Chevrolet Goes Social At SXSW

March 10, 2010
Quick Response code used in a magazine

Quick Response code used in a magazine

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2011 Chevrolet Cruze and pre-production 2011 Chevrolet Volt

2011 Chevrolet Cruze and pre-production 2011 Chevrolet Volt

Enlarge Photo

When it comes to getting younguns interested in its vehicles, General Motors hasn't been as aggressive as some of its competitors in exploiting Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and other social media services. That may change over the next week and a half, however, as Chevrolet schleps to the heart of Texas for Austin's annual South By Southwest Festival (SXSW).

If you've ever attended SXSW, you know it's the perfect place to cross paths with tech-savvy members of Generations X and Y. People from around the globe come to hear new music, see indie films, and listen to Silicon Valley innovators speak about new developments on the web and in technology. These are the people who tweet and post status updates every five seconds -- the exact sort of people GM needs to recruit if it wants to generate interest in its products the same way that Ford has driven interest in the 2011 Ford Fiesta.

According to a press release, Chevrolet will evaluate a total of three social media technologies at SXSW. Perhaps the least interesting of those is the use of Quick Response (QR) codes. QR codes are those squiggly squares you've probably glimpsed in magazine ads and on some labels in hip grocery stores (see left). At SXSW, Chevrolet will slap QR codes on display models of the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro, Volt, and Cruze; festival attendees will be able to take pics of those labels, upload them to a QR database, and download additional info about the vehicles. Which sounds fine, but QR technology has been around for several years, and it doesn't seem to be catching on. True, it's a nifty idea, but we expect another start-up to come along any day now to offer a similar service that's easier to use. Until that time, we'll read the brochure.

Item #2 is Chevy's partnership with Gowalla, a geolocational social media service like FourSquare, or, if that means nothing to you, like Twitter merged with Google Maps (which is, apparently, Twitter 2.0). Gowalla users will receive welcome messages from Chevy when they "check in" to the service, and some will receive coupons for free transport around town in Chevy's fleet of vehicles. Sounds slightly dull to us, but few at TCC have caught the geolocation bug -- even though everyone swears that it's the next big thing.

The most interesting technology that Chevrolet will trot out at SXSW is something called Chevrolet iReveal. It's an app, but as far as we can tell, it's not on iTunes yet. That might mean it's Android-only (which would be stupid, given the SXSW crowd's love of Steve Jobs), or GM could be waiting to drop it until the festival begins this Friday (which would be less stupid, but still annoying, since it's mentioned in the GM press release). Either way, we're unable to give the app a test-drive, but according to the release, iReveal will "unlock three-dimensional models of Chevrolet vehicles. The application will provide key specifics of the vehicles, and insert the virtual image of the car over the actual streetscape viewed through the smart phone camera lens." That sounds pretty sweet.

Of course, apart from Gowalla, none of these are what we'd call social media services -- and frankly, even the Gowalla link-up sounds a bit weak. However, if the technologies prove successful, there are some social media implications down the line. We look forward to seeing them implemented. Soon.

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