GM's Road to Recovery Is via Social Media

Phil Colley, social media strategist at GM, discusses how the company's social media strategy helps to put the customer in the middle of everything it does.

In the wake of 30 million vehicle recalls, GM has had a rough year. Social media, however, will play a pivotal role in repairing the company's image and restoring trust among consumers.

From GM's social media command center in Detroit, which launched in 2013, team members engage with prospects and customers and deal with crisis management on a daily basis. This social team does more than just chat with customers; these employees identify product issues, establish feedback channels, and pinpoint sales opportunities.

Recently, GM partnered with Oracle to deploy its Social Cloud to help simplify and streamline its global efforts. Here Phil Colley, social media strategist at GM, discusses moving to the cloud, GM's social business strategy, and the growing importance of being a social business.

When did you deploy Oracle Social cloud? What was your goal in doing so?

We went through a very extensive process. Oracle was one of the vendors that could do most of what we needed. Before there were 125 different tools that the various social media teams across the globe were using and none of them were talking with each other. With Oracle you have one tool to rule them all like The Lord of the Rings. That data and information [from social] is also tied back into our CRM tool. It was a year and a half process to get to the point where we implemented the tool, and we're still in the process of rolling it out across the enterprise. Most of North America is online. We have a whole team of people and tools for the enterprise as well as best practices and governance for sharing across the enterprise. We're also ensuring we're not creating channels that aren't sustainable. It's particularly important to Chevrolet. We want to make sure people are getting the same look and feel and making sure the Chevrolet brand is uniform across the globe.

Before this rollout, you had 125 different tools across the enterprise. What problems did this create?

Number one was everyone was using their own tool and no one was talking to each other. We needed one foundational tool that forced people to talk to each other. When it comes to tailoring content and driving engagement, having one tool is great. From a budget standpoint it's also a win because we had 125 different tools out there so that means we were also paying for 125 different tools.

How did this fragmentation affect the customer experience?

If the right hand is saying one thing, the left hand is saying another. You have a customer experience that may not be the best. What's being driven down through our organization is our goal to earn customers for life. Now we have a tool where something comes in through a social channel and we can easily hand it off to customer care.Those types of things are invaluable and make it easy to do it across the enterprise.

Can you explain who all from your organization is tasked with engaging customers via social?

I manage our corporate social media team. I oversee the community management of those channels. Each brand oversees itself. We have a customer care team with more than 25 advisors who are out there in forums and online and looking on our own social channels for customers having issues. We're starting to get into different regions. We have a relatively large footprint in the social channels.

What's marketing's involvement?

We carved out swim lanes-public relations, marketing, and customer care-and we work with legal. Marketing takes the lead on the brand. Each brand has a social media team that reports up through the marketing team to create branded content to use on the social channels. For corporate, we take the lead on the communications side. GM is the holding company for five different brands including OnStar so we end up having to deal with a lot of stuff that may not necessarily be brand building. We take the lead with crisis situations too.

How did you educate employees on your enterprise social strategy?

We have tools in place. We want employees to help our customers whenever they can. And we have an intranet that we put information on. We're focused on communicating to employees the different ways they can help our customers. They know where to point customers who are having an issue with their vehicles. We also have social media training. The only people who are empowered to speak on behalf of the company are on the communications team and we feed messaging to the brands when it goes beyond what [the communications team] can respond to. We also have an internal social network where employees can discuss issues or raise issues that are happening or connect with other employees in other regions. We have an elaborate setup on getting customers what they need. The people empowered to be on record or speak on behalf of the company are communications folks.

Are you measuring ROI? What's the incremental business value?

It's tough. The easiest way to measure ROI in the current state of affairs is by vehicle sales. It's very tough because of the way people use social media. It's very hard to measure and track where we are in the process. We can't go from 'hey, we posted about this and bought thisthere's no real way to measure that.' We have friends and family discounts we can give. If you give someone a discount on the vehicle you can prove that you have a role in that sale. Since we've been working with sales, we know we sold more than 60 vehicles over the past five years as part of our involvement in the "Manic Mommies" community. Another example is on the customer care team they did a pilot where using the Oracle tool, they looked at people on Twitter who appeared to be interested in purchasing a vehicle. Out of 2,700 that they deemed showed the greatest potential for vehicle sale, they whittled it down and 331 of those people discussed setting up a test drive with the customer care sales team, 45 took a test drive, and 13 bought vehicles.

Are you measuring engagement and sentiment?

Of course. What we've done is each brand's social media team has its own KPIs that they're looking at. We got into a room and hammered out the top 10 KPIs and engagement is clearly one of those top 10. Sentiment is one of those, as well as intent.

How do your social efforts help to put the customer in the middle of everything you do?

We're looking at social very holistically. It's not siloed out into PR, marketing, or customer care. We all came together and decided here are the swim lanes and the place where we play. One of the things the social media center of excellence has done is everyone has a seat at the table and governance across the organization so we can put our customers first and to make sure we're reaching them in a way that they prefer. You take a look at what we do across our social channels and every social channel is different for each brand. Each brand has its fan base and what might resonate well with a Chevrolet Facebook fan may not resonate with a Cadillac Facebook fan. Every brand must need to differentiate what they're doing across channels to make sure our future and current customers are getting what they need in the way that they want. Social is huge in helping to tailor messaging to the right audience.

What's next?

It's not new but we'll engage in real-time engagement. Having a tool like Oracle as well as bringing in other tools on top of that, will help from a real-time engagement standpoint. You'll see more of that. It's really another way of talking about making sure you're interacting on their terms when they want to versus on your terms. You're also going to see an evolution of data. You'll see us refine that process more to make sure we're reaching the right audience at the right time. There's so much going on with social and we are so far ahead of other companies out there. We have to keep everybody focused and make sure we have the right tools to use and that we're integrating on a regular basis. That will bring huge benefits going forward. We also have the leadership support to continue on the path that we're on.