Facebook Drive

Local car dealer develops national presence with car donations

Posted 10/8/19

If you have scrolled through Facebook lately, there is a good chance you have seen one of Henson Brand Dealership’s live videos that have already altered the lives of a number of individuals. And caught the attention of millions more.

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Facebook Drive

Local car dealer develops national presence with car donations

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If you have scrolled through Facebook lately, there is a good chance you have seen one of Henson Brand Dealership’s live videos that have already altered the lives of a number of individuals. And caught the attention of millions more.

On Friday, a crew from Henson -- Eric Barbosa, Amber Renee, Kim Menard and Courtney Harring -- crammed into a small conference room and started streaming video on Facebook Live with dual phones, offering a variety of trivia questions for cash (i.e. “How long has Henson been in operation (26 years)), with wrong answers still getting a hat.

About a half hour in, they finished selecting four semifinalists from a randomizer and used another random number generator to select Lisa Kay Taylor of Tampa. Taylor had 10 minutes to call the dealership and explain why she needed transportation.

After a tension-filled four minutes, Taylor appeared on line 3, and quickly explained how her Toyota Camry was no longer mobile. She was given a choice between a 2010 Honda Crosstour, a 2004 Chrysler Town and Country or $3,000 cash. Barbosa, operating partner and general manager said he’d give her some time to think about it.

“Honestly, I think I want the car,” Taylor told without much delay.

Since February, the car dealership has hosted a monthly vehicle giveaway through Facebook Live that has netted a total of more than 20 million views, eclipsing the seven million mark on two occasions.

“In December, we had about 3,000 page followers,” said Amber Renee, a member of Henson’s social media team. “Now, we are over 35,000. We have been very fortunate and have not really had any snags. Everyone has been helping and supporting us.”

The process started in 2016 when Barbosa was with Greenville Chrysler running a similar contest for a shot at a $499 car. He then got a call from Vicki Hurst, a teacher at Alba-Golden ISD, asking if they could help purchase a vehicle for the mother of a student with leukemia.

They decided to give Jessica Seay the car for free, which allowed her to drive her daughter Lilly to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for her treatments.

“You have got to have a purpose,” said Barbosa. “The first purpose was that it was the right thing, just trying to help somebody, and it has grown from there. We have not differed from that.”

Also a part of Friday’s giveaway, the dealership also surprised Satchel Smith, the 21-year-old Lamar student-athlete and part-time hotel employee who worked 32 straight hours during Tropical Storm Imelda assisting stranded customers, with a 2013 hybrid Honda Insight.

Smith lost two vehicles to big storms, one to Imelda and another to Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Last week, Texas Senator Brandon Creighton presented Smith with a proclamation from the Texas Senate recognizing his work during Imelda.

Since the giveaways began in Madisonville, the monthly event has exploded and reached every corner of the United States. The local dealership that started with the expectation of serving their community through the videos suddenly saw their influence reach new heights.

“When you serve, you do not choose who you serve,” said Barbosa. “We did not ask for seven million viewers, but it happened. Why would we not help somebody else who needs transportation because they do not live locally or in state? That being said, we have had people who won here. It was initially a local deal but it blew up and when that happens, you need to coordinate.”

The recipients to date, who only qualify if they absolutely need the vehicle, hail from Bryan and Montgomery locally (three total from Texas) along with Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Kansas, Mississippi and California. The out-of-state winners are either flown down or have the car shipped to their location.

Seven of the nine cars awarded have gone to women, who comprise the bulk of Henson’s audience. During the October Live event, Barbosa said 90% of the viewers of the contest were women.

In order to participate in the giveaway, viewers are instructed to leave a comment on the given month’s official Facebook post. They draw four names from the available candidates using a random comment selector app to pick semi-finalists. The winner is then selected using Google to choose a random number from one to four.

The dealership’s Facebook page posts multiple videos promoting the month’s contest in between drawings.

The giveaway videos are mainly comprised of Barbosa, Renee and Menard. Harring, Henson’s Social Media Director, keeps track of the contestants during the video and has also handles the influx of messages the page has received. During the videos, they will give away smaller prizes such as Henson Brand merchandise to followers while taking their calls live.

The social media explosion has gained Henson substantial notoriety in recent months, but they have been a consistent fixture in the Madison County community and surrounding areas for even longer. They are excited to keep on carrying the same Henson traditions in the community.

For further specific information regarding the monthly giveaways and related content, visit the Henson Brand Facebook page. On Tuesday, just a few days after October’s car was the dealership posted their official giveaway post for November Tuesday: A potentially life-changing 2011 Chevy Malibu.

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