Site Name and Description:
Ford Social is the Ford Motor Company’s successor to The Ford Story, the corporation’s original foray into creating a WordPress-based social networking site and online community for Ford owners that also demonstrated its progress towards creating high-quality, environmentally friendly cars and trucks in a transparent manner. The content of the new site is predicated upon “insider” articles and information, user-contributed stories about their Fords and ideas regarding products and services, multimedia content, and integration with existing social networks.
Type: Professional services
The site interface is organized and easy to follow, despite seeming somewhat cluttered. Users can navigate the site by using either the buttons at the top or the bar (which trigger a more detailed drop-down panel) at the bottom of the page that stays fixed atop the content. While the concept is intuitive, it seems the page would be difficult to view for users with lower-resolution screens. The site is careful to have enough common elements with Ford’s main site so as not to alienate users, and users can browse through each other’s stories both textually and via image/video thumbnails, two traits that act in its favor.
The website seems to be targeting a variety of different audiences, and it is not immediately clear what its main focus is. Existing Ford owners, especially loyalist owners who are on their second, third, or fourth Fords, seem to be the users that would enjoy sharing stories and contributing ideas the most (as per the “social” aspect of the site). Yet those savvy enough to engage in social networking and knowledgeable enough about tech and pop culture to be aware of Ford Social tend to be younger audiences–there are increasingly fewer members of those generations who are loyal to one brand and do not cross-shop. The website does seem it would be of interest to the media, industry analysts, and others in the automobile profession interested in learning about the company’s commitment to creating fuel-efficient vehicles.
Ford Social describes itself as “the place to learn, share and chat with Ford insiders and your fellow Ford owners.” Its goals are multi-fold: to connect with owners; to enhance its appeal (and, as an extension of that, its brand equity) to owners and prospective buyers by increasing its social media presence and making itself younger and more “hip”; to demonstrate its commitment to customer satisfaction to the industry at large; and to showcase its latest products and technologies. It is as much a public relations (PR) initiative as it is a professional services site.
Social Media Integration:
Perhaps the website’s greatest strength is its integration of social media. Each link to an article is accompanied by a prominent, readily visible panel where users can Like (Facebook), tweet, or +1 (Google+) the article. Article pages have a scrollable comment pane, the footer includes links to related Facebook fan pages and a real-time feed of relevant Twitter accounts, and there is even a page dedicated to syndicated content from related blogs. That said, the buttons on the footer are finicky and frustrating to use, and the functionality of the navigation in general could use some improvement.
The site is powered by the WordPress CMS, and uses a custom Social Media Press Release theme evidently called “Insider” created by the Social Media Group–though there is criticism that while the decision to use WordPress may have seemed novel and cutting-edge, too small a portion of the website actually requires a CMS to warrant using it for its entirety. It also uses various features from the jQuery library and newer CSS features like embedded fonts using the @font-face selector.
Team Members: Iku and Brad