Targeting Influencers: A Case Study With Chevy Volt

by Jason Falls |

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 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 Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).