Is Ford Really a Social Media Superstar?


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Ford, and specifically Scott Monty have been getting a lot of attention for their social media efforts – winning widespread business praise and recognition – Two examples are here and here.

Quite rightly I hear you say. They’ve done a good job promoting their brand, building awareness, running some interesting campaigns…

In some respects I agree. I really like aspects of their approach – for example The Ford Story, but I can’t help feel that something is missing. Has Ford used social media to align the whole experience life cycle?

If we look at the experience life cycle for someone owning a car, it might represent the following major milestones:

  • Brand association/affinity
  • The purchase experience
  • The usage experience
  • The repurchase experience

Looking at these experience milestones, I’d argue that Ford is doing really well working 1 and 4 – but what about 2 and 3. Would you look at this and say they’ve done a brilliant job of using social media to manage the buyers experience with their company and products? Are they really superstars, leading the way with innovative use of social media?

I’m not convinced.

I’ve long argued that the real value in social media is when it’s applied across the enterprise and into the many communities that intersect with a company.

My core argument is that Ford has missed the point – missed the greater opportunity to transform the whole Ford experience. Not wanting to be harsh, but I could argue that Ford is pretty much saying – hey come and love my brand, but once you’re in love – you’re on your own – I’m not going to do anything to ensure your overall experience matches that initial connection…

The evidence of this disconnect (between the brand and the consumer) is growing. Mercedes Benz has identified this:

“These kids are saying ‘we are a generation of digital natives; we live in the digital space; we are data-obsessed’ — which means when they go into showrooms they will have done their homework. So, with salespeople, there is a clear disconnect with us if a dealership sales guy doesn’t know his stuff.”

Source article here

This is a really important point.

Consumers are self educating and arriving at the second major experience point – only to find the experience manager (i.e. the dealership sales guy) is disconnected.

I’m not seeing any evidence of Ford utilising its expertise or position to help the ‘experience’ part of their business – the car dealers.

As this article identifies, auto dealers are struggling to come to terms with social media and how to leverage it properly.

As I look around the Ford dealer network in the US and Australia, I see some dealers making efforts to follow Ford into the space, but really, a large number of them are still traditional car dealers – the old sales model. They run big batches of ads in newspapers all with the intent of getting the buyer onto the lot so that they can apply their sales tactics/charms.Their websites are all about inventory and why you need to visit their physical site and spend money.

The question I have to ask is why hasn’t Ford looked across the whole experience chain to see what needs to be done and where Ford can apply it’s skills and knowledge to benefit customers? If Ford has developed these incredible skills why aren’t they reaching into those two key experience points to help align what happens here with their overall goals? It’s all very well to have a fantastic social experience around the brand, new model launches, quirky ads etc.

But what about where it really matters?

Mark Parker
Mark Parker is the founder of Smart Selling, and the specialist business unit – Smart Social Media. The core aim of both businesses is to help companies become better sales organisations by utilising the ideas, tools, and practices of Sales 2. and social media.


  1. Mark,

    Couldn’t agree more. Certainly Ford have reached out but they haven’t reached across. My heading line is quote from Axel Schultze founder of the who wrote a post with that heading to exactly emphasize your point. Social media effects all parts of an organisation and its full implementation requires coordination across the firm AND the channels.

    As I was reading I was thinking to myself “one of the problems is that Ford’s channels in the main don’t get it or use it” and then you came to that issue and pointed to the relevant article. This is the same problem in the IT industry where the channels are not enabled, even though for example Microsoft was found to be the #1 social media savvy corporation in the US.

    Here’s the topic of channel empowerment training addressed:

    And I think that the dealer issue runs even deeper than their lack of interest or lack of training in how to leverage Ford’s social media assets. The example of the informed customers knowing more than the sales jock (partly because the sales jock isn’t trained and tuned in to the social media channels) speaks to what I would call brand depth.

    So if brands are a promise, and translate to fulfilled experiences and satisfied expectations, then a broken experience – lack of brand depth – destroys the brand promise and brand value.

    Think about it this way. You’ve seen those vacuous TV ads where they announce breathlessly (Harvey Norman, for example, in Australia) “we are your digital camera experts”. Substitute “technology”, or “computer”, or “air conditioning” etc. That’s the brand promise. What happens when you go to the store – some pimpled kid doesn’t know anything except where he gets his greatest points or commission, can barely answer the rote questions, or a perhaps older person who just expresses their personal biases and has no idea of comparative prices or features or trends. The real story, which becomes immediately transparent, is that they have something on the floor, they have no idea about anything else, and they want to sell it, to you or anyone else they don’t care.

    The brand depth is zero. That destroys brand value.

    That’s what we have in the IT industry at the moment, and also as you said where Ford falls short. The brand depth cannot match the promise because all customer touch points are not equally agile, informed and in this case web-centric. The customer lifecycle engagement model is, well in Ford’s case perhaps not broken, but not completed.

    Walter Adamson @g2m
    Certified Social Media Consultant
    Melbourne, Australia
    My social spaces and places:

  2. I’m sure it’s helping Ford in a marketing sense to be more visible in Social Media. And props to Monty and his team for that. Marketing is part of the deal in any business.

    But in the end, I’m going to buy a Ford car or truck because it’s the right product for me, not because of social media marketing. What is Ford doing with social computing technology to become a truly “social business” rather than just a social marketer?

  3. Walter
    You’ve raised some very valid points – and this is why I argue that being social means you embrace it across the enterprise and into the numerous communities around your brand/company (and don’t start in marketing…)

    I share your sentiment about the big box retailers – I have another business ( that competes with them and we win because we are focused on being social. Having said that, US retailer Best Buy is an example where the people in the store live and breath a larger brand promisen – and brand values that extend beyond Best Buy.

    Mark Parker
    Smart Selling
    Smart Social Media

  4. Bob,
    It’s worth noting that [url=]Scott Monty replied to my post[/url] on my Smart Selling blog. I’d love to see Scott pop up here on Social Business One as his response was quite enlightening. The key points of his comment included:

    [*]Ford is educating field staff about social media so they can in turn start educating dealers
    [*]They have an internal working group looking into the dealership of the future and what the buying experience will or should be
    [*]Whilst Ford is late to the game, they’re focused on leading by example

    I thought the dealership of the future was really interesting, particularly as it’s focused on the buying experience – that’s quite a different approach to selling cars.

    Mark Parker
    Smart Selling
    [url=]Where you’ll find me online[/url]

  5. Mark – and Walter

    I guess there’s value in questioning whether companies that seem to be leading in a particular field are doing as well as they claim to be. However, I don’t see where either Ford or Scott Monty have claimed to be social media “superheroes”. In fact, from having met Scott in 2008, and in the intervening time read things he’s written and watched some interviews, that would seem to me be quite out of character and actually at odds with what he says about Ford.

    I know Scott thinks strategically and from everything I see he and his colleagues are working in this field strategically.

    See for example the interview Lee Odden did with Scott in March this year

    As to Ford not getting the whole picture, I’m personally impressed by the Fiesta “Chapter 2” strategy, with its focus on local and engaging with local communities and committing people on the ground, locally, to that.

    The point about the dealer networks is obviously worth attention, but clearly Ford is not unaware of that or they would surely not be listing “social media as cornerstone of revamped dealer product training”.

    I certainly believe we should be encouraging companies like Ford to do more. I just don’t see the case being made above that they have been over-praised. I have no axe to grind for Ford and no shares and I drive a definitely pre-owned European car. I do acknowledge that I regard Scott Monty as a respected colleague and genuinely nice guy – if that is seen to cloud my judgement, so be it. 🙂

  6. Apologies – I should of course have quoted the reference as “superstars” not “superheroes”: I stand by my comment nevertheless.

  7. Hi Des
    Firstly, my post wasn’t a personal attack on Ford – I was having a go at some of content that gets published around Ford and social media – the over-praise as you put it.

    I remain of the opinion that Ford is put up on a pedestal and we are told to worship them, when in reality (and in some respects by their own admissions) they’ve done OK but realise there is still a lot of hard work to do.

    I asked the question in my post – are they using their skills to reach outside their company to try and change those experience points they don’t directly control – as you’ve noted, and as Scott pointed out to me this morning they are – that fact alone is worth talking about

    Mark Parker
    [url=]Smart Selling[/url]
    [url=]Smart Social Media[/url]

  8. Thanks for the great discussion going on here. We don’t take any of this as an attack, personal or otherwise. To us, it’s an opportunity to learn and to share the progress we’ve made that perhaps isn’t as publicly apparent yet.

    As you’ve no doubt discerned by now, attempting to accomplish what we’ve set out to do – on a global level – is quite the task. And in the ever-evolving world of social media, progress is going to come step by step, rather than as a single, well-timed and perfect launch. Every day we’re adding to our arsenal of information, thanks in part to what we’re doing, but moreso because of what we’re learning from customers and commentators across the Web.

    One way we’re trying to turn into more of a social business is by opening up to new ideas under the banner of “Your Ideas” on The Ford Story at We’re giving people a chance to share their perspectives and to rate and vote on each others’ ideas, so that we can share them with our team. We’ll be adding to the feedback loop by updating contributors on the progress, so they can see the impact they’ve had.

    This is just one example – in addition to the dealership references that Des and Mark mention above. It’ll be quite a while before we’re as fully functional we we’d like to be, but compared to where we were just two years ago, we’ve made great progress. And to Bob’s point, we *are* building better products now; if we weren’t, none of our marketing, communications or social media efforts would be believable.

    Scott Monty
    Global Digital Communications
    Ford Motor Company

  9. Scott, thanks for a thoughtful response.

    For what it’s worth, keeping in mind that I don’t follow the US car industry closely, my impression is that Ford has done the best job of the US automakers in building better cars *and* engaging with consumers using social media.

    All: here’s an interview of Scott that provides more details:

    I especially liked this quote:

    This whole notion of humanizing Ford is to show consumers that there are people just like them at Ford who are intelligent, talented and passionate about the company for a very good reason.

    It’s also worth noting that Scott was the only Ford staffer for a year. Impressive!


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