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#AlignedCon Highlights: Chevrolet’s Johanne Pearson and Michael Cearley Discuss the Marketing Power of Social on the Regional Level

Some very big ideas about social media marketing began to flow as soon as I started asking Johanne Pearson and Michael Cearley questions at this year’s #AlignedCon. Johanne is Retail Digital and Social Manager for Chevrolet, while Mike is SVP & Senior Partner, Global Social Strategy at FleishmanHillard, Chevrolet’s digital marketing agency. Johanne and Mike have worked closely together to forge Chevrolet’s social media strategy. Here are some of their insights about social media marketing:

What Opportunities Does Social Media Have for the Automotive Industry?

“People don’t buy cars all the time,” Mike observed, “they buy them on the average of once every seven years. But social gives us the ability to stay close to fans, stay close to owners and stay close to friends of those owners outside of that buying process.”

Both he and Johanne agreed that social marketing, if community-based, offers a way to stay intimately connected to customers, even when they are not shopping.

How Do You Connect Your Social Media Strategy with Regional Community Dealers?

“Our dealers are the leaders within their respective communities,” Johanne said, “they might be sponsoring the Little League or contributing to local schools. Because local customers know them, we are really just encouraging them to extend their community relationships via social media.”

Mike sees real opportunity there too. “In many parts of the country,” he said, “people will have only five or six Chevy dealers around them in a 60-mile radius. And in most cases, they are going to go to the dealer that is closest to them. Consumers know the people there, they know their faces. There’s a kind of `that’s our guys’ thing going on. So social is just an extension, a way for those dealers to be even closer to their community.”

How Do You Get Dealers On Board?

Some regional dealers might resist ads and content that comes from a national brand. However, they are unlikely to resist social media campaigns that help them with community outreach.

“Some dealers hesitate to become involved in social,” Mike said. “But when they see social as an opportunity to connect more closely with their communities, it fits together for them and they are motivated to take part.”

Johanne added, “Some retailers are super comfortable with social, some don’t want to do it, but they definitely have that desire to increase the relationship in their communities. Through Promoboxx, we have made a concerted effort to provide content on a ready basis. Any time we have a brand change, for example, we send a campaign down to the local level via social and digital. That is really important.”

How Have You Used Social to Communicate with the Local Customer?

Mike pointed out how difficult it is for the marketing managers at a brand like Chevrolet to meet face-to-face with thousands of dealerships. But social campaigns, he noted, offer a brand like Chevy a way to maintain a strong and localized presence in the communities where those dealerships are located.

Johanne agreed and added, “We do not sell cars to consumers, the dealers do. Over the last three to four years, we’ve really revised our product line – 80% of our products are new. We are pushing innovation and soon the majority of our vehicles are going to have 4G wireless technology. We feel that we’re really doing a great job to build up the product and tell the story from a brand perspective. But at the end of the day, we need the retailers to convert interested people into customers who will purchase these cars. We want to be a market leader, and we can’t do that unless we’re using tools to really help drive the message.”

About Johanne Pearson and Michael Cearley

Johanne Pearson is Retail Digital and Social Manager at Chevrolet. Johanne ensures that the Chevrolet brand has a strong digital and social presence in the retail space.  She helps lead the effort to develop digital solutions for Chevy retailers. With 18 years of experience in the auto industry, she has worked in marketing and advertising, customer relationship management, product planning, and purchasing.

Michael Cearley is SVP & Senior Partner, Global Social Strategy at FleishmanHillard. Mike has more than 20 years of emerging and social media, integrated marketing, and storytelling experience. In addition to serving as FleishmanHillard’s digital/social practice group leader for the Americas, he currently leads a team of 75+ social media experts around the globe to support Chevrolet’s global social presence.

Click here to see how Chevrolet successfully connected with local consumers through its “Diamonds & Dreams” Campaign >