Cars

Ford goes ‘social’ for personal touch

 Scott Monty, Ford’s global manager for digital media, used a traditional PowerPoint presentation to illustrate the company’s immersion in social media.
Scott Monty, Ford’s global manager for digital media, used a traditional PowerPoint presentation to illustrate the company’s immersion in social media.Credit: BILL GRIFFITH

Some of us have to be circumspect in accessing SM—social media—during our workday. Not Boston native Scott Monty, Ford’s global manager for digital media. His day job is to find imaginative ways to employ Facebook, blogs, podcasts, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, and all the other planets in today’s Twitterverse to promote the Ford brand.

Monty was at the Boston Globe on Oct. 10 to address the New England Motor Press on Ford’s burgeoning, and evidently successful, social media campaigns. This has become the company’s preferred way to tell stories and interact with potential customers on a personal level.

Using social media to build a brand is about building personal relationships, Monty said. “We trust third-party experts such as academics and the media but also people just like us who are online with knowledge in a certain area.” But when the average American is exposed to 3,500 brand messages every day, the challenge becomes how to break through the clutter, whether with an elaborate Facebook presence, a YouTube channel, or Twitter’s 140-character messages.

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One way is to make content engaging, interesting, and personal, is to express it in language that users of social media speak. It’s also a two-way street. “Social media isn’t just about promotional campaigns,” said Monty. “It’s a commitment to always be ‘on.’ It isn’t Monday through Friday, 9 to 5.”

There are different levels of engagement as well. “You can respond three ways on Facebook,” Monty said, “A ‘like’ is a digital grunt, just an acknowledgment; posting a comment is a little stronger connection; but a ‘share’—that’s the magic button.”

People share things that are interesting, important, funny, or show what they believe and “who I really am.” However, Monty added, “you never know where news will break, or what post will go viral. The first picture of the US Airways plane that landed in the Hudson River was taken with a smartphone and sent out by a Twitter user who had just 222 followers. That photo has become part of our national consciousness.”

The message may get there quicker today, said Monty, but humans are pretty much the same as we were more than 2,000 years ago when Cicero wrote: “If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words.” Monty added, “People may be interested in product features, but they engage with personalities.”

Among Ford’s most successful SM programs, which are created by the Team Detroit agency with input from Monty and others at Ford, are:

• The Fiesta Movement, in which 100 “partners” were loaned Fiestas for six months and asked to post one video per month documenting their Fiesta experience. “The videos weren’t edited,” said Monty. “If you’re proud of a product, let go of your fear and put [the product] in people’s hands.”

• Puppet Doug, the Web spokes-thing who helped make the Ford Focus the world’s best-selling nameplate (a position contested by Toyota’s Corolla).

• Ford’s 80 different Facebook pages, the largest of which is the Mustang page, with 5.4 million followers.

What’s still uncertain, Monty said, is how all of Ford’s SM endeavors actually influence the number of buyers “moving down the sales funnel.”

For traditional media, Monty said, “there will always be a need for your knowledge and credibility,” Monty said, “and you know your audiences and write for them, which is important to Ford. Social media, however, lets us extend our reach enormously.”

Around the table, NEMPA members were leaning over their smartphones, industriously tweeting, blogging, texting, and emailing.

Road to Greatness?

If you’ve been watching the Sox-Tigers ALCS on Fox, you’ve seen Chrysler’s “Road to Greatness” commercial for the 300 and Town & Country minivan.

Sox fans probably aren’t impressed that it features Tiger third baseman Miguel Cabrera; however, it’s a continuation of the company’s celebration of Detroit heroes and its “Imported from Detroit” campaign.

The long form of the ad, seen on You Tube, showed two amazing angles of Cabrera making contact with a pitch, one in a batting cage and the other outside in batting practice.

Etc.

A car-shopping study by AutoTrader.com shows that online car shoppers still use a laptop or desktop as their primary device but 23 percent of shoppers are using two or more devices, adding smartphones or tablets to the mix. The company predicts that that number will be 50 percent by 2018. “As OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] and dealers look to innovate in the mobile space, it’s important they study these early adopters as they are the ones who are going to define the road for those who follow,” says Isabelle Helms, senior director of research and marketing analytics … Today is Japanese Car Day at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline. The lawn season winds up next weekend with Extinct Car Day (Saturday) and Studebaker Day (Sunday).

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