Chevy To Test Social Media Waters At SXSW

Chevy SXSW

Chevrolet, which has signed as exclusive automotive sponsor of SXSW music, film and interactive festival for the next three years, will use its freshman presence there this week to tout such vehicles as the Camaro, Volt and Cruze, and to get ideas on best practices and emerging technologies in social media from the intelligentsia who attend.

Chevrolet is also using the Austin, Tex. show to test three social-media applications. One is a mobile location app from Austin-based Gowalla that tells a cell phone user's contacts where he or she is. When Gowalla users check in at various locations in Austin, they will get text messages with offers from Chevrolet and SXSW, such as a free ride in a new Equinox for those who use Gowalla when they get to the airport.

Chevrolet will also use Quick Response (QR) codes to tout the three vehicles it is featuring at the show. When mobile phone users photograph QR codes on the display vehicles, they will open a microsite detailing vehicle features. Users who download something called Chevrolet iReveal can view 3-D models of Chevrolet vehicles.



"Part of the reason you test things in a big pond like this is, it offers a rare opportunity to get feedback from people who are really smart and who are willing to give advice," says Christopher Barger, director of global communications and technology for GM. "They are tech-savvy, early adopters; most who go there are going to know more about the social space than we do.

"You try to go into any interaction but, especially with this audience, you go in more to learn than to teach. For instance, location-aware networks like Gowalla are growing in popularity, but just how brands can play smartly there and how people can choose to interact with a brand on these networks -- nobody has cracked that nut. So we will see what feedback we get."

Chevrolet will also run a team-based road rally called "See the USA in your Chevrolet: A SXSW Road Trip," in which teams will drive to Austin from various places like New York and San Diego while completing missions selected by followers on Twitter, and using social media to record their trips.

The GM division will have a Chevrolet Volt Recharging Station for digital devices and a fleet of Camaros, Equinoxes, Malibus, and Traverses for conference attendees. Chevrolet will offer rides to and from downtown, to exclusive events, and restaurants.

"We will have just about everything in the Chevy portfolio available for ride and drives; and we will have 14 vehicles making loops around Austin," says Barger. "The philosophy is to help attendees have a better experience, whether through providing a station to charge batteries, giving them a chance to take a ride, or a ride downtown from the airport. The idea is to contribute to what people are there to do rather than brand all over the place."

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