Imagine if someone had given the US automobile industry a tarot card reading six years ago. They would probably have pulled the card showing the tumbledown tower - the one that means your whole world is being turned upside down. Indeed, there have been bailouts, loans, spin-offs, and a general decrease in sales. It's also been a time of rapid innovation and re-invention. One of the places you can witness this is in taking a close look at how the Ford Motor Company is using social media.
If you've ever experienced a presentation by Ford's global head of social media Scott Monty, you'd probably remember his impeccable sartorial sensibility and his golden-era-radio-announcer voice. He's also been a key thinker in how a global enterprise can use social to create real value.
Being "always-on" with Content
Monty first gave me some background and big-picture information about social media at Ford. It's a global enterprise, with a lot of different brands, as well as different departments at the corporate level. A big aspect of their work in social lies with communications for the corporate branding aspect, while marketing owns another part that deals with community management and having an impact on sales. On top of that, the company has a marketing agency of record as well as a social media agency of record.
Content is playing a key role. As Monty told me, "our marketing is moving away from a campaign mentality, to an "always-on" mentality. That requires a lot of content."
You can see some of that content if you check out the "One Tank Adventures" being created by viral video impresario, Devin Graham. Ford provides Graham with a vehicle and one tank of gas. For his part, Graham, who is well know on YouTube as "Devin Super Tramp" does seemingly insane feats. The automobiles included in the videos aren't at all the main player of the story, but as Monty said, "the vehicle is literally the vehicle to help them accomplish their adventures."
Several years ago, Ford embarked on a program called the "Fiesta Movement" in which the company loaned 100 cars to 100 individuals for six months. In return, the participants were asked to create one video for each month. In refreshing the program this year, Ford reintroduced the program, partnering with different media outlets such as X Games and Bonnaroo to give it scale. In the updated program, the participants were told that all of their photos and videos would be the sole basis of all of the company's advertising for the model for the coming year.s seemingly insane feats. The automobiles included in the videos aren't at all the main player of the story, but as Monty said, "the vehicle is literally the vehicle to help them accomplish their adventures."
Ford is demonstrating the very philosophy that has been at the heart of the whole content marketing movement. Monty declared,
"We're having to educate ourselves on the difference between advertising and content."
Because of their scale and talents in the organization, a company like Ford is able to experiment on a level that is difficult in smaller companies. Their experiments are providing us with case studies and templates for successful approaches to what is at the heart of the social media revolution: that instead of being self-promotional, there is an opportunity to create real value through excellent content.