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cott Monty never imagined he'd be in this position - in charge of social media for Ford Motor Co. as the Dearborn-based automaker's global digital communications manager. Monty, 41, was a lifelong East Coast resident before being recruited to Ford in 2008, and he had embarked on a career in the medical industry after graduating from Boston University. "If you asked me even five years ago if! thought I'd be at Ford Motor Co. of all places doing what I'm doing now, I couldn't have imagined it," Monty said. "And now it's probably the best job I ever had. And I think it's one of the best jobs at Ford Motor Co." The job Monty and Ford have done building a social media presence has gamered widespread praise within marketing and trade press circles. The company is widely acknowledged as a social media power, especially in comparison with other automakers (as one measure-
ment, Ford's Facebook page has roughly 900,000 "likes" by Facebook users, compared with around 300,000 for General Motors Corp. and 235,000 for Chrysler Group LLC). It has rolled out a string of measurably successful online campaigns that have helped it connect with customers and given Ford's persona a lift. For his part, Monty says that Ford's revamped product line is the foundation of the company's digital successes. "You make products that people want and value," he said. "When (company president and CEO) Alan Mullaly came to Ford in 2006, as he said, we took out our major home improvement loan. We went to our banks and got our plan financed, and then he plowed that money back into R&D. We used it to improve the product first. Once we knew we had superior products, then we started doing some interesting things with marketing, which is where something like the Fiesta
Above: Scott Monty oversees Ford Motor automaker's Dearborn headquarters.
Movement comes into play." Fiesta Foray The Fiesta Movement was staged in 2010 as part of Ford's reintroduction of the subcompact model into the U.S. Ford provided Fiestas to 100 drivers who blogged, tweeted and posted about their experiences with the car for six months. "That's the ultimate putting your brand in the hands of your consumers, with very positive results," Monty said. "We brought these vehicles over from Europe before they were available here in the U.S. This is a global car, and we knew for the most part this was going to be the same car coming to the U.S. And we said, 'You guys are the first. Have at it. All we need from you every month is a video. We'll give you the theme, but the rest of the time do what you normally do. Talk online. Tweet. Post videos and photos. Write blog posts.' They were more than
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dealerships.' I think: 83 Explorer Rollout percent of those had Fresh off its successful rollout of the never owned Ford Fiesta, Ford embarked on a similar, before. That was a although scaled-down strategy for introbrand-new set of cusducing its redesigned 2011 Explorer 1 Movement tomers to us. And 30 sport utility vehicle. The campaign was -...:i'>I1I'II....,.r .. ~.MMrIt_M.,...,. _ _..1IIo ......... percent of them were centered on a Facebook page on which under the age of 25, so the company posted teaser images of the we're reaching an vehicle and also included a countdown entirely new generaclock to when the entire vehicle would be tion. We ended up with unveiled. The company also bought ads a 60 percent level of on such high-traffic websites as awareness for the vehiCNN.com and MSNBC.com. cle before we even "Fiesta was kind of a catchall started any traditional approach," Monty said. "With Explorer, advertising. " we kind of dedicated ourselves to Not that the proFacebook and to paid media." The different approach was designed Ford's highly touted Fiesta Movement campaign featured a Web gram was completely page on which consumers posted blogs and videos about the" free of glitches. to capture a broader audience, because driving experiences. "One video did the Explorer's potential customer base sneak through, which actually made it was less segmented than that of the happy to share the story with the world past YouTube's guidelines," Monty said. Fiesta's, Monty said. that they were among the first to have this "There was a brief bit of nudity in one of "We knew by going on Facebook that new vehicle." the videos. We caught it before YouTube we had the best shot at getting fans and Although the program carried risks did. We asked the creator of that video to doing so in a way that supported the kind because the company wasn't in control of take it down and edit it as appropriate, of content and story that we had to tell what drivers had to say, Ford ultimately because this is a family channel and they about the Explorer," he said. "It allowed had faith that the digital influencers were violating YouTube's terms of servus to layout the whole schedule of events would like the Fiesta and post good ice. So that was fine. But you know what, for the day. People could come to the reviews, Monty said. if somebody had made a video and beratpage and engage with any portion of it "We were confident that we weren't ed the product for some reason, we they wanted. We had started the process going to get a lot of negative blowback would have had to have kept it up there probably four or five months before the because of the superior quality of the because of our pledge to be transparent. actual reveal, kind of getting people product," he said. "What was even better Fortunately, that wasn't the case because ready for it, ramping them up, giving was that we posted everything that they we had the great product." them teaser images of it - setting the were saying in real time on one of our websites. We pulled through their content ~ The Ford Story unfiltered, unedited and uncensored, so Read it. Help write it Share it. people could see what real people were ARTICLES. STORIES. lOW. [ CD saying about our product." The campaign paid dividends on difJIIIIIIIIIIIIII GRA8A 8AOGE.GETSOCIAL r·~ ferent levels, Monty said. c.v stertswnnonure oaoses so cncosemebedse tnet sceeks -_ to you and take the first step inSide thewortd of Pord social ''Not only were the product comI nnve trne Employee FUSion _ ments incredibly valuable for us, but the halo of respect and almost coolness Ford Check out the famILy 01 badges on your dashboard. got as a company that gets it," he said. "People were giving us credit for being I LATEST ARTICLE FROM FORD hip to what consumers needed at that Tell Us Why You Love Your Ford Explorerl time, and particularly consumers in the -m , demographic that we were trying to reach From tl'le stories we read on theFordStOJY.com. we know there ere vev satisfied Exptorerowners.out with the Fiesta, which was 20- and 30there, and the numbers tell the same story. The somethings. Ultimately we saw 130,000 ExptOfer ~sthe fa-stest£growing midsize utility in ute nation, rncretnanioo.oeo sctc ttes year etonet people register on that site to say, 'Yep, tell me about this when it comes to the Ford interacts with consumers on its The Ford Story website at sociaUord.com.
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Driving Ford's Social Media Presence
Before forging a social media presence, companies need to know what platform their customers are using, Monty says.
tomers are and what they're saying about you," Monty said. "Know what they want. If you're going gung-ho with a plan that involves, pick a channel - Facebook or Twitter or whatever - and your customers aren't there or are not likely to use it, then why are you bothering? Just because it's a buzzword? And it has to be fully integrated
stage for something big that was coming, rather than just showing up one day, turning on the lights and going home. It worked really well. In social space alone, we saw 99 million impressions that day. Online overall, we saw 400 million impressions. We actually had results that were better than if we had run a Super Bowl commercial." Despite its online successes, Ford is not about to abandon more traditional advertising and marketing venues, Monty said. "There's no doubt we're seeing a shifting of concentrated budget, but we're not giving up on anyone of the segments," he said. "Television advertising still reaches a huge number of people and helps with a certain process within the sales funnel. Just as direct marketing works and billboards and whatnot works. I think what we're seeing is more of a balanced approach between the paid, earned and owned media. Getting the three of those to work in harmony and to leverage each other as appropriate is extremely important." Not all companies have the wherewithal, or the need, to undertake complex digitally centered marketing campaigns, Monty said. But there is some universal advice that applies to all businesses, no matter their size or product line, he said. "I think the first principle in all of this is to listen, to know where your cus-
with everything else that you're doing. It can't be just, 'We have a Facebook strategy.' No you don't. You have a marketing strategy or a business strategy your marketing efforts support. And Facebook is simply a tool or a channel within that wider strategy. So understanding how all of this fits together and I think under-
uct or your next sale? We've seen lots of statistics that consumers online are basically looking for primarily coupons and deals from retailers, mostly." 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,
standing the marketing mix and the communications mix is really important. "The other thing that I think people really need to look to is not Before the launch of the new Ford Explorer, Monty's team creatonly where people are ed a buzz on Facebook by giving a sneak peak at what the new version would look like. going, but what do then collectively we can all move forthey want from you when you're there? ward together." Do they want more information? Do they want different information than you're 'A 24/7 Job' giving them on a brochure or a corporate website? Do they want deals or first-toBecause of the vast and fast-moving know information about your next prod-
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Driving Ford's Social Media Presence
nature of the online connnunity, 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 tum 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 2417 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
through its various social media platforms, Monty said. "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 newsmaking 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-
The Fiesta Movement social media campaign helped gain the attention never owned a Ford vehicle.
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
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 stennning 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.") "One of the customers was a guy by the name of Chris who bought an F-150," Monty said. "He stated in his own words why he bought Ford. He stated he wanted to go with a company that could stand on its own two feet, and he referenced the bailout." Unlike General Motors and Chrysler, Ford did not receive federal bailout money. After the ad ran its natural course on TV, Ford was waiting to receive digital rights to post it online when it popped up on an employee's YouTube channel. "We said you can't air that until we get the rights, so we took it off his YouTube channel and we placed it on ours after we got the rights," Monty said. "Some politically minded people online got the idea that the Obama administration pressured us to remove the ad because of the political overtones, and this gaping hole online where this video was and had been yanked down was evidence that we had obliterated all reference to it. We had to go forward and say, look, we ran the ad as planned, it's still on our YouTube channel if you want to look at it. This is what the consumer said. It was our decision to air it, but these were real words from a real customer, and we were kind of stuck with that, for better or worse. There were clearly two divisive sides on whether we should have aired it or not. The bottom line was that this is what happens when you put the brand in the hands of a consumer. They're going to say what comes to mind."
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Driving Ford's Social Media Presence
Monty, shown standing before a 1911 Model T Torpedo Roadster in the lobby of Ford headquarters, had originally planned a career in the medical industry
Part Art, Part Science Despite the freewheeling nature of the online world, Ford's social media team must maintain a sense of corporate decorum when engaging with the public, Monty said. "As a somewhat public persona who represents Ford, I always have to be careful about what I say. Any member of the team here does," he said. "If people recognize that we are associated with Ford, then we owe it to the company to speak in a way that is consistent with how the company would expect us to speak. You wouldn't see us running down the hall here at world headquarters with our tie around our forehead and twirling a towel, you know? We wouldn't act similarly online. It's just a matter of knowing how to conduct yourself as a professional." At the same time, it's important to avoid canned PR as much as possible, he said. "It's one thing to get the corporate message from the corporate account. People know they can always get that," Monty said. "But the difference with social media is that they want a personal perspective on what it is. I think that's the
value that our team brings. We have a unique perception from working behind the scenes and giving people kind of a bird's-eye view of what's going on. "People don't want a press release tweeted at them or legalese quoted at them on Facebook. They want to be talked to like a human being. So I think that's a first step. The other is to recognize when something goes beyond just something that's controversial and it's a crisis mode. And we have to be ready for that, even if it's just to tell people that we're aware of the situation and we're looking into it. That at least lets them know that we're listening to them. Nine times out 10, acknowledging that someone has said something to us is a major step in the right direction. There are always going to be certain things that we can't comment on, whether it's lawsuits or union negotiations or things like that that are very sensitive or that have implications beyond what the social media team does. "But because the social media team is moving at such a high rate of speed, we have to know how to react almost at the gut level. That's why this job is part art and it's part science. You just have to
have a sense for some of this stuff." Monty, who grew up in Connecticut, holds medical science and MBA degrees from Boston University. He had worked in Boston his entire career before coming to Ford, first as a deal maker between small, promising technology startups and big pharmaceutical companies. "After Sept. 11, that kind of dried up, so I moved into advertising and marketing in the high-tech and life science space," said Monty, the married father of two boys, ages 8 and 5. "That's where I finally got the bug for more things digital and eventually social media. I didn't know then that it was going to be as significant as it is now, although I did have a sense that it was going to play more of a role in how brands needed to think of their presence online." He was part of a social media consultancy in Boston when Ford called about taking the position he holds now. Accustomed to working virtually (he and his partners, one who lived in Connecticut and the other from New Jersey, connected daily via Skype video calls), "my first question to the team at Ford here was do I have to relocate to Detroit? They said, yeah, you do, it's kind of a leadership role and we need your presence here. I really wasn't too gung-ho about it at that point. But they convinced me to come out here. And this was one of those instances when I met the team and was just blown away by their passion and their talent and their level of commitment to Ford. When I took the time to investigate where Ford was going because I wasn't an American car guy; I wasn't a car guy to begin with, but I hadn't been an American car guy - I looked at the leadership team and I looked at the business plan and I looked at the product cadence. I thought there's something going on here that is different. I looked at the marketing leadership. (Ford marketing chief) Jim Farley had come over from Toyota. That itself was a sign. I said there's something special going on here. Being where I thought the social media industry was in its evolution, I thought it was a very unique opportunity." _