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General Motors: Understanding Its Market in China

In China on July 30, 2011 by sdaniellebenjamin Tagged: , , , , ,

See that tall man in the middle? That’s my Uncle Ron. He works for General Motors (GM).

Just last week he and his team went to China to tour one of the plants.

To be completely honest, I’d never given much thought to the car market in China. That is, until I read “Volkswagen Wouldn’t Be Volkswagen Without The People,” by blogger Victoria Holms. In it, she highlights the VW’s “The People’s Car Project,” a digital crowdsourcing campaign to get consumers to contribute their ideas on how the latest VW model should be built.

Her blog got me thinking about my Uncle Ron. Well, really it got me thinking about my Uncle Ron AND whether or not GM is implementing a good digital strategy to leverage the market in China and engage consumers. And if they aren’t doing anything, what are some ways they can get in on the action.

General Motors on the Move

Just a few month ago, the Washington Post reported that GM has “emerged as one of the top sellers of passengers cars… surpassing Toyota this year and second only to Volkswagen.” In fact, the Detroit based automobile company sold more cars in China than in the United States – a trend that is sure to continue as more people in the heavily populated country are able to afford the luxury purchase of their first car.

The great thing about the Chinese market is that online social media conversations around cars are high – with some reports ranking automobile conversations number one above sports, computers and healthcare conversations. But how can GM translate general conversations to those specifically around their vehicles? And more important, how can they engage consumers in such a way to help them sell more cars? Simple: Learn from the best, then expand it and do it better.

Get in on Crowdsourcing and Gaming

The Volkswagen crowdsourcing approach was a good idea. But GM can take it up a notch by engaging customers in real-time conversations with Chinese engineers and executive staff that can answer questions and offer feedback on the recommendations they make. Also, with China standing as the leader in gaming application development, a GM micro-site that incorporates a gaming component can reward design submissions that are ultimately used in car productions  – either with a free car, a year of free gas or other cool prizes.

Find the Right Influencers

Reports reveal that 84% of all car purchasers are made by first time buyers and about half go to family and friends for advice on the type of car they should get. With this in mind, GM should focus efforts on engaging the right key influencers who can carry the message of GM to their broader circle. Reaching audiences through social media networks can be a great way to arm a core group of individuals who can then spread information like wildfire to their peers and family – a trusted source. Social media sites such as Tencent and Qzone rank highest in China and creating platforms on these sites can provide information on GM vehicles in an easy-to-share way that will get in the hands of millions as friends share with friends.

Use Search Engine Tools to Your Advantage

Some of those same reports mentioned earlier also note that Chinese users rely on the internet, particularly auto net search sites that feature commentary from car owners, to gather information on different types of cars. One example of these types of sites is www.Sina.com. Implementing the right search engine optimization tools can elevate the GM brand and advertisements to the top when keywords or phrases are searched on these various search engines. This can provide the right tipping point for indecisive car buyers who are looking to purchase more desirable, foreign made cars.

Thanks to the innovative work of folks like my Uncle Ron, GM is well on its way to establishing itself via the quality products it produces. By learning the purchasing behaviors of their audiences and using those insights to guide a developing digital strategy roadmap, they are sure to see GM drive on to even better results.

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One Response to “General Motors: Understanding Its Market in China”

  1. Nice post about GM and great proof of the fact that it pays off to see what your classmates are writing about because it may spark an idea for you as well! You share some strong suggestions about how GM could use social tools to engage their consumers and grow their fan base. Your research and focus on finding some China specific sites to recommend that they focus on instead of just choosing the default western sites or tools was also a good choice. The one suggestion I was surprised you didn’t include (in light of your Uncle Ron) was how GM might leverage their internal employees as potential ambassadors and influencers to share their stories and the stories of GM with their families. Still, a well written post and good suggestions made for a strong post this week. (5)

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