Ga. dealer combines holiday charity with social media marketing

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Georgia dealer Martin NeSmith found a way to combine social media with his community giving this Christmas -- and it led to a major surge in the number of toys needy children in his area received this year.

NeSmith, using e-mail blasts to customers and partnering with local chambers of commerce, asked people to go to his dealership's Facebook site and click the “like” button. A toy would be donated in the name of each person who liked NeSmith Chevrolet-Buick-GMC of Claxton, Ga., between Dec. 1 and Dec. 15.

About 3,500 toys costing $37,000 -- the dealership got a significant discount on the items from a toy company -- were distributed. In past years, NeSmith has given away about 500 toys costing $5,000.

NeSmith donated about 3,500 toys costing $37,000 to local charities. In past years, NeSmith gave away about 500 toys costing $5,000.

NeSmith said he had planned to increase his donation this year anyway. Business at his two dealerships improved dramatically, and he wanted to share with the community.

“We decided if we're going to do it anyhow, how do we get our customers involved and make them feel like they're contributing,” NeSmith said. “We thought it was a huge success.”

NeSmith also donated three used cars valued at a total of $18,000 to needy families in his market. After asking for nominations of worthy individuals and receiving 140, dealership employees narrowed down the list and met with candidates to determine the winners.

The Georgia dealer counts himself as just one of many in the car business trying to help their communities. Said NeSmith: “People who are fortunate enough to have financial means need to give back, and that's what we're trying to do.”

By combining that effort with social media marketing, he found a way to expand his giving and get positive word out about his store, too.

You can reach Amy Wilson at awilson@crain.com.

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