Fords Missed Social Media Opportunity

by Scott Bishop on January 8, 2010

I really find it fascinating and yet unbeleiveable when a large brand or company jumps into social media…and seems to kind of “not get it”.

How is this possible?  With millions of marketing dollars dedicated to huge in-house teams, and an additional large chunk of cash tossed at Marketing or PR agencies…shouldn’t somebody be coming up with mind blowing ideas?

Yes social media is a fantastic way for a brand to create a true connection with customers.  And yes, social media is a medium in which you can truly create a personality online.  But not every social media platform is a good idea for your brand.  Not every social media tool makes sense for your product.

WILL BRANDS PLEASE CREATE VALUE!

Case And Point:

Today Ford announced that they’re producing lines of cars that Tweet.  Of course this got my attention becasuse I can see there actually being a sensible way to connect a car to your social networks.  Unfortuanely, it doesn’t appear that the Ford cars will do that.

According to Ford, they will produce a range of vehicles which can read motorist’s twitter messages to them as they drive down the street.  You can read the full article HERE.

Uhhhh, that’s it?  You’re tying a motor vehicle to my social networks and all it’s going to do is read me Tweets?  Rather than listen to a creepy robot voice, I’ll stick with my Sirius radio and read my own tweets…from my phone.

This is another case of a BIG brand getting into social media only because it’s popular, and not thinking about the value.  Ford will use this to say they’re saving lives from this “innovation” by keeping drivers less distracted.

To me, it’s just a missed opporuntiy where a tired brand could really make a splash.   This is actually a shame, because Ford is doing good things in the social media space.  But I think they missed a real opportunity here.

Why not have a car that adds value to your social networks?

As @calebgardner suggested in an online conversation with me…

@caleb

Now that would be some features.  Now we’re talking value!

How about these truly social innovations:

  • What if the car had a facebook app that tracked your trips?
  • What if the car could tweet your gas mileage so you can track how you’re doing
  • What if you received a coupon sent to your phone when you needed maintenance
  • What if your car sent a message on Twitter & Facebook when you have car trouble so your friends can help out
  • What if your car tweets you music selections based on your MP3′s you play

Or if you really want to get original:

Why not have your car come with it’s own profile that you customize.  Then your car sends Tweets to you about what radio station you’re listening to, the car facts, etc.  Then you truly give a connection and personality to your car.

There are many reasons for big companies and brands to jump into social media…but just signing up makes them seem uncreative and more like they’re trying to catchup.

If you’re going to play with social media…WOW us with some real value and truly innovative ideas.

(Note: Ford is including a Pandora app as well…and I do think that is a great feature.  But the Twitter thing blows my mind)

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Scott S. Bishop is editor for Real Time Marketer and a marketing strategist with a specialty in social media.  He is an avid blogger and active across the net.  He is @thescottbishop on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/calebgardner Caleb Gardner

    Definitely agree with you, Scott. Not only does this seem foolish, but it seems like it would be a safety hazard. There are other ways Ford (which, I agree, is usually good at this stuff) could approach integrating the social sphere in a more thought out way.

    At least they're thinking about it at all, I guess.

  • sbishop

    I agree, I do think that it may actually be dangerous. Another distraction in the car is not a good thing. While I do think it's good that Ford is trying…I just find it insane that with a basically limitless marketing / innovations budget, this is what Ford comes up with.

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  • http://SPOTonChicago.com/ Brad Hogenmiller

    I have to disagree a bit here. They found from studies that physically talking on a phone has little to no effect on reaction time or safety. Having tweets read to you doesn't seem to be a safety threat so I think they're ok on that front. Does it make a ton of sense for most people? Nope. Think if you're going on a long roadtrip though… having your tweets read now and then might be nice.

    It's more of a hook for existing applications from what I understand. It's not like Ford built a twitter app for their cars, unless I read the keynote wrong. I think the Telegraph article is a bit misleading. They are allowing apps like Twitter, Pandora, etc(any apps really on any app store due to some fancy bluetooh voodoo magic) to be tweaked to work in their cars and the “MyFord” platform.

    Just my two cents. Creating something like an app store for your car seems like a good idea in my book.

  • http://scottmonty.com scottmonty

    Thanks for the reference to Ford, but I'm going to disagree with your assessment of this as a “missed opportunity.” I hope you take the opportunity to read more deeply about what we're doing, because it definitely is more than that – including having a browser and RSS reader available in the 8-inch center stack panel for internet access when the vehicle is in park. The challenge, of course, is how to do this in a way that doesn't compromise driver safety.

    What we've done is given drivers a simpler, smarter, safer way of doing the things they already do. As you say yourself, you'll stick to looking at your phone. Bad decision, based on the studies we've seen. Any significant time of eyes off the road is dangerous. Our voice-activated system (which also includes Pandora, btw), lets the driver keep his or her attention where it needs to be.

    Ford's first priority is safety. Anything that goes into our cars has to improve – not erode – the safety of our drivers and their passengers. Given that consumers will be using their connected devices in vehicles, our option is to make that experience a safer one.

    These are just beginning efforts. Our software developer kit (SDK) will be opened to other partners for new apps in the coming months. We also recently announced the ability to make our cars wi-fi hotspots for passengers. Stay tuned for more developing news on Ford & technology.

    Scott Monty
    Global Digital Communications
    Ford Motor Company
    @ScottMonty

  • sbishop

    Scott, thanks so much for the comment. I have full confidence that Ford and other car makers do everything possible to ensure safety. I'm a proponent of personal responsibility and rarely think accidents are any ones fault but the drivers.

    As far as the social media features…to kind of piggy back off of what Brad commented…I think it was the wording of the article that drew my criticism. If the article focused on the overall strategy of featuring Apps, Twitter being one of them, I think I would have agreed that this is a good feature. As noted at the end of the post that I was all for Pandora being offered.

    Having a focus on apps inside of the car can be powerful stuff. However, (not to the fault of you or Ford) the article made it seem like this was Ford's answer to the popularity of Twitter. Or maybe I just read into it incorrectly. The “missed opportunity” I was speaking of was not taking advantage of new ways to utilize twitter with an automobile. If those are coming down the road then fantastic! Perhaps my skepticism comes from the viewpoint that large brands generally have a broad misunderstanding of social media. I know Ford has been a leader in this space and I look forward to those coming.

    I will certainly read the article you have provided and keep up with Ford's innovations coming down the pike. Kudos to your monitoring and even picking up this blog. Thanks for stopping by…I do appreciate your insights and comment.

  • sbishop

    Thanks for the comment Brad! I don't think it's a direct safety concern…but anything in your car can create a distraction. But I'm all for personal driver responsibility and would never blame a feature for an accident.

    I am in complete agreement that an app strategy is a good thing. But I thought the article made it seem like this was their answer for Twitter. I'm prob warped from too many other big brands not taking advantage, or worse, just not getting social media. I know that Ford is a leader in the space and I hope they have more innovative (or at least what I consider innovative) features with Twitter. Because I do think great things can come from it.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • http://SPOTonChicago.com/ Brad Hogenmiller

    Scott maybe you can clear this up… but is this really going to be compatible with app stores from Android, Apple, Palm, etc as long as they have the right bluetooth profiles? If that's so it's one of the more impressive uses of bluetooth I can remember. I don't know how that's technically possible across different phone software… but it's a sharp move.

    I applaud ford for having the sensibility not to make their own app store and just hook into existing ones. Compare that to companies like Samsung, trying to make their own app store specific to their TV's or HP making apps specific to their printer. They could take your approach and add compatibility to apps people already have out of stores they already use and it's a win for everyone. Way to take the mantra of “go to the audience… don't make them come to you” to heart.

    Take it from a disillusioned former Ford car salesman… this made my day.

  • http://SPOTonChicago.com/ Brad Hogenmiller

    I agree, if this was Ford just making their own Twitter app to play “me too” I'd be rolling my eyes. This makes legitimate business sense and manages to bring 'snackable' content to cars.

    The wildcard will be what kind of a field day will hackers end up having with this stuff… :)

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  • http://tdhurst.com tdhurst

    All I want my car to do is transform and blow shit up. I do NOT have any desire for it to Tweet. Why is convergence such a big deal now? Why must I have access to Twitter in my car?

    Now my TV can tweet, my XBox 360 can, my computer can, my phone can, my bird can…

  • http://scottmonty.com scottmonty

    Hey Scott, sorry if I jumped to a conclusion at the headline. With so much going on at CES and the volume of coverage about Ford, I probably wasn't thorough enough.

    And I think that's an ongoing theme. Much of the coverage we've seen has focused on one element, or hasn't taken into account the level of safety considerations that we've given to these new developments. It's unfortunate, but perhaps unsurprising, as everyone is suffering from information overload and media outlets compete to see who can post an article first.

    On my way out last night, I ran into the Connectivity / SYNC team and they're interested in brainstorming for the next apps to pursue for development purposes. Believe me, I've got a few ideas there! ;-) And we're going to be mulling around how we engage with the community to be part of that ideation process as well.

  • http://scottmonty.com scottmonty

    Hi Brad. Our existing SYNC system uses Bluetooth to connect with most phones, so from that perspective, we're all set. In terms of connecting to the apps, it's not quite as straightforward as you seem to be indicating. What will happen is that we'll target select apps (like Pandora, for example) and develop that for the system (in conjunction with community developers or the app developers themselves).

    We can't simply open up the MyFord ecosystem to any app because of safety concerns. We want to be sure we're fully engaged with the developers so we can work through a variety of angles and situations to determine how this affects drivers' attention behind the wheel.

    But you're absolutely dead on: we have no interest in creating a Ford app store; our legacy in technology will be that we'll make it simple for our customers to integrate their existing digital lives into our vehicles. They've already got enough subscriptions, gadgets and passwords to last them three and a half lifetimes. :-)

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  • http://SPOTonChicago.com/ Brad Hogenmiller

    So say for Pandora… Is that Pandora from Palm Blackberry Apple AND Android?

    -=Brad

  • sbishop

    I think opening the software developers kit can open up endless opportunities. It will be interesting to see what can come from that and even if new business models will be created. Thanks for the comments Brad.

  • sbishop

    I don't think you jumped to a conclusion Scott. I was a jab on my part, but again…I'm probably way too jaded and didn't give Ford enough credit to the opportunities coming down the pipeline. Although, the more I think about complaining that big brands don't utilize social media tools enough, my real beef may be with the media's coverage of it.

    I'll def be interested to see what you and your team come up with…please keep me informed and I'll do my best to get the word out. Thanks for the comments and the information. And again, kudos to your monitoring and efforts to get information out.

  • http://scottmonty.com scottmonty

    It's Pandora on whatever Bluetooth-enabled device you bring into the car.

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  • http://detroit.fwix.com Jamie Favreau

    I know the technology is coming. But do we really have to be that connected? I mean there needs to be some down time somewhere.

    What you suggested is a great idea but at the same time. But I just think there needs to be some downtime.

  • http://www.iwritemarketing.com CarlPhelps

    I disagree with your overall assessment that Ford has somehow missed the boat on social media. In fact, they have been a leader in the space – http://iwritemarketing.com/blog/?p=221

    Ford seems to kind of “get it.”

  • sbishop

    The “missed opportunity” critique was to Ford's new tweeting cars feature, not to their marketing efforts. I agree that Ford absolutely utilizes social media to enhance their marketing and brands…but as far as pure features for their automobiles, I feel that they can better utilize the space. The “missed opportunity” is the valuable features I feel Ford could have offered instead or in addition to just reading tweets. But according to Ford's Scott Monty…they have some cool things coming down the pipeline, so I'll certainly be interested in these future features. Thanks for the comment and stopping by.

  • http://www.yumyucky.com YumYucky

    Ford's idea is lame. The one's you listed are MUCH much better. I'll take those.

  • sbishop

    Hey thanks for the comment! I thought I had some good ideas :) . I'll be interested to see what Ford has does the line. The app ideas could produce some innovations. I hope so!

  • http://www.yumyucky.com YumYucky

    Ford's idea is lame. The one's you listed are MUCH much better. I'll take those.

  • sbishop

    Hey thanks for the comment! I thought I had some good ideas :) . I'll be interested to see what Ford has does the line. The app ideas could produce some innovations. I hope so!

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