Ford Social Media Chief Scott Monty Tells Us Whether Advertising On Facebook Actually Works

Scott Monty, FordScott Monty of Ford

Photo: Scott Monty

Scott Monty, Ford’s global digital/multimedia communications manager, made headlines last week when he published on Facebook an anonymous letter he received, apparently from Oracle, trashing’s reputation.The week before, he quipped the most tweetable quote from our Social Media ROI conference in New York:

“What’s the ROI of putting your pants on every day? It’s hard to measure but there’s negative consequences for not doing it.”

Before that, he made hay when rival General Motors pulled its $10 million Facebook ad budget, by tweeting, “It’s all about the execution. Our Facebook ads are effective when strategically combined with engaging content & innovation.”

We sat down with Monty recently to grill him about Ford’s social media strategy, including the inevitable question: Does advertising on Facebook work?

BI: What does Ford do in social media? How many channels do you have? Give me the broad overview.

SM: We kind of take it from what we call the “Woody Allen Theory of Social Media,” which is 90 per cent of social media is just showing up. You need to be where people expect you to be. And a while back we would see people tagging us with that “@” symbol and “Ford” after it on Twitter whether or not they realised we had an account. It could be on programs that we were sponsoring or during sports events or commercials. They would tell us exactly what they thought. And then when Ford actually replied it would blow them away that a global company would be paying attention, one, and then taking the time to actually respond to them. So, that’s Twitter.

BI: When was that?

SM: That was as far back as 2009. And we’ve got “Ford Service” on Twitter which is our customer service account that helps customers out who may be having challenges, or who maybe just bought a car, what have you. “Ford Service” is there interacting with people everyday as well. And then we have other Twitter accounts that are nameplate specific: “Ford Mustang,” “Ford Trucks,” etc. And then similarly all around the world. When you go to Facebook we have about 80 different pages all around the world.

BI: I was going to say, there must be dozens or hundreds of channels.

SM: And it’s a challenge, right. So we’ve got 80 pages, but you can find them all on the “Ford Motor Company” Facebook page: We actually have a tab there called “Ford pages” and have an odometer (sticking with the automotive) that counts up all of our fans globally. We’ve got over 12 million fans across all of our pages globally. Of course we’ve got Flickr and YouTube and tons of accounts over in the Asia Pacific region.

Ford truck desert

Photo: Ford / Instagram

BI: Are you on Instagram yet?

SM: We are on Instagram as well. “Ford Motor Co.” on Instagram. We were the first brand on Google+. But, the point here is to give people choices. To give them choices where and when and how they want to interact with Ford Motor Company.

BI: And how many people do you have on staff who are just communicating, monitoring, and creating with those? That is a lot of media to look at.

SM: It is a lot. And we kind of act in a blended role. So it’s some full-time Ford people and some agency people that support us. Around the world, I would say in some capacity or another we have some 40-something people that are working on social media. Very few, though, who are just solely dedicated to social media. Usually it’s social and something.

BI: Now why is that?

SM: Because at this point we haven’t really established “social” as a separate department. It’s part of marketing. It’s part of communications. It’s part of customer service. So nobody owns social at Ford and it’s kind of fluid. So people are doing other things at the same time they’re also doing social.

BI: Are there any advantages to that? Or are there any disadvantages?

SM: There’s both. I think the advantages are they’re more well-connected with what’s going on in their particular department. They understand kind of the macro-level of how we’re acting as a business, which is important. You don’t want somebody who just knows social. You want them to understand the fundamentals of the business. The negatives are that we don’t have people full-time monitoring and engaging. And that’s probably a weakness for us.

Ford concept gullwing

Photo: Ford / Google+

BI: You mentioned Google+ earlier. A lot of companies have really struggled to figure out Google+. How’s Ford doing?

SM: I think we’re still figuring it out. We are absolutely thrilled to have been there first and to have been embraced by the Google team as part of that. And I think we share Google’s kind of long-term view that Google+ is less of a destination than it is the future of how Google products and services will work. Search results, your calendar, your Gmail. You think about the dozens of products and services that Google offers, they can now put a social layer across all of that. When you contrast that to what Facebook has done, Facebook started in the centre and then built out to the rest of the web. They’ve connected the web and their mission is the make the world a more social place. Google, on the other hand, has made acquisitions and built products internally, and now they are using social as a thread to stitch them all together. So it’s a fundamentally different strategy and it’s less focused on that location, Google+, than it is about how all those products and services can be woven together.

BI: Are you able to give me any idea on what kind of budget you spend on social media?

SM: Not specifically. We don’t usually talk budget numbers at Ford, but what we have said in the past is that digital and social together occupy about 25 per cent of our marketing budget.

BI: And do you have a specific social media agency?

SM: We have a couple of agencies. We primarily use WPP agencies for all of our work. Our marketing team specifically uses Team Detroit here in the United States, which is a conglomerate of Ogilvy, JWT, Mindshare, and Wunderman. Similarly over in Europe, we’ve got the Blue Hive, which they brought a number of WPP agencies together. So the notion is that we, internally, are working as one Ford. Everybody is coming together. And our agencies can start to come together as well. Our corporate social agency is [email protected] and they connect really well with Social Detroit and make sure that the communications team and marketing team are really one when it comes to social media.

BI: This is a really well developed, fairly complicated operation at this point.

SM: We’ve been working at it for a while. I think in some cases you can say it’s become a bit of a Frankenstein. We’ve pieced it together along the way. And our goal now as we move into 2013 is how do we get more serious about it. How do we put governance in place? How do we begin to build out more easy-to-understand and replicable processes so that everyone on the team is aligned.

BI: One of the things, from my point-of-view as a journalist, obviously, is just how quickly things can go wrong. A while ago, a hashtag sprang up on Twitter called “Toyotafail,” but I think Toyota managed to stomp on it pretty quickly by really addressing it early before it turned into one of those giant “everyone has a Toyota fail story” fiascoes. And then there was GM cancelling its ad budget right before Facebook’s IPO, and stuff like that. When you listen to customers and see what they’re tweeting and what their feedback is, has that enabled Ford to avoid those kind of crises? I hear companies sort of use it to head-off things before the snowball really gets rolling.

SM: Yeah, I think being for years now an active member of the community both personally, myself, as well as Ford as a company, and Ford being well-respected, I think, in the social space, has given us an added level of credibility and it has given us a legion of fans who actually act as our eyes and ears and who can flag stuff for us. Who are looking out for our best interests and will say, you know, “You guys might want to take a look at this.” And by virtue of being present and being engaged, we are able to talk with customers, rather than having to handle a monumental crisis and pull out some major crisis plan to have to deal with it.

BI: Does advertising on Facebook work?

SM: Ford: We think it does. We were very specific about that back in May right before their IPO. We said, look, we’ve seen it where when we use creative advertising techniques, engaging content, and good community management skills, this stuff absolutely works. We’ve been on Facebook since October of 2008 and we understand the community. We look for what they are looking for, we try and speak like them.

Ford Mustang GT500 2013

Photo: Travis Okulski / Business Insider

BI: Which Ford brand has the biggest following or the most fans?

SM: The Mustang is actually the single-most-liked vehicle on Facebook. It has over 4.5 million fans.

BI: Absent social media, people relate to their cars in different ways than other products. Like, I don’t regard a bottle of water as part of my identity. People love their cars as if they were living things. Does that help in terms of social? If you’re selling detergent, or something, it’s really not obvious how you create a voice for that.

SM: I don’t envy anyone who has to be a brand manager for any of the dehumanized products. But with Ford, we’re really lucky because the blue oval has been part of the American fabric, really part of the global fabric, for well over 100 years. And people are funny. They spend so much time determining whether they are going to buy a specific car. And it is a very emotional decision. Obviously there’s a lot of logic and number crunching that goes into the decision, but it is emotional at the end of the day. And it’s the second largest purchase you are going to make, for most people, in their lives after your house. And if you’re spending that kind of money, you want to make sure you make the right decision. And we’ve found that after people go through that process and they absolutely love their car, they’ll actually carry around photos of their car in their wallet. Right next to the kids, right? So now, from a social perspective, we’ve seen people obviously posting pictures of the cars that they love. We’ve got so many enthusiasts across so many platforms. They love showing off their photos and making them artsy and bringing that emotion to life in a very visual way.

BI: Is there a guy at Ford who is the official voice of Mustang? Does Mustang have a voice that’s different, or has a different character? Do you think about that?

SM: We do. And we absolutely need to make sure that all of our nameplates are distinct. A Mustang fan, by and large, is going to be very different from a Ford Focus electric fan, and needs to be spoken to in a different way. So it really comes to our brand managers who really understand those brands really well, who work together in kind of a SWAT team approach with a communications lead, a marketing lead, and a social media lead to kind of operate those particular voices on the platforms.

BI: Does Ford have a reputation risk?

SM: I don’t think so, but it’s not where we’d like it to be. We are certainly the best in the US industry, but our real competition is the imports. And that’s where we need to be, particularly in the coastal areas, where typically imports have dominated.Related:

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