in Noblesville, Indiana (outside of Indy) and we are starting to implement the same sort of thing. We have already done a small video shoot with a financial planner whose audience is people looking for credit tips & product buying tips. We did an informational based shoot on the buying process and what you need financially. It will speak to his audience directly. We are doing test drives with local bloggers and influencers but keeping it specific to their audience. We let a local influencer who is big into sports cars drive a Camaro SS for a day and a half. No strings just drive it and hopefully mention us. We are going to do the same thing with another blogger who has kids but get him a Traverse or Equinox so it relates to his readership better than a Camaro might. The cost to us is minimal (gas, wear and tear) but the benefits are numerous. If you need a Volt let me know we can drive it the 2 hours to Louisville :)

  • Good insight Jason. I'm the Director of Digital Communications at Hare Chevrolet in Noblesville, Indiana (outside of Indy) and we are starting to implement the same sort of thing. We have already done a small video shoot with a financial planner whose audience is people looking for credit tips & product buying tips. We did an informational based shoot on the buying process and what you need financially. It will speak to his audience directly. We are doing test drives with local bloggers and influencers but keeping it specific to their audience. We let a local influencer who is big into sports cars drive a Camaro SS for a day and a half. No strings just drive it and hopefully mention us. We are going to do the same thing with another blogger who has kids but get him a Traverse or Equinox so it relates to his readership better than a Camaro might. The cost to us is minimal (gas, wear and tear) but the benefits are numerous. If you need a Volt let me know we can drive it the 2 hours to Louisville :)

  • Hi Jason, I think this is getting physically practical about what we usually call review generated buzz, for example whenever there is a new tech tool popping out like Google buzz or sometimes even an update coming in something like seesmic, the influencers are happy to shout out, so same is going with this as Chevy has got an absolutely new innovation.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the video….

  • Hi Jason, I think this is getting physically practical about what we usually call review generated buzz, for example whenever there is a new tech tool popping out like Google buzz or sometimes even an update coming in something like seesmic, the influencers are happy to shout out, so same is going with this as Chevy has got an absolutely new innovation.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the video….

  • Hi Kat & Jason… yes, we have made a significant effort at reaching out to green/eco bloggers, and I'm happy to discuss that with you (I'm @cbarger on Twitter) — or better yet, you should talk with @philcolley from our team, because he's the voice of the Volt within the social web and has been steering our Volt social strategy along with me (actually, who am I kidding — he steers it more than I do). We've been including the green/eco community in virtually every step of the development and test drives — including those who've been critical of us; for example, Chris Paine (director of “Who Killed The Electric Car?”) — and I know Phil would be happy to talk more about our green/eco outreach around the Chevy Volt. SXSW was, we felt, a unique opportunity to reach out to the kinds of influencers Jason mentions in his post. It was a fantastic add-on to the overall strategy… the chance to get people who have lots of ears listening to them to see & drive the car… and most of all, as Jason said, to *get their feedback.* For this car to be the hit we believe it can be, we need to be broadly appealing with it, and we need to get as much feedback as we can — from people whose primary identity is “green,” and from those who have other main focuses. The more people who're talking about this car — and the more opinions we've solicited — the better off we're going to be, and the stronger the final product will be.

    Thanks for your comment and I really hope to keep talking with you! — Christopher Barger, GM/Chevy Social Media

  • i never knew what chevy was before, i thought it was just a logo of some brand…

  • Chevy sounds like they “get it” re: Social Media… if Company X truly wants to know what people think then they need to not put boundaries, provisions, etc on the same people they hope will buy their wares. Thanks for sharing this, Jason. Steve O

  • Chevy sounds like they “get it” re: Social Media… if Company X truly wants to know what people think then they need to not put boundaries, provisions, etc on the same people they hope will buy their wares. Thanks for sharing this, Jason. Steve O

  • Thanks, Jeannie. Appreciate your stopping by.

  • jeanniecw

    Hi Jason – This is great – I really appreciate the no obligation part of this that eliminates the icky “sponsored” feeling you get from how some of these types of strategies have been executed in the past. Your video shows a very sincere Guy and Robert – that is authentic enthusiasm. Brands that are confident in what they have should start moving to this model more and more. Thanks for sharing this with us!
    Jeannie
    BTW – I saw you from afar at SXSW but never got a chance to say hello again. So: Hey!

  • jeanniecw

    Hi Jason – This is great – I really appreciate the no obligation part of this that eliminates the icky “sponsored” feeling you get from how some of these types of strategies have been executed in the past. Your video shows a very sincere Guy and Robert – that is authentic enthusiasm. Brands that are confident in what they have should start moving to this model more and more. Thanks for sharing this with us!
    Jeannie
    BTW – I saw you from afar at SXSW but never got a chance to say hello again. So: Hey!

    • Thanks, Jeannie. Appreciate your stopping by.

  • Jason,

    This is so cool! Chevy was the case study for my last grad school class – specifically marketing their green products to Gen ME. I love what they've done here to promote the Volt to another niche audience. By partnering with OnStar and creating their app, they've really taken the car's technology and function to the next level. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jason,

    This is so cool! Chevy was the case study for my last grad school class – specifically marketing their green products to Gen ME. I love what they've done here to promote the Volt to another niche audience. By partnering with OnStar and creating their app, they've really taken the car's technology and function to the next level. Thanks for sharing.

  • eletric cars are one great invention and its a more environment friendly…

  • eletric cars are one great invention and its a more environment friendly…

  • eletric cars are one great invention and its a more environment friendly…

  • You're welcome. Thanks for the comment.

  • I like this approach. Could also be extrapolated to second tier influencers who usually tend to need and appreciate the attention even more. Lots of options with targeting influencers. Thanks for writing about this, Jay.

  • I like this approach. Could also be extrapolated to second tier influencers who usually tend to need and appreciate the attention even more. Lots of options with targeting influencers. Thanks for writing about this, Jay.

    • You're welcome. Thanks for the comment.

  • Absolutely. I'll leave it to the Chevy team to discuss, but I'm guessing
    they have those folks on their target list as well. Thanks for swinging by,
    Kat.

  • Absolutely. I'll leave it to the Chevy team to discuss, but I'm guessing
    they have those folks on their target list as well. Thanks for swinging by,
    Kat.

  • Keep the paycheck, my friend. Glad I could help.

  • @Jason: thanks so much for this. I'm in the social media consultant for an online travel site and we're launching a new brand and you just gave me a dozen new ideas to take to my boss. I would send you my paycheck but then I'd be homeless.

    -Srini

  • @Jason: thanks so much for this. I'm in the social media consultant for an online travel site and we're launching a new brand and you just gave me a dozen new ideas to take to my boss. I would send you my paycheck but then I'd be homeless.

    -Srini

    • Keep the paycheck, my friend. Glad I could help.

  • KatFrench

    Interesting. Moreso than hardcore auto enthusiast bloggers, for whom the Volt is going to be mostly a novelty, I would think green/eco bloggers would have made a good, relevant and fairly large niche target.

  • KatFrench

    Interesting. Moreso than hardcore auto enthusiast bloggers, for whom the Volt is going to be mostly a novelty, I would think green/eco bloggers would have made a good, relevant and fairly large niche target.

    • Absolutely. I'll leave it to the Chevy team to discuss, but I'm guessing
      they have those folks on their target list as well. Thanks for swinging by,
      Kat.

    • Hi Kat & Jason… yes, we have made a significant effort at reaching out to green/eco bloggers, and I'm happy to discuss that with you (I'm @cbarger on Twitter) — or better yet, you should talk with @philcolley from our team, because he's the voice of the Volt within the social web and has been steering our Volt social strategy along with me (actually, who am I kidding — he steers it more than I do). We've been including the green/eco community in virtually every step of the development and test drives — including those who've been critical of us; for example, Chris Paine (director of “Who Killed The Electric Car?”) — and I know Phil would be happy to talk more about our green/eco outreach around the Chevy Volt. SXSW was, we felt, a unique opportunity to reach out to the kinds of influencers Jason mentions in his post. It was a fantastic add-on to the overall strategy… the chance to get people who have lots of ears listening to them to see & drive the car… and most of all, as Jason said, to *get their feedback.* For this car to be the hit we believe it can be, we need to be broadly appealing with it, and we need to get as much feedback as we can — from people whose primary identity is “green,” and from those who have other main focuses. The more people who're talking about this car — and the more opinions we've solicited — the better off we're going to be, and the stronger the final product will be.

      Thanks for your comment and I really hope to keep talking with you! — Christopher Barger, GM/Chevy Social Media