Ford Motor Company is arguably one of the most successful companies on the planet in terms of using social media marketing successfully. Like them or not, they listen, they react, they engage and they inspire with their efforts. And yeah, social media lead Scott Monty and I are friends, but that doesn’t mean I play favorites. Scott would probably tell you I pick on him more than pat him on the back.

This morning, I spent 20 minutes on the phone with Jim Farley, Ford’s Vice President for Global Marketing, so he could tell me the next big thing Ford is doing using social media. The global launch of the Ford Focus later this year is, according to Farley, “The most important launch in our company’s history.” Probably a neatly crafted talking point to make media folks think it’s a bigger deal than it really is, but the Focus is one of a handful of car models that is marketed and sold on a Global scale, so I’ll give him that.

Ford Motor Company of Argentina
Image via Wikipedia

What Ford is doing is yet another trump card to out-do the last awesome thing they did. With the Fiesta Movement and Facebook-centric launch of the Explorer, Ford created a new way of communicating with its customers and showed the world how to do social media on scale. Nothing is ever perfect, but they were both successes. But there are some elements to what Ford is doing with Focus that made me perk up.

Here’s the push:

  • 50 applicants will be chosen and flown, with one guest each, to an undisclosed location in Southern Europe (because the car won’t be public yet), to test drive the new Ford Focus before anyone else.
  • Ford will enable them to record and share their experiences driving the new Focus and encourage them to write about their trip and test drive.
  • For their time and trouble, the 50 winning applicants will be given $10,000 to donate to the charity of their choice.
  • Applications are being accepted now on the Ford Focus Facebook page.
  • The 50 will be chosen on a number of criteria, but you can assume that the size of one’s sphere of influence will be a big factor. More importantly, however, applicants will be chosen because of their desire to be involved with Ford.

So, to recap: You get a trip for two to Europe (I’m guessing Southern France), exclusive access with only 49 others to the new car and 10 large for a good cause? It’s brilliant, and here’s why:

Warm And Fuzzy

The charitable element makes people feel good about wanting to do it. It will motivate many to apply who would never have done so because there’s a payoff that means something special to them. It also makes Ford look like a champion because they’re allowing their community members to pick the charity (ala Pepsi), not saying, “If you buy x amount of y product, we’ll donate to our favorite charity in your name.”

“Our hope is that we want people to feel great about being a part of our company and our family,” Farley said. “The Global Focus is the most important launch in our company’s hsitory. We want to take social media to the next level and turn it into a Global opportunity. We’re going ask for their help to launch the vehicle globlally but make them feel good about the effort. We think that’s a fair way to compensate them.”

No Spam Here

The effort is completely opt-in. They aren’t reaching out to influential bloggers in the auto industry and begging them to be one of the 50. They’re calling for anyone interested. If you’re not interested in Ford, don’t apply. This will make the outputs more genuine and passionate. The 50 chosen will want to be there.

It’s just another A-plus move from a company that clearly understands social media … or rather thinking about their consumers over their products … is paramount.

“We couldn’t think of launching a vehicle today without launching it early using social media,” Farley told me. He also assured me that Ford is continuing to evolve to be a social media (nay, consumer-centric) company with its marketing efforts.

“We are really diverting more and more resources toward social media,” he said. “This requires us to work very differently. PR and marketing have to work seamlessly. But we’re absolutely excellerating our investment in social media because that is where people are spending their time.”

As for measuring success, Farley told me the ultimate measures for their social media efforts are the number of people that go to FordVehicles.com and ask for more information or engage with the company about a particular model. He said the Fiesta Movement and Ford Explorer launch were very successful in delivering those metrics. He also acknowledged the other big measure they watch is the buzz and chatter about the company’s brands and reputation.

“We watch the positive and negative comments, but also the volume of comments,” he explained. “People are talking about Ford in the U.S. unlike any time for many years.”

I asked Farley about the challenges of managing marketing for a product that ultimately is sold by someone else. Ford can talk up its brands all it wants online, but you don’t buy from Ford. You buy from a dealer. He told me the brand being involved in the online conversations and actively engaging people was sort of a seed-planter for people considering buying a car, but acknowledged a challenge with the dealers.

“The Fiesta Movement was a catalyst to change for our dealers as well as the company,” he explained. “Were doing more and more education with our dealers on engaging with their local community, how the dealerships are working and how engaged customers are. With everything, there are dealers that are really embracing it and others that aren’t paying attention. But most of them are in the middle. So we’ve been proactive about making sure those in the middle understand. As part of our training for new model launches, we’ve been aggressive to bring our dealers along with us.”

Farley also explained that social media at the dealer level can be facilitated by the brand in compelling ways. He told me most of the major metro market dealerships now have interactive displays, floor clings and showroom signage that includes QR code tags so a customer can snap a picture and immediately be delivered feature videos, benefits and more information as they’re browsing the car. They’re also immediately able to share that content with their networks.

Clearly, Ford is embracing social media marketing in ways other companies are not. I’m sure a good bit of that has to do with my buddy Scott, but also leadership like Farley that is starting to not only see consumer-centric thinking, but see the benefits of it.

So what do you think? The comments are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://twitter.com/bethkelley82 Beth Kelley

    I agree this is a brilliant campaign. It's not pushy, and everyone gets something out of it. :)

  • http://thoughtwrestling.com/blog Mark Dykeman

    Ford is clearly putting a lot of thought into their presence and campaigns, so they get props for that.

  • Pingback: Ford Focus Global Launch Another Social Media Success Story | Dr-Net

  • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

    Excellent campaign with a simple and clear objective. I am ready to sign up, but could not find the application n their Facebook page. Eyeballs not working properly and I missed it?

  • http://twitter.com/naimul naimul

    Seems like a really well thought out, well supported plan. Do you think that these kinds of campaigns only work for consumer products like cars though? I have a feeling that being Ford helps these ideas in a huge way.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      You're probably right, Naimul. When your product is a sexy new car, it's

      easier to get people excited about it over, say, dental insurance (right?).

      But finding creative ways within other industries to use the Ford model …

      make it about the customer, make incentives real and meaningful, and don't

      force feed it to people who don't want it … can work.

      • http://scottmonty.com scottmonty

        Depends on who you're trying to reach. If you're selling dental insurance, there are probably people out there without insurance who'd love a complimentary cleaning, if that's what you're offering. I think it's more about appropriate targeting.

    • http://www.autorepairinmesa.com/ Mesa Ford

      Good look, I love your opinion on the company, and I personally am a ford mechanic.

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  • http://twitter.com/demandMCG Market Creation Grp

    Totally creative and totally awesome. Going along with naimul, having a ton of money helps

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