What’s All this Hocus-Pocus About Social Media? Where Are the REAL Marketers?


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B2B Social Media Questions

source: photodune.net

You know, back in 2010, when the Ford Motor Company announced their social media campaign for the new Fiesta, I knew this was going to be interesting. At the time, social media was this new, mysterious buzz word that everyone was finding so intriguing. What got my attention was, the company’s marketing head, Jim Farley publicly dumped the Super Bowl for Facebook in a media interview. He said that Super Bowl ads were great for unknown brands. Okay…interesting.

Instead of an auto show which is the place where every auto manufacturer unveils its new babies, Ford unleashed a Facebook campaign for its new Fiesta. Of course the campaign got attention! If you’re a good hawker and squawker, you get people’s attention. Next, the company dug itself deeper into the social media scene and came up with the “Ford Focus Global Test Drive” campaign. Once again, using Facebook, the company was calling out to “bloggers, social media mavens and Facebook friends”. These “friends” had to send in video applications to be selected among a 100 individuals who would be able to test drive the 2012 Focus around southern France or Spain before the car’s official launch. They had that silly sock puppet, Doug and his lackey John telling people all about the new Ford Focus through Facebook updates, tweets and YouTube videos.

Nice reels and many enjoyed them. Now let’s hear the real story.

Forbes and other leading media houses reported the Fiesta fiasco. By April of 2012, Fiesta had seen a drop in sales of 44% compared with the previous year. By early May, the company said their year-to-date sales for Fiesta compared with 2011 had dropped by 30% and were not expected to move up for the rest of the year. Did they say it was a “ground-breaking social media marketing campaign”? How big was the hole in their bottom line? I suppose this is what happens when your social media leaders are only “platform specialists” rather than marketing experts.

(By the way, in case you’re wondering why I’m telling you a story from the B2C world, be patient; I have a good reason and you’ll see why.)

Ford blamed everything from gas prices to the economy to competition. It’s a good thing poor Doug was only a sock puppet. Maybe he was to blame too. And John and Jim, and everyone else who thought finding friends on Facebook and tweeting all day would bring continued sales growth. How naive, what else can I say?

Marketing Out of Focus—Can B2B aFORD A Social Media Fiesta?

There’s a lesson here for B2B marketers. (See, I said I had a good reason for my story!)

  • Firstly, even in the B2C world, spike marketing is not a sustainable strategy. And as I have said before, in the B2B marketplace, this is especially true. An attention-grabbing campaign, even on social media channels can bring you short term numbers. You should not regard this as an opportunity to simply hawk your wares. Hawking and shouting on social media cannot be a substitute for building engagement. That can only come from a balanced approach of integrated marketing—traditional, proven methods alongside newer ones.
  • Secondly, customers, whether they are in B2B or B2C markets, are looking for unique, repeatable experiences. Did Ford manage to do that? Were they really listening or making an effort to find out what customers wanted? Obviously not, that’s why they are blaming everything and everyone after the fact. What should they have done? Why should every B2B organization aim to deliver the ultimate customer experience? I wrote recently about the 3 magic words of customer experience.
  • And last, but not the least, a B2B lead generation funnel is a complex structure. Social media marketing can help to get a relationship started. But if you don’t nurture each one carefully, strategically managing your sales funnel, it’s going to fall through. You cannot rely on social media to close sales. When buyers are “socializing”, they are open to being engaged through value; they don’t want to be sold to. So please, stop shouting and start engaging. This is the real world, not a show reel.

Remember the story of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp? It was one of my favorites. (I used to dream about riding a flying carpet to save a beautiful princess from an evil Sultan.) In our hunger and greed for shiny new things, we tend to ignore the old tried and true ones. If only we had more faith in that old, dusty lamp that organizations so easily dismiss as old-world marketing. If only we rubbed it and brought to the surface the strong, sturdy, shining metal of good, solid marketing common sense, we would see the marketing Genie and ask for all our wishes to come true.

And yet, we chase numbers. We hanker after glitzy, glamorous, sexy tactical approaches like social media campaigns. Sales and marketing continue to function in silos in a majority of B2B organizations. In the absence of aligned demand generation strategy, quantity rather than quality of leads becomes the notorious goal.

This has got to stop. We need to observe, analyze and learn from the mistakes of giants like Ford. Can we afford to lose marketing focus in the hocus-pocus of social media? What are your thoughts? If you have questions about social media and lead generation for your B2B business, email or call me, Louis Foong, at (905) 709-3827.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Louis Foong
Louis Foong is the founder and CEO of The ALEA Group Inc., one of North America's most innovative B2B demand generation specialists. With more than three decades of experience in the field, Louis is a thought leader on trends, best practices and issues concerning marketing and lead generation. Louis' astute sense of marketing and sales along with a clear vision of the evolving lead generation landscape has proved beneficial to numerous organizations, both small and large.


  1. Louis,

    Thank you for taking the time to write about some of Ford’s social media efforts. I’d like to clarify a few points, to help give your opinion piece a little more of a balanced and informed perspective, if I may.

    First, it looks like you’re mixing vehicle lines above – Focus, Fiesta (and you’re attributing our reveal of the Explorer to the Fiesta instead), and then just quoting Fiesta sales.

    The Fiesta Movement was launched in 2009 (not 2010) with 100 influencers and extended from blogs to Twitter, Facebook to YouTube and more (not just Facebook) and achieved its goals: to raise awareness about this new vehicle that was making its way to U.S. shores the following year, and to help people think about Ford in a new light – one where consumers’ opinions and impressions are front and center. And it was enormously successful: over 130,000 people registered to find out more about the the vehicle, millions of impressions were gained online and offline.

    When we decided to reveal the 2011 Ford Explorer not at an auto show but on Facebook and in 8 cities simultaneously, our goal was to own the news that day. And it worked: we were the #1 trending topic on Twitter that morning and the #2 trend on Google for the entire day. By some analysts’ estimations, we performed better than if we had done a Super Bowl ad. And the engagement we created with fans not only that day, but on the months leading up to and following the reveal, was palpable. Sales of the 2011 Explorer were up 290% over the 2010 model.

    The Focus Doug campaign was also a successful one in getting the all-new 2012 Ford Focus in front of people who weren’t already aware of it and causing them to put it on their list. We saw a 40% increase in the level of awareness and a 61% increase in purchase consideration as a result.

    And finally, a word about what’s going on in the auto industry and how sales are measured. The Fiesta Movement as I mentioned above, was done in 2009; it’s a bit unfair to judge 2012 sales numbers based on a 3 year-old campaigns, wouldn’t you agree? Even so, we had a remarkable 2011 and the Japanese brands were down. This year, we’ve seen a return to normalcy, so the percentage drop you’re quoting above is a year-on-year number based on a particularly skewed year. The context makes all the difference.

    Our social media efforts – across a variety of nameplates, regions and the entire corporate entity – are well documented and well respected, for those who have taken time to understand the nuances in the activities and the automotive industry as well. We hope to continue to achieve the level of success we’ve been fortunate enough to earn.

    Scott Monty
    Global Digital Communications
    Ford Motor Company

  2. Scott,

    I apologize for the delay in responding as I was away on vacation. Thank you for clarifying the vehicle lines and campaign timeline specifics. Point taken.

    My concern is over social media deliverables in general being touted as conversions in a lead generation context. Being #1 and #2 on trending topics is exciting, so is the increased awareness and no doubt, these are required for a brand to be in the spotlight. However, when traditional marketing is sidelined to focus on high-intensity social media activities, when hand-raisers are cloaked as leads, when “followers” are quantified as potential buyers, sales are going to tell a different story, even if three years later. Following a car campaign on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube is different from actually buying it. In my opinion, the willingness to buy is one of the most critical components of qualifying a true lead. I’m curious about how Ford measured the “61% increase in purchase consideration as a
    result” – do shed some light on that.

    I agree that in the B2C world, brand awareness is significantly more important than in the B2B world (which is where my expertise and experience lie). However, measurement mechanisms and ROI are required to be in place for any kind of marketing, including social media.


    Louis Foong
    The ALEA Group Inc.


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