Ford Takes Multiple Routes in Social Media

In an era where consumers distrust business more than ever, Ford Motor’s digital communications manager said the automaker continues to expand its social media outreach through Facebook, YouTube, and blogs.

“We’re changing the opinion of people one by one,” said Scott Monty, Ford’s global digital and multimedia communications manager during a keynote speech at Advertising Week’s OMMA Global conference.

Ford’s strategy: “To humanize the company by connecting constituents with Ford employees and with each other when possible, providing value in the process.” Those constituents, he said, include consumers, suppliers, and others with ties to Ford.

To connect with consumers, Ford has tapped at least six social sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Scribd, and YouTube. It has also set up a “social media hub,” The Ford Story, that includes the brand’s Twitter feed, videos, articles, and includes links to enthusiast sites and events.

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“We are not only humanizing content, we’ve set our content free. We are no longer afraid of what people are going to do with it. We’ve got online word-of-mouth as a steroid version of traditional word-of-mouth,” he said.

On Flickr, Ford has a “photostream” that features images of the new Taurus. In turn, Ford has given up rights involving the photos’ use, enabling people to share and adapt the images under a Creative Commons license.

On YouTube, Monty estimates that 150 Ford videos have been embedded on other sites and viewed by 1.2 million. For Facebook, Ford developed an application, “You Speak Green,” designed to encourage people to share tips for helping the environment and bring attention to the Ford 2010 Fusion Hybrid.

Monty is also among the first brand marketing executives to find value on Twitter. He said Ford has about 20 employees maintaining about a dozen Twitter accounts including @Ford, @FordDriveGreen, and @FordMustang.

As a goal, Monty said he’d like to see 1 percent of 200,000 of Ford’s employees on social networks as brand advocates. In response to a question from Max Kalehoff, VP of marketing at Clickable, Monty said some workers — such as those working on an assembly line — are not online during their working hours, so it would be unrealistic to expect 100 percent participation in social networks.

On another front, Ford is also lending its vehicles to bloggers to bring additional attention to its brand.

The Ford Flex was at the center of a product sponsorship with Plaid Nation, a social media marketing firm based in Danbury, CT, that did a road trip in the United States. On the tour, the Plaid Nation team met with creative, marketing, brand, and Internet workers to check out and bring attention to their work.

To build interest in the Ford Fiesta — available in the United States in spring 2010 — Ford sought out 100 “socially vibrant individuals” to test drive the car for six months and write about their experiences — uncensored. A total of 4,000 people applied for the opportunity to participate in the Fiesta Movement, according to Monty.

Blogger feedback will be shared with the automaker’s engineers to improve the Fiesta. “It’s a lesson in crowd sourcing as well as online buzz,” he said.

This spring, Ford lent a Ford Fusion to Chris Hodges and Jaime Case, a California couple, for a six-week, 36-city “Wedding Road Trip” to visit friends and family across the United States before tying the knot. “These are not car people. They do not drive. We let them say whatever they wanted to say,” Monty said.

The couple not only finished the journey together, they also decided to adopt a new last name, Ford. “The name change was as much of a surprise to Ford as it was to our parents and friends,” wrote Mrs. Ford on the Wedding Road Trip blog.

“You cannot script it any better than that,” Monty said.

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