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Will Ford & Auto Industry Be The Web 2.0 Turnaround Story Of 2009?

Roxanne Darling beat me to the punch line with this post,"How Ford Can Ramp Up It's SocialMedia Turnaround Story of 2009." 

In February 2007 I wrote the blog post, "Is Dell The Biggest BloggingStory of 2007?" The post discussed the potential of Dellthrough its use of social media and strategy to become the biggest corporatestory about a company using social media to effectively engage its communityand customers. I think Dell was the story for 2007, and 2008. evengave Dell honors by naming Dell brand of the year.

I really was thinking ahead to 2009, and while I cannothonestly say that Ford, General Motors or Chrysler are at this point conductingthemselves in social media to the extent that Dell was in late 2006 and 2007. Ilike Roxanne Darling hope Ford and its American competitors will be able toclaim awards and the mantel of the biggest social media turnaround story of2009. 

Dell had it easy compared to the American car industry.While Dell struggled with poor customer service perception, the big three havean ingrained poor reputation in the American market. Not just individual carcompanies, or brands, but American car companies in general. Dell never had tofight against Americans perceiving American computers were worse in qualitythan every other country's machines. Yet, that perception is the biggestproblem Ford, GM and Chrysler face today. 

Roxanne Darling shares my passion for social media, and myhopefulness that an American car manufacturer will use social media to tell itsturnaround story to the community. What's personally interesting aboutRoxanne's post is that she reveals that her Father is an ex-Vice President ofMarketing for Ford, and her whole family worked in the industry. 

I don't claim a similar heritage. My Mother's family isBritish. However, my maternal Grandfather, and Great Uncles worked for CrossleyMotors in the 1920's and 30's, working on the construction of buses,locomotives and possibly aeroplanes. I have been a long time car industrywatcher on social media for General MotorsFord and a whole chapter in my book oncorporate blogging about the auto industry.

In her article, Roxanne Darling suggests that social mediacan be used to address some of the obstacles Ford Motor company faces. 

1) Financials.
2) Cultural insensitivity.
3) Time. 

Will there be enough time to change community perceptionsabout Ford and American car manufacturers in general. Though I also think it isabout the car companies developing a different line of vehicles to compete. 

Roxanne suggests social media can address these issues inthe following ways: 

1) Give Scott Monty more money.
2) Inform the public of what Ford is doing.
3) Get control of the brand back from the agency. 

And in detail: 

1. Production: Get rid of the high-pricedvideo production team and inject some humanity into the production.
2. Message: It's off the mark. Here is how I would change it.
3. Conversation: it still barely exists. Here is how I wouldchange it.
4. Distribution: Ford, you are not using video anywhere nearto its advantage. Here is how to ramp it up.
5. Speed: Use live-streaming as much as possible, as peopledon't like to wait.

The Dell turnaround story with social media worked becauseDell focused on changing structural issues as well as using social media tocommunicate directly with customers. Dell improved customer service and updatedits product line. At the same time through micro interactions on blogs andother social media technologies Dell changed people's minds one by one.Structural issues are critical for success whether you are Dell, Ford, GM orChrysler. But just as social media rapidly brought down Dell in the Dell Hellstorm, once the structural issue had started to be addressed; social mediahelped Dell to turnaround quickly. 

Here's my take on what Ford and other American carmanufacturers can do with social media to help make selves the social mediaturnaround story of 2009: 

1) Listen: Use social media for listening.
2) Engagement: Engage customers when they have problems.Acknowledge their issues and demonstrate that you are going to either dosomething about their issues, or why you cannot.
3) Triage Infrastructure: Develop a company infrastructure fortriaging social media conversations about Ford and other American carmanufacturers. If the dealer network is a problem where customer service issuesare not dealt with by Ford directly. Either help dealers build theinfrastructure, or build that infrastructure and pass on the customer supportissues to dealers. Make sure any customer issues are resolved.
4) Measurement: Measure sentiment about Ford, the American carindustry, and brands. Report on the current of sentiment in social media in thesame way you report on sales and profits by quarter. Like Dell your goal shouldbe to move the negative rating lower. Once you start changing perceptions insocial media there should be a knock on effect with traditional media, as myarticle on intermedia issues indicates, “Making Sense Of IntermediaAgenda-Setting For Social Media Marketing.” 

A number of people don't agree with the Government's autobailout and think that it would be better for the American car manufacturers togo into bankruptcy. I don't personally agree with them. But I was thinking thatthere may be something that everyone who is a user and advocate for socialmedia can agree upon, bailout aside. The plan and path for Ford and other carmanufacturers need to take to succeed.

 1) Structural reform (Ford looks well on the way here) 

2) Use social media to communicate with customers for listening, and resolvingissues and in so doing telling the new story through action. 

Dell succeeded because the company understood the power ofpublic relations and connecting with people in their customer community. Thecompany also understood it was important to connect with social mediainfluential people on the web and in person. Ford and the other carmanufacturers have to get social media enthusiasts on their side; you can dothat by structural reform, but also by enabling your social media managers tobuild the same sort of infrastructure Dell built and connect with yourcustomers directly. Then reach out to the community and don't be afraid aboutrevealing all the facts about where you failed and succeeded. That transparencywill help you to become the social media turnaround story of 2009.


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Join The Conversation

  • Jan 30 Posted 6 years ago NikolasJosh Social media is at this moment the most powerful marketing tool there is. It reaches millions of people from all over the world. If companies like Ford or GM would know how to exploit the potential of social media, they would have a real chance to go through this recession without any real problems. Nikolas Josh - Mercedes Parts Geek
  • Dec 19 Posted 8 years ago TreyGoff T is for Tata, not turnaround. The fabled turnaround hasn't happened in real life. But your paragraph is a great example of how an increasingly incestuous social media creates jobs. Being an evangelist or data miner or a privacy invader is the 21st century equivalent of working for the Civilian Conesrvation Corps or the National Recovery Agency during the era of  FDR and the Great Depression. You want reform, tell Obama to green light the importation of the $3000 Tata from India. It's all global, innit? As for Dell and Ford and turnarounds in the ether, neither company helps me avoid default on my mortgage. Have you driven a Tata lately?
  • Dec 19 Posted 8 years ago JeffLouella is this one big paragraph.

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