Brandividual In Action: Follow @cbarger to watch General Motors transform

by cv harquail on June 2, 2009

Here’s your chance to see someone in the brandividual role taking action, over time, in the face of a big challenge.

200906021307.jpg When I gave my talk about The Rise of Brandividuals at last week’s Corporate Reputation Conference, I used the example (well-known in social media circles) of @scottmonty of Ford Motor Company to illustrate what makes brandividuals effective. Now, thanks to Christopher Barger (and a hat tip to Chris Brogan for the idea) we can watch how a brandividual helps an organization and its stakeholders handle a tough social, reputational, and organizational transformation.

All you have to do is follow @cbarger on Twitter .

(If you aren’t already on Twitter, it’s easy to join. If @cbarger (and @cvharquail ) are the only folks you want to follow on Twitter, you can just subscribe to the tweetstream with RSS and use your RSS reader to catch up whenever you want. [If you have no idea what I’m talking about but you’re interested in learning, email me and I’ll help you get started.])

Like @scottmonty, @cbarger is the official Director of Social Media and GM’s Director of Global Communications Technology. In contrast to @scottmonty, @cbarger has only a tenth of the number of Twitter followers– although that may change if/as GM stakeholders and assorted interested individuals start to follow GMs actions by following @cbarger on Twitter.

200906021306.jpg Christopher Barger has a sophisticated understanding of how social media can play a role in crafting an organization’s reputation and relationships with stakeholders, although he may not be as well known as Scott Monty. It’s also not entirely clear to me that Barger is a "brandividual " per se. Christopher Barger’s personal brand may only be relevant in social media circles… we’ll have to see what kind of ‘personal brand’ he has among car fans & GM stakeholders.

What should we be looking for as we scan @cbarger’s Twitter stream? Let’s look for transparency, personal expression & interpretation of situations, and fair brokering between individual stakeholder concerns and the GM party line.

And as a bonus…

Thanks to GM’s bankruptcy filing yesterday, this is a "two-fer"– we can watch a brandividual in action AND an organization coping with profound challenges and an undeniable impetus for change.

Let us know what you see. …

For more insight, see:

General Motor’s Christopher Barger Gives Great Rundown On GM’s Social Media Progress by Jon Cass, a corporate social media expert who follows the auto industry.

The social mind of a corporate marketer (podcast)

Blogging at Big Blue, Part 1, by Dan Greenfield. How Barger got his start in social media.


Christopher Barger June 2, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Hi, thanks for the analysis! I’d also point people to @gmblogs (we have a handful of individuals who contribute there).

As for our approach and being well known, my aim for GM isn’t to promote myself as a sole brandividual for the company, but to educate and build up MANY GM employees to represent us in conversations and communities. I’d rather have dozens of employees joining hundreds of conversations and communities than having one person serve as the main focus for the brand. The danger for a brand in putting all its social media eggs in one basket is: what happens if the brandividual leaves the company? I’ve no plans to go anywhere, but if I were hit by a bus tomorrow, GM would still have a significant presence in online conversations.

I concede that other companies in lots of industries have brandividuals with bigger Twitter followings than I do. But if I’ve done my job right, then GM will have an increasingly greater number of brandividuals engaging in more conversations — appropriate to their individual areas of passion and knowledge — than any single person could do. We’re not there yet, but we will get there. (I’d be happy to offer a list of GMers on Twitter if you’re interested.)

CV Harquail June 2, 2009 at 8:42 pm

Hi Christopher– Thanks for the added insights. I think that the strategy of having “an increasingly greater number of brandividuals engaging in more conversations — appropriate to their individual areas of passion and knowledge ” is absolutely the right way to go, for a host of reasons. I’m assuming that other companies with one or two brandividuals will get there eventually; it would surprise me if it turned out that organizations stayed with just one or two focal brandividuals (a missed opportunity, I’d think).

If we/I wanted to get a sense of how GM’s social media/brandividual strategy was unfolding, who would we follow? What would we watch? Can you give us any tips on this?

Also, the site looks great. Thanks so much- cvh

Cody Deutscher December 29, 2010 at 8:30 am

Thank you for the awsome post. I’m going to keep an observation about your own blog, i allready bookmarked it to own list 🙂

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