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Raw Honesty as a Social Media Strategy (Part 2): Ford Motors

Are you thinking about waging your own social media campaign? I interviewed Scott Monty, social media guru at Ford, to see how others could learn from their popular ‘Fiesta’ experiment, which profiles 100 Ford Fiesta beta testers as they blog, tweet, and youtube their experiences during pre-planned driving adventures.

Are you thinking about waging your own social media campaign? I interviewed Scott Monty, social media guru at Ford, to see how others could learn from their popular ‘Fiesta’ experiment, which profiles 100 Ford Fiesta beta testers as they blog, tweet, and youtube their experiences during pre-planned driving adventures. Ford confidently boasts their experiment as a success, citing 4.3 million YouTube views, 540,000 Flickr views, 3 million Twitter impressions and 38% percent market awareness.

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Tips below:

1) Make it about the experience, not the product: Ford set up 100 “missions” for agents to complete, from working at a soup kitchen to reporting at the E3 gaming conference. In the process, Agents give unfiltered feedback on their driving experience. It’s a clever trick to inform viewers about the product in a lower-pressure context than a traditional advertisement. I could imagine a similar strategy for any product. For instance, if I wanted to create a campaign for a food blender, I’d probably have my agents create smoothies at an after-school program and youtube the kids’ reactions.

2). Close your eyes and recite this to yourself “I will keep it genuine, I will keep it genuine…”: In a PR campaign, it’s tempting to veil genuine costumer enthusiasm in a carefully scripted positive review (think infomercials were the host absolutely loves each bite of his meal). At Ford, they made every attempt to weed out any hint of disingenuousness at the agent selection process. The agents weren’t super-models, didn’t have enviable lifestyles, nor were they more knowledgeable about cars than the target costumer. The prime factor in selecting an agent, according to Scott, was social media savviness and an expectation they’d be at least mildly entertaining to follow. Now, Ford will have a much easier time recruiting big-time bloggers than a small business owner. For tips on how get more influential bloggers to work with you, follow the link and jump to hint #1.

3). Let your costumers respond to negative comments:

Below is an actually exchange on Facebook between a peeved costumer and ford enthusiasts who defended the company (start at the bottom with Adam):

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Ford did eventually respond:

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I asked Scott whether it was better to launch an agent-type campaign before or after one has a solid following. He was reserved in his answer, claiming that it depended on the context. But, let me offer my own 2-cents: get a following first. Ford could count on costumers defending their product against negative reviews only because they had an active user base.

5). Don’t be afraid to get dressed in public: The early stages of the Fiesta Movement were a listening exercise, where engineers would apply input from the agents into the evolving car design. Ford intends on publicizing what changes were made sometime in the future (I really tried to get some specifics out of Scott, but his lips were sealed on the details). Still, there’s a good lesson: be explicit about your imperfections and how you respond to feedback.

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6). Don’t use agents to promote a mailing list or fan page: Agent testimonials are cleanly separated from Ford’s Twitter account and Facebook fan page. Having it any other way would have seemed like spam.

Ultimately, unfiltered reviews are a risk: the product has to be good. But, if it is, a campaign sounds like a smart strategy,

Greg Ferenstein

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About the author

I am a writer and an educator. As a writer, I investigate how technology is shaping education, politics, Generation Y, social good, and the media industry.

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