SEMA News - February 2010

By Annie Kang

New Association Benefit Uses Social Media to Deliver Best of SEMA Show to Specialty-Equipment Community


More than 100 exhibitors agreed to participate in the program by agreeing to have opinion leaders visit their booths.

For the 2009 SEMA Show, the association not only strove to deliver on its proven traditions but also aimed to introduce new avenues for success. The first-ever Enthusiast Opinion Leader Research Program was conceived in order to keep SEMA-member companies in tune with the current behavior of automotive enthusiasts and to increase consumer knowledge on the best that the specialty-equipment industry has to offer.

The Enthusiast Opinion Leader Research Program, which was coordinated in part with Ford Motor Company, the vehicle manufacturer of the 2009 SEMA Show, collected the views and observations of selected automotive enthusiasts deemed “opinion leaders.” These opinion leaders were invited to day two of the 2009 SEMA Show and asked to review new products, vehicles and trends. Thirty opinion leaders were also divided into two focus groups—light-truck and street-performance—to provide an in-depth, qualitative analysis of their views.

“The information that we gathered from the Enthusiast Opinion Leader Research Program will give SEMA-member companies a better understanding of their end users, which will help them make better-informed business decisions,” said Tom Myroniak, SEMA vice president of marketing and market research. “It will also raise the visibility of their products and we hope help them sell more.”


The first assignment for the participants of the Enthusiast Opinion Leader Research Program was to visit the New Products Showcase and post 10 tweets on Twitter.

The opinion leaders’ first task upon arriving at the Show was to visit the New Products Showcase and post a minimum of 10 “tweets” on the social networking website,, about what they found to be the most interesting or marketable products. The participants’ activity led to SEMA hitting the number 10 spot under Twitter’s global trends topics for November 4, 2009. The participants were asked to include a comment on the product, a product ID and a link to a photo with their tweets. The data was then aggregated by SEMA staff and displayed on SEMA’s consumer website, Participants were also encouraged to post feedback on their personal social networking sites.

Upon completion of the initial assignment, the opinion leaders were free to walk the Show floor with a map of suggested areas to visit. They were encouraged to upload comments, photos and videos on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube on the trends and vehicles that caught their attention.

“We had 100% participation from the opinion leaders in the New Products Showcase assignment, which indicates that we had a good pool of enthusiasts in the group,” said Myroniak. “The participants behaved as if they had won Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket. They were extremely grateful and excited at the opportunity to be involved in this new program.”

Posts from opinion leaders and program hopefuls were made on SEMA’s Facebook page leading up to and after the Show. Since the program’s start, the SEMA fanpage has grown from 2,000 to more than 5,000 fans.

The opinion leaders were selected based on their views, attitudes and behavior as it related to their vehicles and to the specialty-equipment industry—specifically, the light-truck/off-road and street-performance segments. The association also looked for individuals with strong social networks and those who actively demonstrated their passion for the industry through social media.


The opinion leaders uploaded comments, photos and videos about standout trends and vehicles that they observed on the Show floor onto Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube.

SEMA recruited applicants for the program by making announcements on social networking sites, including Facebook, the SEMA Action Network website and various vehicle-enthusiast forums. Within two weeks, SEMA received more than 2,000 applications, from which 800 were selected. The 800 potentials were then asked to partake in an extensive pre-Show survey as a condition for being selected, with 527 of the candidates who completed the survey being finalized as opinion leaders for the program. The pre-Show survey served as another vehicle to obtain information on the buying behavior and demographics of specialty-equipment enthusiasts.

Exhibitors were also encouraged to take part in the project by agreeing to have opinion leaders visit their booths and view their products. More than 100 companies participated.

While the program was conducted on the second day of the SEMA Show, participants were invited to attend the following day free of charge as well. SEMA held a reception and an awards ceremony for the opinion leaders at the end of the day, recognizing the most active and instrumental participants. Door prizes were also distributed.

The Enthusiast Opinion Leader Research Program post-Show report will be available initially to SEMA Show exhibitors and attendees on It will be available to non-Show participating members at a later date. A decision on whether to continue the Enthusiast Research Program for the 2010 SEMA Show will be based on feedback from the report.

For more information on the Enthusiast Opinion Leader Research Program, e-mail


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