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Live from BlogPotomac 2009: Scott Monty on Using Social Media in a Crisis

Friday, June 12, 2009

Coming to you live from the State Theatre in Falls Church at BlogPotomac, a one-day social media marketing event with nationally renowned speakers and nationally renowned speakers and advanced discussion of best social media marketing practices...

I'm live blogging the session from Ford Motor Company's social media guru, Scott Monty on using social media in a crisis, whose experiences provide essential perspective and best practices for organizations of all sizes and across industries. In a company of 200,000 employees, Monty is Ford's only social media employee.

Here are my notes from Scott's presentation:

-Stephanie Stadler
@stephstad

Scott started his presentation with an overview of TheRangerStation.com crisis. Not familiar? Here's Scott's recap from his own blog:

In short, the issue was that there was a Ford fansite called TheRangerStation.com that received a cease & desist letter from Ford, and the owner posted that Ford was asking for $5,000 and the URL to be turned over. It turns out there was much more to the story. The owner was selling counterfeit Ford goods, and together, we reached a reasonable solution to the situation.
Recalling the Motrin Moms social media debacle, Scott immediately turned to social media to give people a window into his job ("I'm checking with the legal department;" "I'm looking into the matter") instead of remaining silent on the issue.

Once facts started coming out, Monty asked his community to start spreading the word via Twitter and their own communities. Ford used the same method to spread the word about the resolution (which was ulimately reached after Monty had a phone conversation with the site's owner, when he was able to learn about the site owner's concerns, intentions, etc.).

Monty's key lessons for using social media to respond to a crisis:
  • Monitor: Ford uses a number of systems, including the "free stuff" you can get via Google and Twitter. Fortunately for Ford, their community also helps them monitor, and alerts them to things they should be aware of and comment about.
  • Responding: Notion of being transparent; not going quiet. Invite people into the process and take part in it with
  • Leverage your community, especially those who are fans and **want** you to succeed. The circles and networks of people they know are greater than your own.
  • Have a digital hub: an anchor, a place where you can quickly post updates, comments, videos, etc. Ford uses The Ford Story as this hub - it is constantly transforming / under construction, but it is meant to be their social media hub. The Ford Story is a combination of Ford-created content and content by third-party contributors.
Where is Ford moving today?
  • The goal at Ford is to democratize social media across the company to leverage employees (a key audience invested in the company's future).
  • Monty pointed out that the tools are irrelevant - and will always change.
  • But by giving Ford employees guidelines and a process, they are creating a culture of open communication to inside the company.
  • Ultimately, by using social media, Monty's goal is to humanize Ford as a brand, to show who the company and its employees are beyond its blue oval logo.
Other key takeaways:
  • Monty recommends that the social media function sit inside the corporate communications team, because corporate communications serves as the "information gatekeepers" and social media applies to all aspects of a company's brand (services, communications and marketing). TheFordStory.com was a collaboration between marketing and communications (best practices from both teams, and the marketing team uses online banner ads to drive readership on TheFordStory.com), but site is maintained by Monty as part of the corporate communications team.
  • Companies shouldn't be online and using social media to sell products. Ford, according to Monty, is using social media to "increase consideration, build their reputation and engage with customers."
  • Companies need to know when it is appropriate to respond. Not every post or comment requires a response. Sometimes it is hard to sit back and not jump in with a response or a comment of your own, but you have to pull yourself back. What happens? The community responds and helps accurate facts emerge.
  • Respond in the context of where the crisis broke. If it broke with a video, respond with a video. If it broke with a blog post, respond with a comment on that blog.
  • Admit when your company makes an error in the way that it did (or didn't communicate with people), and acknowledge people's feelings. You're never going to win by trying to disprove the statements of those you've upset. Always more economical to keep an existing customer than it is to win a new one.
Want to know what BlogPotomac attendees are saying about Scott Monty's presentation? Follow the conversation online here.

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