How Ford’s C-suite embraced the social agenda
Image: Ford Motor Company
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How Ford’s C-suite embraced the social agenda

I-CIO editorial team – October 2012

Ford prioritizes multi-channel social strategy with buy-in from senior management team.

Engagement with communities, combined with a strong sense of corporate social responsibility, is a key element of Ford Motor Company’s branding. The automotive giant believes that social media plays an increasingly vital role in delivering this via ‘social outcomes’ — that is, engaging with communities and customers, thereby maintaining a positive brand image.

A significant moment in this journey came last year, when the Diaper Bank of Greater Atlanta, a non-profit organization that supplies diapers to families in need, tweeted that it had received 50,000 diapers but was struggling to distribute them. That tweet was seen by one of Ford’s senior management, who arranged for a Ford truck to do the job. Scott Monty, the company’s global head of social media, describes this kind of reaction as “part of who we are. We happened to have intercepted [the tweet] at a corporate level, but there was something we could do to give back to a very important community.”

And a positive outcome was delivered for both the Diaper Bank and Ford. “The resulting media reached over 1 million people, which drove a better perception of Ford,” says Monty.
In the right place

Being able to respond quickly and effectively to social media is central to Monty’s strategy, which is largely based on listening to its customers. “We subscribe to the Woody Allen theory of social media,” he explains. “He said 90% of life is just showing up. Social media, too, is a matter of being where people expect you to be. We have over 70 Facebook pages because we have lots of different fans who don’t want the firehose of all Ford’s information.”

What’s more, speaking to customers in their own language in order to build trust is vital, Monty argues. “No one wants to be talked to like a press release, or God forbid like a lawyer. Everybody’s heard the phrase, ‘We regret any inconvenience you may have experienced.’ But who talks like that? People actually say, ‘I’m sorry about that. Let me see what I can do.’ And that’s how our representatives on the Ford Service Twitter handle interact with people to provide good customer service.”

Therefore, for Monty, social media goes way beyond simple marketing campaigns. “Dale Carnegie wrote about winning friends and influencing people and that’s what we’re in it for,” he says. “And we’re in for the long haul. This is not about turning on for a campaign and then shutting off.”

Buy-in from senior management is crucial, Monty stresses — and he has it in quantity. “Because of the corporate culture of Ford, the executive team and a lot of the big C-level folks embrace this,” he says. “They may not understand it completely, but they know how important it is: they see the difference we’re making and the reputational strides we’ve been able to achieve.”

See how other major organizations are meeting the social media challenge across the business:

KLM: Turning social media best practice into customer service leadership
Deutsche Post takes a holistic approach to social media

Ford’s Scott Monty was speaking at The Social Media World Forum

First published October 2012
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