GForces’ Tim Smith explains why social media is gathering momentum as a marketing force
Scott Monty is an interesting guy. As well as being the Global Head of Social for Ford Motor Company, he is also a classics major, holds a fascination with psychology and human behaviour, is a husband, father and a rather nice guy. I don’t know him, but I know a lot about him. He has more than 50,000 followers on Twitter and writes one of the most informative blogs on the automotive industry and social media.
He popped up to speak at Google’s recent Think Gearshift event as a headline speaker. His message, as you can imagine, was clear and informative. For the past couple of years social media has been gathering momentum as a marketing force within the automotive industry, with Ford leading the pack. His case for the importance of social media was not to do with return on investment, lead generation or direct response; his case was simply the human desire to be acknowledged.
Ford practise this approach via their Ford Story (fordstory.com) website, their Facebook strategy and numerous other outreach projects.
They are all designed to give customers access to what is perceived as a global mega-organisation.
‘Social media will be core to a motor retailer’s contact strategy’
The example of Alan Mulally, Ford’s CEO, actually contacting a prospective Ford buyer was brilliant. The story goes, a GM customer asked Monty via Twitter whether he could get Mulally to call him and help him make up his mind about buying a Ford. He did! It was a supreme example of social media at work. This was one the purest expressions of accessibility corporate culture could have exhibited. If the guy at the top with the One World, One Ford vision message can be bothered, surely the company is pretty cool. In fact, this principle used to be practised by many other business leaders including the legendary Jack Welch, CEO of GE, who often used to get a phone call from a customer put straight through to him, just so he knew what problems they were facing with his 3m-employee corporation.
Social media is as much about acknowledging your customers as it is keeping in touch with them. The whole issue the motor retail industry faces is that it has put social media well and truly in the marketing box, meaning every dollar spent on it comes out of the marketing budget.
Eighty-three per cent of the top 200 dealers in the UK are practising some form of social media, predominantly funded as a marketing activity, but very few, if any, are using it as an integral form of their contact strategy.
I think it’s time for an adjustment to this mentality. Social media will be core to a motor retailer’s contact strategy as it will enable them to maintain a dialogue with their customers outside of the typical buying hotspot. After all, if you can generate some kind of loyalty from your customers, they are easier to retain and keep happy than to acquire all over again. Perhaps that is where the true return on investment with social media will lie.