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Ford Seeks Social Business Strategy

Ford Motor Co. is a pioneer in social media marketing and a proponent of enterprise social networking. But its plan for a unified social business strategy is still a work in progress.

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Ford Motor Co. is a pioneer in social media marketing and in enterprise social networking, but if social business means achieving an end-to-end strategy for the uses of social media and social technology, then Ford is just getting started.

"I don't think anybody's really figured it out completely yet," said Scott Monty, global director of social media at Ford. "A lot of people are talking about social business transformation, but to actually execute it at the enterprise level is really, really hard."

Monty is best known for his role in formulating the company's social media marketing programs and as the editor of the Social Media Marketing Blog. He is also user #1 on Ford's Yammer enterprise social network, which has grown to have about 17,000 registered users (about 10% of them active participants). Ford is using Yammer to prove the business value of internal social networking but has not necessarily made a long-term commitment to it as the technology of choice. Meanwhile, Monty is working on a broader social business strategy for the company, although he adds "you've caught us right at the beginning of it."

[ Red Robin CIO Chris Laping, our social business technology leader of the year, will join an onstage discussion of The BrainYard's Social Business Leaders at E2 Innovate, Nov. 12-15, Santa Clara Convention Center. ]

I spoke with Monty as part of our research for a feature on The BrainYard's Social Business Leaders feature that will appear in the Nov. 12 issue of InformationWeek. Although Ford did not nominate itself, I'd spoken with Monty before about Ford's early use of Google+ (where Ford had a company page before other companies were allowed to establish one) and about the auto maker's use of Google+ Hangouts. I'd also seen him speak at Dreamforce, where Ford was highlighted as a prominent user of the Marketing Cloud. After stumbling across a marketing case study on Ford's use of Yammer, I was curious to know whether Ford was trying to pull together these different aspects of social.

Absolutely, Monty said, because the concept of social business meshes so well with the One Ford strategy that CEO Alan Mulally established when he became Ford's CEO in 2006.

"What it was designed to do was break down all the silos around the company around the world," Monty said, noting that at the time some car designs would be introduced in Europe and never make it to the U.S., while other functional divisions impeded collaboration for people who ought to be working together. Mulally wasn't thinking in terms of social technologies when he first articulated this vision, but they present "just an amazing opportunity to start bridging these gaps," Monty said.

Scott Monty

Since joining Ford in 2008, Monty has been seeking out opportunities to use social media to distinguish Ford from the competition. As he said onstage at Dreamforce in September, "we decided it was time to start showing the public that there are people like them in Ford Motor Company." One milestone: When Ford introduced a redesigned edition of the Ford Explorer in 2010, it skipped the usual auto show and auto journalist briefings route in favor of simultaneous announcements in eight cities -- and on Facebook. The Facebook campaign, created using tools from Buddy Media (now part of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud) prominently featured videos about the vehicle from the product managers and engineers, as well as CEO Mulally and celebrity spokesman Mike Rowe. The Explorer "reveal" campaign attracted 99 million social media impressions, became the #1 trending topic on Twitter, and the #2 search for the day on Google.

"We took that as indicator we could be successful in social at the scale we were used to in traditional media," Monty said.

Meanwhile, one of the benefits of bringing social networking inside the company was it shortcut traditional processes. When Monty was planning what became the Summer of Taurus campaign in 2009 (to unveil the 2010 model of that car), he wrote a rough outline of what he wanted and posted it to Yammer, asking whether it could be accomplished by IT or needed to be contracted out.

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