The Big Brand Theory: Ford Motor Company, Part II
There are several major approaches to the use of social media in marketing. You can be focused on just maintaining the brand, or you can create a big splashy campaign that draws a lot of attention. In the best of worlds, you can work with communities, influencers, or a content-focused approach. Sometimes, you need to mix them together in one big salad bowl in varying proportions.
In my last Big Brand Theory post, I spoke of my conversation with Scott Monty and highlighted the work of the Ford Motor Company. In that conversation, I learned about so many interesting social media endeavors at Ford, that I thought it would be worthwhile to continue. Ford is, in fact, is doing work that exemplifies mixing content marketing, influencer marketing, and community marketing.
Monty told me, "being involved with social from a communications perspective means working with influencers - it's working with bloggers - finding people who themselves have audiences." To do that, Ford has developed its own "Influencer Relation Management" tool, called ConnectFord.
An Information Portal
At first glance, ConnectFord is a portal where Ford can share articles, videos, events, and other information that a company might normally share through PR. It is, as Monty said, "giving bloggers a chance to get information coming directly from ford, not just press releases."
Once you're on the site, you have the opportunity to create an account, after which you can access a few more features. There probably really are some consumers out there that are such Ford fans that they sign-up anyway - anyone can be a member of Connect Ford - but the content and incentives are really designed for bloggers and journalists.
Registered users can submit articles; receive "points" for various activities, and reach out to Ford to get connected to people inside the organization. If your work has you writing about such things, this is a great system. With many brands, it can really be quite a chore getting to the right people.
FordConnect also invites you to share your blogs, articles, or other content with them - and if they think it's something worth sharing, they'll do just that. Remember, Ford has millions of social media followers, so if they do share your content, it could be pretty significant.
Just a Little Gamification
When you read articles, watch videos, take polls, or recommend others to the portal, you’ve given points. You do not receive points, however, when you write about Ford. This belies a sophisticated decision on the part of the site’s managers. As they write in the FAQ, “this isn’t a ‘pay to play’ kind of relationship. If you just like to learn more about what we’re doing, that’s great.”
Many creators of brand ambassador programs have discovered that when participants are paid to participate, it creates a very different kind of relationship – one less based on an emotional connection. On ConnectFord, the creators were able to bring in gamification, yet steer clear of a compensated relationship.
According to the site, earning points will ultimately allow users to be considered for special events, sneak-peek info, and other non-cash benefits.
A Two-Way Street
The system also allows users to submit articles, request information, and submit ideas to people within the organization. If you’re working on a piece about technology, they might connect you with an engineer – or, if as the site suggests, a piece on fashion, they might be able to connect you with one of their designers.
You might have an idea, like that of comedian Mark Malkoff, who went to Ford with the idea of driving across the country, asking mayors of cities along the way for “keys to the city.” Ford obliged by providing a 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid.
Influncer/Content/Brand Ambassador/Community Management System
You might see ConnectFord as a "brand ambassador" program tool, an influencer management tool, or a content marketing tool. In its essence, it's all of those.
According to Monty, before the site was created, marketers kept track of information in spreadsheets. He added, “it doesn't scale well when you're working with agencies and multiple teams." Even for organizations who are working totally with one out-sourced team, or entirely with their inhouse team, it isn't hard to imagine how such a system could be of tremendous help to many brands.
The Big Brand Theory is an exclusive column for Social Media Today written by Ric Dragon that explores the social media strategies of big brands, both B2B and B2C. Look for the next installment next week. Logos by Jesse Wells.
Ric Dragon is the CEO and chief strategist for DragonSearch, a leading niche player in internet marketing from search to social. He is the author of the Dragonsearch Online Marketing Manual (McGraw Hill 2011) and Social Marketology (McGraw Hill 2012). In addition to being an artist and a jazz drummer, Dragon has been a speaker at events around the world including Social Media World, SMX ...
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