The Ford case study was one of the best presentations at the conference. I wish there were more companies sharing their success stories (or failures) of how to actually implement these techniques in an integrated campaign.
The presentation was led by Scott Monty who manages the social media efforts at Ford and Maggie Fox from Social Media Group who is their social media agency of record. I captured my notes and also embedded the slides from the presentation below.
Before jumping into any social conversations they began by doing a SWOT analysis.What they found is not too much different that what I think most people will find. People are talking about them but they weren't leveraging and integrating these people into their communications efforts.
So they decided to change that. They revolutionized the way they interacted with bloggers. It started by inviting bloggers, the people who were already talking to them to a traditional media event. The bloggers were integrated into the process and invited to see and test drive new vehicles.
They continued that relationship online and as Scott puts it, "we wanted to make storytelling easy." They created web-ready content and distributed it through social media press releases.
What's important to note is that this does not replace their traditional media efforts nor is it packaged and distributed in the same way. Their social media releases are not pushed across the wire. Instead it's a pull method of obtaining content, the releases are optimized for search results, uploaded to the Ford website and RSS enabled so that people can subscribe to the content.
Scott said that overall there weren't really any challenges. I don't think this will be the same case for every company. What's different at Ford? Alan Mulally, Ford's CEO. The shift to change their communication style was accepted from the top down. There was a little bit of a legal hurdle to get over since they were opening the access to their content including images and videos to anyone. They agreed to put a creative commons restriction meaning people are free to use the content, but they must link back to Ford and they cannot use the content for profit. Also all images and files are for web use only and can't be reprinted.
More people are talking about Ford, they have received 500 posts since September 2007 and the content of the stories is richer and more inline with the corporate positioning. Some enthusiasts are even embedding the social media releases into their sites as a credible source of Ford news. There are 120 videos posted to YouTube which have received over 1.2 million hits.
Ford realized that in today's world, 'everyone is a publisher' not just the journalists and that digital content needs to be an integrated way of thinking, not just an afterthought. Also when it came to making this happen what really helped them get this approved and accepted internally was to sit down and explain this big scary thing called 'social media.' After education and understanding people's fears about it, it became a non-issue. People are only afraid of what they don't know so if you explain the mystery it becomes less scary.
The Ford Story is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what's next. The initial creation of this site was done in 4-days (over the Thanksgiving Holiday). The future plans for this site are to pull in 3rd party content and become the centralized hub for all Ford content. They also plan to expand beyond auto bloggers to parent blogs, green, tech and finance blogs.
So, have you driven a Ford lately? Admittedly I haven't but all of this social media outreach gave me some warm and fuzzies so I think I may have to take a test drive this weekend