Recent campaigns have set the pace for Ford as a social trailblazer in the auto industry. Mapping out Ford’s social media strategy is head of social media Scott Monty. The Drum’s Stephen Lepitak caught up with Monty at the Social Media World Forum to discuss the company’s plan to drive social into every aspect of the Ford culture, including its people.
You’re an advocate of brands being transparent and trustworthy within social. Where do you feel Ford is in terms of its own strategy and how do you ensure that you remain transparent?
The beauty of the way Ford works is that it comes from the top down. We saw an incredible transformation within our business when Alan Mulally joined as CEO in September 2006; transparency is one of the key tenants that he brought to the leadership team.We have to be honest with each other and be completely transparent about where we are with our business plan. He [Mulally] has a business plan review every week, and he expects every direct report to him – about 15 or so from around the world – to give a summary of their region of responsibility of the business within 5-10 minutes, and it’s colour coded green, yellow and red. You know where you are on plan. If you’re green, you’re fine. If you’re yellow, things are a little off but you’re getting back, but if it’s red then you’re off plan and you don’t have any plan to get back on track.By being transparent like that, by letting managers stand up and say ‘there’s a problem here’, what we’ve all found is that other managers will step in and say ‘I’ve seen that before in another part of the world. Let me see if I can get my team on it.’ And then suddenly it’s everyone working together for the benefit of the entire enterprise.So that culture change, which has been driven by Alan’s leadership, has started to permeate throughout the entire organisation. And the beauty is, it’s completely parallel with what the world of social media expects out of us.Consumers expect that kind of transparency now. They appreciate being brought in behind the scenes. They like to know what’s going on, even if we don’t have a fully baked answer yet. So we’re seeing culturally within Ford, a complete consistency across leadership and social media that makes this possible. A large part of the strategy is ensuring people are engaged and feel like part of the company. How do you make sure this is the case?
It’s not easy, but I think that one of the things that we did early on, establishing a set of social media guidelines for the company, gave everyone a roadmap for what we expected of them.Previously, they had been told to completely avoid talking about Ford online while being given business cards and incentives to talk with people in real life. Why should online be any different? We have been helping them understand that what they have been doing, in an analogue fashion, is completely congruous with what they could be doing in a digital fashion.So really we’re just giving them the permission to go out and do that. Then by happenstance, sometimes by holding training courses and finding the people that are passionate about this stuff, you can give them the ability to go and do more.This has been achieved in quite a short space of time. How big a process has it been for you to implement your social media strategy?
It’s not done. We feel like we’re just at the tip of the iceberg with this stuff, because ultimately the desire is to create a culture of social media throughout the company. My focus has been primarily has been externally to date, and we need to take that focus and turn it internally to really build the infrastructure and to really start to build out those training and education programmes.Internal communications is something that a lot of companies are only just beginning to realise the importance of. Why do you think that is?
I don’t know. People are so busy and tied up with what they already know: email and spreadsheets and whatnot. For us, doing an internal transformation is just as important as doing the stuff externally. We already have blogs and Wikis and Sharepoint, and Yammer. We have lots of tools out there, but they’re all floating and nothing’s really brought them all together yet.Companies seem to be crying out for just that – a tool that pulls all these platforms together. Do you think something like this will hit the market soon?
I hope so. We have a great group of IT professionals called The Digital Worker Group and they are the ones who are responsible for all of those tools and a lot of it is geared towards people who work remotely and gives people the ability to use a personal device with corporate email. So, teaming up with The Digital Worker Group and using their talents alongside the talent we’ve already got, should be a one-plus-one equation, where hopefully one-plus-one equals three.Which platforms have been particularly important in developing your strategy?
I don’t think the platform is as important. It’s important to define the tools. We’re kind of agnostic. We use Sharepoint right now and we’ve got a lot of legacy systems that we’ve custom built, but perhaps don’t have room for some of the social functions. We’re going to have to make a very honest assessment of that, but culture first, tools second and people around it all.Can you use too many platforms? And how do you go about deciding which are best?
We need to have a common platform across the company, and quite frankly, one that is able to go outside of the firewall as well, because we have so many suppliers, partners and vendors that need to have access to it. We need that kind of flexibility.How important is social media to Ford? Is it revolutionising the company?
Fundamentally, it’s tied to our business goals and it’s tied to our marketing and communications goals. It’s not a standalone strategy itself and as such, just as the marketing division is driving us or the communications organisation is driving us, social media fits right in there.How has the use of your spokespuppet ‘Doug’ changed the strategy in recent years?
For my first couple of years, we were more in crisis mode, responding to external factors and now I feel we’re in a building and growth mode, and that’s a very different position to be in. We’re so laser focused on the plan and we’re seeing the fruits of its success coming from that. Now we’re finding ourselves in a leadership position, quite frankly, and a position to be able to take it to the next level. It’s a whirlwind position and it’s been quite gratifying to see it all come together.What can we expect to see from Ford in the future?
In the US we have a programme called Escape Route, a tie-up with NBC. It’s a prime-time show, and there’s going to be an online component that can be played at home. We’ve got six teams going to six different cities, one city a week, and in that city we’re giving people the chance to interact with challenges. People at home can play along and interact with the team online after the show is over. That’s one of our big efforts, but you’ll continue to see us innovating and trying to beat ourselves. We’re our worst competitor.