General Motors Co. says its plunge into social-media marketing isn’t designed to provide an immediate sales boost, but rather establish long-term relations with consumers that could pay off down the road.

“Very rarely can I go to my bosses and say I sold ‘Xʼ amount of vehicles due to (a campaign),” Christopher Barger, GM’s director-global social media, tells Ward’s.

The real goal is to penetrate the “consideration set” of new-car buyers with GM vehicles, he says. “Once we do that, we’ll be fine. We can stack up with anybody; this just gives us a chance.”

Barger believes GM’s latest endeavor, dubbed “See the USA in a Chevrolet: A SXSW Road Trip,” will do just that. The campaign is centered on the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference (SXSW) in Austin, TX, March 12-21.

SXSW, which features music, independent films and emerging technologies, is considered the quintessential event among social-media enthusiasts.

SXSW is held in various venues throughout Austin in conjunction with a social-media conference at the Austin Convention Center.

“Trendsetters and buzz-getters gather here, and it gives us an opportunity to build relationships with them,” Barger says. “This conference seems like a great opportunity for us to see if we can find business value and if people are willing to interact through Chevrolet with this.”

Those chosen to participate in GM’s campaign must complete 10 different tasks while making their way to the festival from around the country in a Chevy vehicle.

There are eight teams involved, and ideas for the tasks were submitted by social media “fans and followers” of the campaign.

Teams are expected to tweet on Twitter, regularly post to Chevy’s Facebook page and communicate using other social-media sites such as Posterous, Tumblr and Ustream to talk about their trips.

All attendees of SXSW who use the social-media platform Gowala will be drawn into the campaign, as well.

Gowala tracks users via their mobile devices’ built-in global positioning systems, broadcasting their locations to other Gowala subscribers.

Through Gowala, GM will issue “badges” that pop on a user’s device at certain locations and can be redeemed for various prizes.

“If you go to the ‘Bat Bridge’ or the Stevie Ray Vaughan memorial you could get a Chevy Camaro badge, and then you can go to a (Chevrolet) station and redeem it for a T-Shirt or bag or something of use,” Barger says. “We’re trying to use these tools to draw people to have deeper awareness of the brand.”

Other badges redeemable for free rides to the conference center or hotels could pop up when attendees arrive at the airport. “It helps them out and at the same time puts them in a Chevy vehicle and gives them a chance to see what we are versus (what their) impression may be,” he says.

Chevy also plans to test a beta version of an “augmented-reality” mobile application dubbed “iReveal.”

Once downloaded to a cell phone, users will be able to access key model specifications and features, along with a 3-dimensional picture of the vehicle. The 3D vehicle can be viewed through the phone’s camera lens, making it possible to put the Chevrolet car or truck into any photo taken.

SXSW was selected for the campaign in part due to the larger number of social media “influencers” in attendance who have the ability to reach out to large numbers of other people online.

“If you meet someone that’s influential, you may get an opportunity to get the person a car to drive and they can talk about what they liked about it,” Barger says. “It’s not a question if they buy (the car), but they may have 20,000 followers who might not have looked at it if this person didn’t say so.”

While GM is relatively new to the social-media arena, the techniques being employed are nothing new, Barger says, citing dealer sponsorships of little league softball teams as an example.

“If people see the name on the back of their kid’s shirt, they remember.”

Betsy Weber, a SXSW road-trip participant from Lansing, MI, and an avid social-media user, says GM is on the right track with its campaign.

“In addition to doing campaign things, they are interacting with people,” Weber tells Ward’s. “Using the blended approach seems to be working well for them. They’re sharing their news, and people want to know what’s new, but also want to be able to talk to them, too.”

bpope@wardsauto.com