Boosting Chevrolet Malibu sales was deemed a top priority for Atlanta-area Chevy dealers when their regional marketing group set its priorities for 2013.
But the marketing association, which represents 37 local Chevy dealerships, had reached a "saturation point" with its TV spots, says Greg Cole, president of the group. So it chose to start its first substantial social media marketing program: a Facebook page geared toward women.
"Georgia Best Chevy Girls" now has 2,000 "likes" and a running thread of mostly cheery posts, such as this recent one: "I just bought a Chevy Malibu 2010 and I love my car. Thanks Chevy for making such a great car ... smile."
Automakers and individual dealerships have been bulking up their Facebook presences for years. But some Chevy local marketing associations are finding prospective customers with Facebook pages tailored to women in specific metro areas, melding marketing messages with local goings-on.
"We wanted an outside-the-box idea to reach an audience that we might not be hitting with our traditional formats," says Cole, dealer principal at Athens Chevrolet in Athens, Ga.
Local marketing associations are funded jointly by manufacturers and area dealers to advertise sales events in a specific metro area or region. About 130 of Chevy's 179 associations nationally have established their own Facebook pages. Most are tailored to women, many with some version of "Chevy Girls" in the name.
Spearheading the effort is Agency 720, the Detroit advertising agency that provides creative content to Chevy's local marketing associations. The goal is to amplify an association's broader marketing messages by getting an engaged group of "fans" to chatter about Chevy locally, says Amy Fulford, the agency's director of social media.
"These women aren't coming to the page because they saw an ad in the newspaper," Fulford says. "They're coming because we've drawn them to the page. We're feeding them content that's relevant to them."
Agency 720 provides content for the sites along with local bloggers, who might flag upcoming concert dates, riff on the weather or post pictures from local Chevy marketing events.
Arena Blake, the blogger who writes for the Dallas-Fort Worth Chevy dealers' Facebook page, has more than 3,000 followers on Twitter and is the author of a popular mommy blog, thenerdswife.com. Recent posts on the association's page ranged from a link to a positive review of Chevy's MyLink infotainment system by tech site CNET to a picture of a cat balled up in a pile of laundry.
The sites offer "a rare opportunity to have a two-way dialogue with local consumers on a regular basis," Fulford says.
Some associations have attracted more followers than individual dealerships have attracted. For example, the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston area Chevy dealer associations' Facebook pages, created more than three years ago, have more than 31,000 followers combined. The pages include links to the individual dealerships in the group.
Do these metro Facebook pages sell cars? Fulford acknowledges that measuring the return is "a work in progress." For now, she says the sites are cultivating small but pure communities of prospective buyers or service customers.
Cole says the Facebook page accounted for just a "small percentage" of the group's budget. He says it will "be a while before we know if this is selling a lot of cars for us."
"But," says Cole, "it's certainly something that's tying Chevrolet customers back to us."