Social Media Marketing Lessons Learned from Ford

Ford currently occupies the enviable position of being the UK’s biggest car and commercial vehicle brand. Such a valuable reputation must be carefully protected and developed, especially in the social media savvy world of 2014. In a recent article in The Guardian, Scott Monty, Global Head of Social Media at Ford Motor Company shared some of the company’s social media secrets.

1. Spread the word through other people

Online marketing is about engaging the communities who might be interested in your product or offering. Get them on your side and you have powerful allies who will tell your story for you. Ford tested this theory in 2009 when it gave one hundred regular social media users a Ford Fiesta for six months. In return, they had to create and upload a themed video to social media sites to create  a ‘buzz’ about the car.

Video content was uploaded unedited and unfiltered – a real life, real time review of the car by unbiased people who would be most likely to use it. Ford felt confident enough in their product to allow ‘real people’ to present it online. It worked. The campaign received around 132,000 requests for more information, of which 82% were new to Ford.

2. Commit to social media – don’t use it for ‘one-offs’

Ford knows the power of sticking around on social media sites to extend the conversation and build up a following. They created their Social hub as a place for consumers to receive information, interact with other users and leave their own feedback and suggestions. Ford committed to reading the suggestions, entering the conversation and acting on any suitable ideas.

As it turned out, around 40% of all user-submitted ideas were already in the pipeline at Ford. Ford developed a ‘badge’ system for users to share online badges on their own blogs and social media networks, that linked directly to Ford’s website and social media outlets. This enabled the firm to target potential customers direct and deliver only the most relevant, tailored content to them, based on the type of badges selected.

3. Involving paid, owned and earned media increases impact

In 2010, Ford launched its new Explorer model. This was done in an innovative way, using Facebook as the main media outlet to drip feed videos, news snippets and interviews with the design team. The chief engineer was also involved, presenting virtual behind-the-scenes ‘tours’ to interested fans via Facebook.

This activity was backed up simultaneously with paid for targeted digital ads and planned events around the country. The Ford marketing team was instructed to integrate all their paid and earned media activity with the Facebook campaign. results were impressive with 100 million impressions on Facebook recorded on the day of the launch, 4400 million browser impressions and an overall reach of 66 million Americans.

4. Use distinct personalities to engage an audience online

According to Monty, the Ford Focus was starting to lose impact in the automotive sector as people turned to its competitors. In 2011, the marketing team made a concerted effort to draw interest back. They came up with a novelty spokesperson in the guise of an orange sock puppet named Doug. Along with his sidekick John, Doug fronted a series of successful videos that were posted online, aimed at males in their 20s and extolling the virtues of the Ford Focus.

The approach was a success. The videos were both entertaining and engaging and, above all, they spoke the customers’ own language. An astounding 4 million views were recorded for the videos that year, and opinion of the Focus rose by 77%. The consideration rate rose too, to a solid 66%.

5. Follow your users’ lead when it comes to social media platforms

After Doug was so well received, Ford tried another web-based video campaign the following year, named ‘Escape My Life’. This time, a female production assistant was given a Ford Escape, which came with an irritating product specialist who followed and commented on her every move. The series of eight videos were distributed not through Facebook this time, but through YouTube, as research showed that the desired target market were turning more and more to these media to watch videos online. The annoying product specialist, who, we found out, was called ‘Barry’, was also the star of a parodied Tumblr blog, in which he avidly followed the social media trends of the day by creating memes and discussed zombie attacks. Again, the creation of characters who the public could not only identify with, but who also used the same social media platforms as them was a good move on Ford’s part. The campaign scored 1.5 million hits, the majority of which came via Tumblr.