Ford has made headlines during the past year with innovative ad campaigns such as the Fiesta Movement, which gave several social-media influencers a chance to test drive the Fiesta before it became available in the U.S. Now, the company is unveiling its latest social-media campaign, Focus Rally: America, a reality show-style contest in which Ford Focus drivers will race across the U.S., completing challenges with help from their social-media followers. The competition was developed along with the creators of “The Amazing Race” and will be shown on Hulu next year.
Scott Monty, Ford’s head of social media, sat down with SmartBrief’s Jesse Stanchak during BlogWorld Expo 2010 to discuss the Fiesta Movement, Focus Rally: America and Ford’s approach to social-media management. Here’s an edited transcript of their conversation.
When the Ford Fiesta Movement was all said and done, what did you look at and decide you were going to do differently next time?
I think we had a remarkably smooth program, where we didn’t really have to crack any heads or do any emergency type stuff. We did a lot of war gaming early on, [saying] “What if something happened?” What if somebody blows a tire or what if somebody gets arrested or what have you. We kind of gamed that all out.
Is a contest like the Ford Focus Rally something a brand could accomplish without a media partnership?
The key there is, certainly anybody could have brainstormed out [this] if they had the right minds around it — but in terms of what we’re ultimately looking for, which is the reach and engagement, we’ve found over the last year or so that it’s really essential to work earn, owned and paid media together. A lot of times the PR people say, “Well, we’re not touching advertising.” And the advertising people are like, “Well we don’t need a press release.” Well, why not? … And if we do it in a way that’s completely transparent, so people know what’s earned and what’s paid, we get that momentum.
How are you measuring success for Fiesta Movement and the Focus Rally?
Fiesta Movement was easy, because there was no other media against it. It was only a social-media program, and we were going from a zero level of awareness. So everything above that was tremendous. So obviously, we looked at buzz, we looked at awareness, we looked at just the general chatter about the Ford Fiesta. With the Focus … we’ll be looking at the connections made, the clues given. Really, in order to win, somebody’s going to have to achieve … a certain level of points and whatnot. And so do their followers. So you get points for sending somebody a link or sharing a video or what have you. And we’re going to judge the winner based on those point aggregations. Well, that’ll also help us with the metrics of that program, to see what the reach was.
When it comes to return on investment, are you only thinking about units sold? Or are you also thinking about brand equity?
The sales funnel is pretty extensive with the automotive business, as you can imagine. … Somebody starts thinking about buying a car, they might not actually pull the trigger until six, nine months down the road. … I think where social media is most effective, at this point, is at the broad end of that funnel: awareness and just a basic level of engagement. And then when you get down as they’re closer, you can do more transactional things. But those are probably going to happen at the dealership level. So we kinda set the stage of general awareness and reputation for the company, as well as for a particular vehicle. But beyond that, it actually feeds into that local level. And that’s why it’s important for us now to start integrating with dealers and making sure they’re involved. And it’s a challenge because we don’t own our dealerships. They’re independently owned and operated. We can make guidelines and recommendations, but what they do is up to them, ultimately.
What are you doing to make sure that when you retire someday, Ford’s social strategy endures?
We are in the process, right now, of training all our communications staff on social media, because believe its going to be built into the communications professional’s arsenal of the future. Beyond that, we’re also working with like K.C. [Dallia], who’s our brand manager for the Focus. We have a brand manager with Fiesta in Sam De La Garza, who took it upon himself to go out there and engage with customers himself. I think there has to be that kind of online community management role, within the brand manager’s role, moving forward. So we’re moving from a kind of top-down model to a kind of hub-and-spoke model — and Jeremiah Owyang has a really great schematic as to how this works — and beyond that it’s a hub-and-spoke-and-dandelion process, so each of those spokes have their own expertise. And this not only happens at all the vehicles, but it’s going to happen at the global level as well — all of our regions, all of our countries.
What about strategically?
Strategically, that’s always going to sit with corporate. We will still be that lead.
Are you working to make sure they “get it” after you’re gone?
They clearly are already. Social media is front and center. And you can see by the way we start thinking about product launches and shows like this, that it’s baked in from the beginning. It’s not an afterthought, where you get the rubber stamp, “what are we doing for social media?” kind of thing.
Is that something people getting MBAs right now need to bake into their backgrounds?
I’ve seen a lot of programs that are focusing on social-media education and ultimately I think its just going to be blended into integrated communications and marketing. So as standalone [discipline], I think it’s got a limited period of time.
Image credit: Ford