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Ford’s Social Media Savvy

There are plenty of reasons for doom and gloom in Detroit.  But the Blue Oval continues to be a glimmer of hope for the U.S. auto industry in terms of its financial outlook relative to GM and Chrysler, quality on par with Japanese manufacturers, sexy engineering, Toyota-beating hybrid technology and social media marketing savvy.

Ford recently ranked highest on the Social Media Index, and its venture into social media for the U.S. launch of its Euro-spec Fiesta is just one example of where the company is pushing both brand and product innovation. At FiestaMovement.com, viewers can follow a group of 100 “agents” that have 6 months to accomplish 600 missions in the 2011 Fiesta. Admittedly the site looks rather vanilla and corporate at first glance.  But it incorporates a fundamental of social media most big brands’ forays into the digital world do not.

Rather than viewing its site as a “property” to which to drive traffic, Ford understands that the real power of social media depends on the sharing of useful content across networks. Most corporate social media ventures will fail for a variety of factors.  But Ford realized that to reach the Fit and Civic set, it needed to take a few chances, which is apparent in both the blindingly bright color choices and the brand’s social media philosophy.

Ford makes FiestaMovement.com “agents” easy to follow outside the walls of the site via links to other social media platforms. The company creates intimate portraits of drivers from myriad backgrounds and lifestyles through each agent’s Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube accounts.  Ford doesn’t treat FiestaMovement.com as the ultimate destination.  Rather, the brand is attempting to attach itself to the online persona of each agent, thereby leveraging the agents’ existing social networks to disseminate the brand.

Sure, the agents are a handpicked, cool set of “aspirational” characters and online influencers.  But they’re not the usual suspects.  After all, most big brands might be a little reluctant to link to a podcast featuring the cultural commentary (whatever it might be) of a crucified Jesus ripping himself off of the cross:

Ford’s strategy is to tap into the social networks of the agents themselves, throwing a pebble into the pond and hoping for giant waves ahead of the 2011 Fiesta’s launch in early 2010.  If Ford is smart, it is carefully watching its agents’ social networks to monitor and engage individuals discussing the Fiesta.  And if Ford plays its cards right, it has the ability to gather a sea of actionable data long before the car officially launches.

But arguably the most compelling aspect of the strategy is using the Fiesta’s extremely limited availability to engineer scarcity, driving desirability and demand for the “only available in Europe” subcompact that’s getting early rave reviews.  Oh, wait, isn’t the Jalopnik.com author also an agent?

Missions for the Fiesta agents are scheduled to be announced on April 21.  Stay tuned at FiestaMovement.com, follow Ford CEO Alan Mullaly on Twitter, or check out any of the Fiesta agents across the network.


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