Buick cruises into social media with Tweet to Drive

DETROIT: GM's Buick brand is debuting its first social media activity to promote the 2011 rollout of its Regal product among a younger, 30-something consumer.

DETROIT: GM's Buick brand is debuting its first social media activity to promote the 2011 rollout of its Regal product among a younger, 30-something consumer.

Tweet to Drive is part of a larger integrated campaign supporting the launch. It is the latest effort to connect consumers with the car. Starting in the key market of Chicago, the effort asks consumers to Tweet an @reply to DriveBuickChi to request a personal test drive from any city location.

“We're not always in their purchase consideration,” said Michelle Bunker, communications manager for Buick. “In order for us to bring the brand to a new customer we have to be doing things like Tweet to Drive, so they can change their perspective of Buick.”

With AOR Cohn & Wolfe, the team recruited brand ambassadors via outlets such as Mashable to be responsible for scheduling drives, accompanying the driver, and providing product background and information on cultural events throughout the city. There is also a consumer incentive to win daily prizes such as tickets to local events.

“This is our first foray into social media, and we're using it as a tool to reach customers directly,” said Bunker. “It's kind of an experiment in how social media can really work for Buick from a PR perspective.”

Stephen Bonsignore, SVP at Cohn & Wolfe, said: “We're not promoting it to the mainstream media because we want it to be grassroots and social-media driven.”

He added that when the DriveBuickChi channel went live in the first week of August, efforts focused on building a following by connecting with key social media influencers, such as an influential Domino's franchise owner with whom an ambassador delivered a pizza. The team also reached out to local and automotive trade publications.

As it continues to build a following – to date it has completed 25 test drives – it will ramp up its national trade and consumer outreach, said Bonsignore. The team is also hosting car preview events that feature live music in five markets, including Chicago.

The team will launch "Tweet to Drive" in Austin, TX in late September. Plans for additional markets are under discussion.

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