Scott Monty took the stage at the 2013 New Media Expo in Las Vegas to talk about what he’s learned from four years of evolving social media programs at Ford. While the brand has had its share of ups and downs in the social media space, it has continually looked for new ways to connect with fans and to build positive word-of-mouth around its vehicles. Monty shared a few lessons he’s learned on the job.
- Let fans tell your story. Ford initially created a website called “The Ford Story” to help communicate with the public during the auto bailout crisis and to help share the story of the brand. But Monty noted that Ford soon found that fans wanted to share their own stories of ways they’d connected with the brand. Gradually the site became more and more focused on customer stories until it was rebranded from The Ford Story to FordSocial in 2011. “If you have a good product, let go of your fear and let others tell your story,” he said. And if you don’t have the kind of product that compels fans to talk about you, then maybe you need to address that issue before you turn your focus to social media, he suggested.
- Rethink how you share news. When Ford decided to launch a revised Ford Explorer in 2011, the company decided not to go the traditional route of unveiling the model at a trade show. Auto shows are full of major announcements, all competing for the attention of a handful of journalists. Instead, Ford launched the model in several U.S. cities and online with the help of its fans, allowing the brand to “own the day,” free of competing auto launches. Influential fans were engaged months before the big day and given special access, resulting in an avalanche of coverage. “When you treat amateurs like pros, they tend to act like pros,” Monty said.
- Share content everywhere you can. Ford created a Web series, “Escape My Life,” to help promote its Escape line, but it didn’t confine the content to YouTube. The company put the videos on Hulu and produced tie-in content on other platforms to help the series reach a wider audience. “Embrace the platforms your audience is using, not the ones you’re comfortable with,” he said.
- Be willing to experiment and learn from mistakes. Ford doesn’t have a perfect social media track record. Monty noted that Ford’s recent major campaign, “Random Acts of Fusion,” failed to generate mass awareness, despite having star power from the likes of Ryan Seacrest and Joel McHale. Monty says the experience reminded him of the importance of keeping campaigns simple and giving fans a venue for being part of something larger than themselves.
Going forward, Monty says Ford is working to take a page from the social media playbooks of political campaigns, by identifying potential influencers, setting an escalating series of goal actions, creating an “engagement ladder” that builds trust over time. “Social media is a marriage, not a one-night stand,” he said.