An online presence also involves more than straightforward business considerations, Monty said.
“The third element is a really important one that gets glossed over a lot,” he said. “They want shared experiences. They want to be able to share their experience back with the brand. They want a brand to give them an opportunity to collectively compare notes and to experience things together. It kind of gets to the central notion that we subscribe to, and that is that people want to be part of something bigger than themselves. We not only have an opportunity to engage people and help them be part of something bigger, but as a brand, we almost have that responsibility. Ford talks about having great products and having a strong business plan and making the world a better place. That’s something that comes again from Henry Ford’s time. He believed in giving back to the communities in which we did business. We do so many things at the philanthropic level that if we can get more people aware of and get involved in, then collectively we can all move forward together.”
‘A 24/7 Job’
Because of the vast and fast-moving nature of the online community, Ford’s social media team must remain vigilant, Monty said.
“There is no typical day,” he said. “My day starts when I get up and I turn to the Blackberry not only for corporate news but for tweets that are coming in and updates to our Facebook page. People can come at us from almost any angle. It’s not just the 800 number and the email account now. So really it is a 24/7 job. We’re lucky that we have a team that extends globally, so we have all the hours of the clock covered. But largely they’re looking at things that are going on in their own region.
“The other thing is that we have a significant fan base that I have a personal relationship with that know us through our presence on Twitter and Facebook and whatnot. They will take the time to reach out to us and help us out, to flag things for us and be our eyes and ears, maybe off the clock or they may see something that we may not see. I want to say it’s a finely tuned machine, but it is a machine and we’re fine-tuning it more and more through our own methods and through building relationships.”
The company also strives to be proactive, rather than reactive, by planning as much as possible the content it distributes through its various social media platforms, Monty said.
|The Fiesta Movement social media campaign helped gain the attention of consumers who had never owned a Ford vehicle. Photo courtesy Ford Motor Company
“As far as Facebook goes, we have a pretty strict cadence as far as what we’ll publish on any given day or week,” he said. “We actually look at that the week before and we align it with the news-making opportunities, the events, etc., that will be happening throughout the week. We try to keep a healthy mixture of content — videos, third-party articles, polls, open-ended questions … really keep it fresh and get people engaged. We’ve found that the visual posts get a lot more engagement, as well as the open-ended questions because people want to be heard. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves, but they also want to have a voice. We give them the platform to have that voice, but we try to do it with an editorial approach in mind. When it comes to something like Twitter, for example, we’re less structured about that because Twitter is much more conversational. We’ll reply to people, we’ll pick stuff that we see that’s interesting and share it with our followers. We’ll refer people to sites to find more information, etc. It’s a much more fluid type of conversation. We have a team of people who work on all those together to execute.”
Even with all the advanced planning, the unexpected can crop up, Monty said. For instance, Ford’s social media team must stand ready to address criticism leveled at the company.
Monty cites an example stemming from a recent multimedia campaign, which included television advertisements in which actual customers were filmed answering questions about their Ford vehicle at “press conferences.” (The customers had arrived thinking they were going to participate in market research but were instead greeted by a “press corps.”)