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Old 05-12-2008, 01:39 AM   #1
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GM keeps pace with customers through blogs, Web

General Motors Corp. Vice Chairman Bob Lutz doesn't always get positive feedback on his blog, but he thinks that's a good thing.

He views his FastLane blog, www.fastlane.gmblogs.com, as a two-way communication device — a way to share information and receive consumer feedback, both good and bad.

“On a Web site, people are frank and critical,” said Natalie Johnson, manager of social media communications for GM. “But you can get candid feedback. It helps you understand the customer better and, in turn, deliver a better product.”

Lutz launched his blog — he writes it himself, Johnson said — in 2005, just before the North American International Auto Show. It focuses on GM's global products and designs.

A year later, GM launched the FYI blog, which tells the stories of employees and addresses corporate issues. Since then, GM has developed other Web 2.0-driven sites ranging from Igotshotgun.com, a video Web site that takes people behind the scenes at GM-sponsored events, to a blog for Cadillac drivers.

GM most recently developed GMNext, a Web site that incorporates 24-hour chats, videos and blogs focused on the next 100 years of personal transportation.

“For the Big Three, blogs are important because there's always a lot of criticism flowing around the automotive industry,” said Rob Cleveland, CEO of Ann Arbor-based Icon Creative Technologies Group, which develops blogs for original equipment manufacturers. “You need a forum to proactively address issues and speak plainly to people.”

Cleveland said GM has been a leader in the automotive corporate blogging field.

“They've done a great job of being in front and willing to take risks before everybody else,” he said.

It's not unusual for senior-level executives such as Lutz to have a blog, Johnson said. But the trick is keeping up with comments from consumers while continuing to address core business concerns that tell GM's story. A video of the new Malibu generated 102 comments, Johnson said, and the Camaro concept announcement got 584.

Lutz's FastLane blog receives about 3,000 visitors a day, Johnson said. The FYI blog gets on average 1,000 visitors daily.

One of the challenges of GM's blogs is responding to questions in a timely manner, Johnson said. Good blogs generate a lot of feedback and, depending on the question, it can take some time to find the right person to respond.

The upside is the open forum to present the company's point of view.

“We felt that sometimes our story wasn't always accurately portrayed in the media,” Johnson said. “Part of (the blog's) mission has always been to help bring public perception about GM up to date: to fight its image as a lumbering dinosaur with poor-quality cars that no one wants.”

GM's emphasis on blogging mirrors overall consumer interest in it, Johnson said. As blogging has become mainstream, there's more of a “blurring” of news from one medium to the next.

But Pat Radice, account director with Detroit-based StarrConstand, a marketing and communications firm, said there are dangers to corporate blogging.

“You're opening yourself up to criticism,” she said. “If you start this dialogue of people saying negative things, it's out in cyberspace forever. It can get ugly.”

Many of Radice's clients ask about blogging, she said. Instead, she recommends controlling the message by putting news and updates on Web sites and keeping that information fresh.

“People go to the blogs to receive a different view, a perspective that is shared with candor and everyday-speak that they can relate to and begin to trust at some level,” she said.

Radice said blogging can be useful for corporations to gather public opinion about a consumer product.

“Corporations can monitor consumer opinion and adjust their PR strategies, marketing strategies and overall messaging,” she said.

Corporations need to be careful that their blogs don't come across as a PR site, Radice said. Otherwise, consumers will turn to general, independent blog sites.

“It can come off as disingenuous,” she said. “If it's not true blogging and it's more being used for PR purposes, the general public will see through it.”

Chrysler L.L.C. has two blogs — one for media and the other for the general public.

“I tip my hat to Chrysler and GM for addressing things on a corporate level,” Cleveland said, “and not shying away from controversy.”

Johnson sees the trend actually moving away from corporate-hosted blogs toward developed online communities.

“The aim of corporate interaction in social media is trending away from just being a place for companies to interact with audiences on subjects of our choice,” she said, “but to turn control of the agenda over to the audience and for us to interact with them on subjects they help to choose.”

http://crainsdetroit.com/apps/pbcs.d...B/589242452/-1

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Old 05-13-2008, 12:03 AM   #2
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i go to fastlane every now and then. they should try and update it a little more often though. I'll visit it every day for a week or two, waiting to see something new, then I'll forget about it for a month.
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Originally Posted by FbodFather
My sister's dentist's brother's cousin's housekeeper's dog-breeder's nephew sells coffee filters to the company that provides coffee to General Motors......
........and HE WOULD KNOW!!!!
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