Ford’s Social Media Success with Fiesta Launch

Here’s an interesting interview I read in Larry Chase’s newsletter. It really underscores the power of social media when it’s used correctly. Below are excerpts from the interview.

Using Social Media to Pre-Launch a Car in the US

Larry Chase: I saw a statistic about the upcoming US launch of the Ford Fiesta. It said there’s already 37% awareness among those in Generation Y, even though you haven’t spent any money promoting it via paid media. How are you getting that kind of awareness without any media spend?

Scott Monty: The current number is 38% awareness of a vehicle that is not in the market, which is equivalent to the awareness level of vehicles that we have had in the market for two to three years.

Our 100 “agents” out there have produced over 700 videos total. [Note: “Agents” are the 100 people, called “Agents of the Fiesta Movement,” whom Ford chose to drive a Fiesta and to blog about their experiences and create online videos.]

We’ve had over 4.8 million views of the agents’ YouTube videos, over 600,000 views of their Flickr photos and over 3.2 million impressions on Twitter.

LC: How did you get the word out? Did you give these cars away?

SM: They were lent to people for six months. We did a grassroots effort where we used connections we had and connections our agency had and basically got the word out online.

We got over 4,000 applicants for those 100 slots. We narrowed it down, using a number of factors to determine whom we actually selected.

LC: What were your criteria for choosing them?

SM: We looked first and foremost at their ability to create a monthly online video, because that would be a requirement of every agent.

We looked at their “social vibrancy:” how connected they were across a number of social networks and how many connections they had within those social networks. We also looked at the geography of each person.

In reality, this is not just an online campaign. These people are out driving on the street. We needed to think about where they actually were around the country so that we had a pretty good spread out of home as well as online.

LC: How do people find out about these first-person videos about the Fiesta in the United States?

SM: We have aggregated them on FiestaMovement.com. As you can imagine, each of these agents has a significant social network. They all know people who know people who know people. It’s a matter of word of mouth just working its way around.

Cumulative Effect of Paid Media, Earned Media and Owned Media

LC: Tell us about the cross-pollination of Ford’s digital media spend and how the social component is folded into that.

SM: We look at the social component through three forms of media: Paid media, earned media (blog posts, news items and whatnot) and our owned media, material that we produce on a regular basis.

If we can get the three of those interplaying together, it’s going to have a much more powerful effect than relying on social as a grassroots, bottom-up kind of approach and relying on PR and paid ads doing their own thing.

Measuring the Social Media Investment

LC: How is Ford measuring its social media? Are they asking, “Are we getting a proper bang for the buck based on the amount of money we’re paying Scott Monty and his staff and the time and attention of our employees worldwide? Are we getting more out of it than we’re putting in?”

SM: I was the only social media staffer here for a year, so the notion of a global manufacturer having this huge effort is not necessarily the case.

Yes, we’ve had agencies support us, but ultimately, 90% of social media is just showing up, to borrow a phrase from Woody Allen.

A lot of the credit we’re getting for social media is because we (Ford) are showing up. We’re present.

Our social media activities are really geared more around awareness and changing perception and the broad end of the sales funnel rather than the narrow end. It’s not that we put out a Tweet and we sell a car although we have had instances of it.

Humanizing Ford

LC: Somebody bought a car because of Twitter?

SM: In one Twitter conversation, one person says, “I only bought a Ford because of Twitter.” And then he goes on to say, “I bought the Ford because my interest was piqued because of Twitter, and a relationship was created, and they make a great Escape.” And then he responds to someone, “… They built a relationship with me, and I trust Ford.”

Ultimately, we want to break through that barrier of trust. If you look at the Edelman Trust Barometer, it shows that 77% of people trust corporations less in 2009 than in 2008.

Whom do they trust? They trust third-party experts such as Consumer Reports and The New York Times, and they trust people like themselves.

This whole notion of humanizing Ford is to show consumers that there are people just like them at Ford who are intelligent, talented and passionate about the company for a very good reason.

Resource List

Follow Scott Monty on Twitter: @ScottMonty.

Read his personal blog, The Social Media Marketing Blog.

Social Media Consumers More Likely to Buy, Recommend

For those skeptics who don’t believe that Social Media has a measurable impact:

According to a study conducted by research firms Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies, two-thirds (67%) of consumers who follow brands on Twitter are more likely to buy those brands after becoming a follower, and 51% of Facebook fans are more likely to buy after becoming a fan. Moreover, 79% of those who follow brands on Twitter are more likely to recommend those brands after following them, and 60% of Facebook fans say the same for Facebook.

PR is more than media relations.

To many people public relations = media relations, and that includes practitioners. We have PR professionals that guard their media lists like gold and are looking for ways to quantify the value of their “clips.” Yet, at the same time they want to establish that Public Relations encompasses a broader scope of activities.

Practitioners who want more need to focus on strategy rather than tactics. I have nothing against media relations, but it is just one way for companies to reach their publics with their messages. I think practitioners have fallen into this trap because it’s relatively easy to quantify. Look, they say, this press release ran in a gazillion small newspapers and was picked up on websites globally. That means that more than 8 gazillion eyeballs saw your message and that’s why you pay us the big bucks.

Ironically, current evidence points to a diminishing role for traditional media. Readership is down. Staffing is down. Increasingly magazines and newspapers are closing down their print presence in favor of online media and turning to citizen journalists for news and content. In light of these trends aligning your business with traditional media may well bring about the demise of your practice. Yes, there will always be practitioners who have the ear of the top journalists at the best publications, but as for the rest of us? Better to focus on more ways to communicate your client’s messages.

Increasingly I see opportunities for companies to contact their prospects and customers directly — enewsletters, websites, webinars, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter all create ways to engage your customers in a dialogue and communicate your messages directly with the people¬† your client/company most wants to reach. Not only are these methods direct, they are also measurable. Everyone is feeling the pinch of hard economic times and it is essential that communicators can show how our efforts support the sales function.

Sure, moving into new areas will take time and education. You need to be able to show your client that these methods are effective. You may also need to explain to them that any activity that influences their target audience’s perception of their company is public relations, not just media relations. It will benefit everyone.

Weber describes YouTube as a “juggernaut”

Thank you, Larry Weber, for helping me sell the idea of corporate YouTube channels. With your new book, Sticks & Stones: How Digital Business Reputations are Created Over Time and Lost in a Click, and your subsequent tweets, you’ve given the stamp of credibility to YouTube and made it an acceptable tool for corporate America.

For the past year I’ve been talking to my clients about the necessity of managing their on-line reputation by taking control of such viral elements as video. Now that Larry has chimed in and devoted an entire chapter of his book to YouTube perhaps they’ll pay more attention.

Maybe now people will understand that YouTube is no longer just college students lighting farts. Okay, that’s still part of it, but in general there has been an on-going shift on YouTube to more professional content that is an integral part of a company’s (or college’s) outgoing message.

Maybe now people will understand that by not participating in YouTube they are giving the control of their online reputation to the masses. Just because YOU haven’t put anything about your company on YouTube, don’t assume that there’s nothing out there.¬† Type your company name into YouTube and see what you find. I did that for a client of mine and showed them that there are three videos that come up. The first two were a rant from a former employee that started with the statement, “They want to shoot the president and black children at my job.” Just what you’d like your customers to find when they are looking for information about you, right?

Then there’s a college that I’ve been talking to. Type in their name and one of the top five videos was of a student, drunk, with his friends writing all over his body with black magic marker. It perhaps did not accurately convey the image of the college that they had intended.

YouTube should be evaluated and handled as part of every organization’s public relations strategy. Because, guess what? Every day more of your “public” is finding their information right there.


The Power of PR in the Social Media Environment

In today’s economy, maintaining a company’s good reputation is essential.

Over the past week, I’ve watched the power of PR and social media combine to achieve results that a single person found impossible. The issue was a custom made saddle for a professional rider. The rider had ordered the saddle from a “high end” French saddle maker at a cost of $4K.

Unfortunately for her, when said saddle was delivered, it didn’t fit her horse, despite the fact that the manufacturer’s rep had measured the horse. You’d think that in the interest of customer satisfaction, the manufacturer would take the saddle back and make it work. Well, they did take it back, but when it was returned to the customer it still didn’t fit. Two years later, the company had neither fixed the saddle or given the customer a refund.

In an act of frustration, the rider posted the story on a popular equestrian bulletin board. Watching the post expand was an interesting experience. Some readers expressed their outrage at how the rider had been treated by the custom saddle manufacturer; some shared their own customer service nightmares with the same company; and many people talked about the positive experiences they’d had with competitive companies.

After 37,868 views the company finally offered the rider a settlement. But at what cost? At least 10 writers said flat out that they would now look at other manufacturers, losing the company at least $40K in sales . . . and the long-term effect of this negative publicity is incalculable.