Social Media and NAIAS

It is widely known that General Motors paid for my travel and accommodations for the Detroit Auto Show.  In fact they even asked me in writing to disclose it on anything I write about the show.  This was part of the new full disclosure rules the FTC has imposed on all bloggers beginning at the end of last year.  General Motors was quick to mention that by them paying for my travel and accommodations I was in no way obligated to write about them or anything for that matter.

I was one of over 10 bloggers brought to NAIAS as press by General Motors.  Most manufactures bring certain people but General Motors put a specific emphasis on bringing social media people.  Both General Motors and Ford have been the “poster child” automotive companies in the social media industry.  Sure Honda made a “splash” when they did the striptease of the Crosstour on Facebook.  Most would have called that a colossal failure when the burn it with fire comments started pouring in.  As I mentioned Ford and General Motors in general are really using social media though they are taking vastly different stances with it.  General Motors does have it’s social media team on Twitter but really it is the brands and products that have accounts.

It was very interesting to witness how the “traditional media” reacted to all the social media people being around.  I am fairly certain the game is changing and they are not exactly happy about it.  Traditional media people have yet to figure out how to play nicely with social media types.  The funniest part is many of the traditional media will write their information once back at work yet the article and or pictures will not be published for days/weeks/possibly a month.  Yet they must get that picture before me or anyone else there for social media.  Social media buffs are publishing this stuff live on the spot using our phones and laptops.  We are connected (when we have signal) and are reporting live and on site.

That leads to another issue that has cropped up with the use of social media at an event such as NAIAS.  Live and on sight I was reporting the information as it was literally being spoken.  People on Twitter following me were getting the information as I received it including pictures.  The challenge was that the ten other people sitting around me are tweeting the information out at the same time.  How do I differentiate myself from these other people.  Sure we all took different pictures and different angles, but the information, specifications, general information, is all the same.  Social media types run in similar circles, many people that follow me also follow the people I was with.  Realizing this early on I had to differentiate myself on Twitter while I was there.  I could report what others were sure, but I had to have something else.   I realized how lucky I was to have been afforded this opportunity.  I decided I would try and make it so others that were not there could get whatever they would want.  I tweeted numerous times asking what people wanted to see.  When requests came in I obliged and took the corresponding photos.  Some other blogs actually asked me privately to take photos for them and I did.  Many people asked me to take a look at certain things and report back which of course I did.  Then something else happened.  General Motors set us all up with small round table sessions with some of the executives.  I instantly saw an opportunity and tweeted out who I would be meeting with and when.  I told my followers that if they had any questions for these people to let me know, and I would be happy to ask.  I took video of all the round table sessions and have already up loaded this.  Of course I asked the questions that came in off Twitter.

Fiat Twins

On Monday evening I realized that many pictures I had taken included the models posing with the cars.  I decided to tweet out a bunch of the photos and hash tag them with the keyword #EyeCandy.  This quickly turned into a “series” and people loved it.  The last thing I decided to do was simple.  There were plenty of models posing with cars and at the Fiat stand they had two girls to go along with the two 500’s.  On the second day the two girls in the morning appeared to be twins.  When I over heard someone saying they were I tweeted this.  Soon I heard Jalopnik saying they were not in fact twins.  Seeing that my eye candy series had been such a hit I decided to go and put an end to this debate.  I walked up to the “twins” and simply said there was talk about whether they were in fact twins and asked if they were.  They immediately said they were and I tweeted “BREAKING- The Fiat twins are in fact twins!”  Of course this tweet started a whole new discussion.  I also happened to learn that the twins live in Minneapolis about 15 minutes from where I live.  After having a conversation I left them to continue modeling and went back to the business of walking the show.  All of this gave me personality.  It was something different then just reporting the specifications/information about the cars.  When I got into the Lotus Evora I tweeted about how it felt like a glove when sitting in it.

The Ford area was one of the best consumer booths of the show.  They have everything from interactive computer simulations to transmissions torn apart, just about anything.  The booth itself is utterly huge.  Ford also had some customized Fiesta’s strewn about so people could get an idea about the level of customization these cars will have.

It is clear to me that social media is making an impact both in how manufactures are advertising and how they are handling themselves at autoshows.  It says something to me that the two auto manufactures most involved in social media are Ford and General Motors.  The point of all this is embracing new ways to communicate is something that forward thinking companies are doing and we should all take note.

Phil Colley, Nicole Carriere, Me, Chris Barger (from left to right)

Full Disclosure- My NAIAS travel and accommodations were provided by General Motors

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17 Responses to “Social Media and NAIAS”

  1. Great post. I walk to fence being both “social media”, and “traditional media” depending on the day you see me. From the young social media person…I love that we can tweet, and facebook, and blog the news right away (well when at&t is playing nice with signal). As traditional media…. I hate social media… I went to school and worked hard to learn the ropes…. and now every one can play. And not only everyone can play but the field is getting smaller. But I can tell you for those of us who “get” social media… It is the way things are going.. I am glad to be part of it… and was thrilled to meet fellow social media peeps that love what we do…. do matter the format.

    01/21/2010 at 10:00 am Reply
  2. Very well done, Joel.

    Two things I take away from this post which differentiate it from all the other “NAIAS Was A Non-Event, And I Was All YAWN (COBO RATS!)” type post elsewhere on the web.

    1. While everyone else is talking about the Regal GS, Aveo RS, or more hybrid technology BS, you’re highlighting the General’s recognition of the social web on some level. Their mention of the FTC rules suggests that they are at least vaguely familiar with the digital realm in which you (and, indeed most of us) publish.

    I’m sure they’ve got a social media team struggling for validation and respect internally like those in any other large corporation, but the idea that at least a couple people inside GM mentioned something in your best interest is a nice gesture. (After all, it would be YOUR reputation sullied if you did NOT disclose their concessions, not theirs.)

    2. That moment where you went from excitement over the ability to instantaneously deliver information over the wire via social media (god, I’m getting sick of calling it “social media”) to the revelation that half the crowd was tweeting or live blogging the exact same info and how could you differentiate yourself was the best. That’s what we need more of today.

    I remember when a bunch of you guys went to another GM event last summer. Someone posted a picture of you and it was a line of about six guys in polos and khakis, noses buried in their phones, frantically tweeting away. This could very well be the new face of the media. It’s that human element that transcends analog and digital communications. There is no post-production or editing. There is no suit standing on a corner where, three hours ago, something happened. This is really live. It’s raw. It’s gritty.

    If you can redirect the endorphin rush, if you can channel that electrical storm of synaptic fire through a different set of connections, right there in the moment, you stand to blow the doors off the competition.

    Over time, we’ve shifted to a more individualized mentality. We are all beautiful and unique snowflakes. In reality, many of us are similar in our beliefs and passions. Social media (ugh) allows us to connect on those levels and collaborate. The pendulum swings to other direction. Hive mind, groupthink becomes the norm.

    We are all marching in the same band and we are all playing the same tune, but different instruments play different notes at different times. That’s what makes the music what it is.

    Kudos, Joel.

    01/21/2010 at 10:10 am Reply
  3. Since I knew there would inevitably be a shotgun blast of Tweets all about the same thing, I took the opposite path. I chose radio silence. I posted a few things to the carchat blog that might be of interest (the Elan, Morgan etc) but I waited until I had a chance to reflect on the cars and events. It took me a few days, but I think it was worth it, and the positive reactions seem to re-enforce this.

    One thing I think is interesting is Brian’s highlighting of the “six guys buried in their phones”. I think the biggest problem with this is you get too excited about the coverage, the hashtags, at replies, being the first to report on something to actually take in the show, stop and enjoy the cars, take in the details, reflect on the products and their implications. I think what separates the best auto writers from the hacks is the deeper level of insight and analysis that you get in something like a column, and you really need a superlative facility for writing to do so. Breathlessly tweeting the newest minor development in 140 words or less won’t help you develop this talent.

    01/21/2010 at 11:36 am Reply
  4. I wish I could have hung out with you more at NAIAS!!! Next time, eh?? :)

    01/21/2010 at 12:59 pm Reply
  5. Joel, you tell the story from your side and tell it well. Now let me say what NAIAS was from our side. I felt as if I was there. The instant feedback and pictures and events were so entertaining and enjoyable. I only wish that the afterhours would have been shared. Of course, It more than likely could not or should not but I was dying to know what and how much fun you all were having then as well. Social Media is here to stay and I love how Chris Barger is building the base within GM for effective communication to the consumer. Keep it up and you might just be the Walter Cronkite of Social Network reporting.

    01/21/2010 at 3:11 pm Reply
  6. Connie Burke #

    Loved this post – you not only captured it but succeeded in telling the story in a unique way. You totally joelfeder’ed it! I thought it was awesome that you opened up the roundtable to your twitter followers, expanding that audience that day significantly.
    You were covering that showfloor like a madman – literally working up a sweat and not missing a beat!
    It was great to finally meet you.

    01/21/2010 at 3:58 pm Reply
  7. Great article Joel, and not just because my Twitter picture made it on here, but that helps. Very well put, and the game is definitely changing. I even made the comment to someone, “I used to have to wait for Car and Driver or Autoweeks Auto Show edition.” Now I’ve seen more than they will even cover. Great work on #eyecandy as well, always important to standout in the crowd.

    01/21/2010 at 7:07 pm Reply


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