GM uses social media to respond to customer gripes

On Twitter, General Motors exchanges comments with its customers about the faulty-ignition recall.
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General Motors has a strategy to deal with backlash from consumers on social media: search for complaints, respond quickly and assist customers.

As GM contends with questions over an ignition switch recall covering 1.6 million cars, it also must deal with annoyed owners who air their grievances on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere.

And consumers don't mind being snarky -- perhaps damaging GM's reputation in the process.

In one instance, a Chevrolet Cobalt owner took a dig at Chevy on Twitter by saying he's waiting for his car to shut down and kill him -- a post that drew a response from the Chevrolet customer care Twitter account in less than an hour. The GM recall includes 2005-07 Cobalts.

In another tweet, a former Saturn owner posted a link to a USA Today recall article that apparently reopened old wounds. She said that she sold her Saturn for a $7,000 loss after having the ignition switch replaced several times. GM's customer care unit tweeted her two days later, asking her to send it a direct message. The recall also includes 2004-07 Saturn Ions and the 2007 Saturn Sky.

The automaker's social media staffers are responding to frustrated owners with advice and offers to set up dealership appointments.

For instance, GM's customer care team is instructing owners of recalled vehicles who sent messages via Facebook to use the "ignition key and nothing else" on their key rings while driving.

GM declined to provide comment for this story.

But in January, before the recalls, GM social media strategist Phil Colley told Automotive News that staffers are "actively searching for people who are having vehicle issues, whether it be in the forums, the blogosphere, Twitter, Facebook, wherever they are."

GM also is pushing the FastLane blog, its corporate communications hub, as another resource.

The automaker's main Twitter account shared a blog link to CEO Mary Barra's letter to employees, which explained how the company is handling the recall crisis. The blog, initially started around a decade ago as a mouthpiece for former GM executive Bob Lutz, is equipped with share buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest.

Peter Ternes, a GM social media strategist, said during a January NAIAS interview: "It was originally written to talk to the media, but we knew a lot of consumers were following it. We know the media is still there and still using it, but now we're talking a little more directly to customers."

Editor's note: This report has been updated to make clearer that Automotive News spoke with GM about its social media activities before the recall.

You can reach Vince Bond Jr. at vbond@crain.com. -- Follow Vince on Twitter


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