Luke Dringoli
Luke Dringoli
Editor, Social Networks

Ford Takes on Social Media Off-roading

New cars have always been unveiled at auto shows. Boring and perfunctory auto shows. But on Monday, Ford took the road less (read: never) traveled.

Armed with funny guy Mike Rowe, CEO Alan Mulally, and a truckload of video content, they systematically unveiled their snazzy new 2011 Ford Explorer via its official Facebook page. Absurdly enough, it’s the first time a carmaker has unveiled a fresh model anywhere other than an auto show. Could this spark a new trend in the automotive world? 54 thousand eager fans, excited to check out (and possibly buy!) your new vehicle; or a room full of the industry’s elite, seers of innumerable new car launches, yawning and droopy-eyed. Hmm…

At precisely 7:40 am EST, Ford rolled out its brand new Explorer to their salivating Facebook audience — but not before tantalizing fans with pre-unveil segments with Mike Roe. Ford also used the opportunity to introduce fans to their top executives and the vehicle’s designers throughout a full day’s worth of video content, delving deep into the new 7-passenger model:

And the grand reveal:

Let’s not forget their social media hot shot Scott Monty, who no doubt pushed for and orchestrated the shift away from the normal year-in year-out new model introductions. With his help, Ford’s become one of the best cases yet for applied social media — especially so for aging, distressed brands. That is, if they keep it up. The Explorer’s content-backed social media launch can be seen as but a stepping stone in the brand’s revival.

One such effort executed by us at Story (surprise, surprise) comes to mind here: a blitz we carried out for Dodge’s Ram brand on the day it was announced they’d received the Motor Trend Truck of the Year award. The full-on digital press room served as an informational hub and content source, helping arm and enable real-time publishing.

Granted, breaking the industry mold involves a lot of risk. Last year the official Honda Crosstour Facebook page quickly turned into a hotbed of negativity. it goes to show: if you put yourself out there, you might not like what you get back.

We applaud Ford on taking a risk. If the industry-first Facebook reveal is any indication, the embattled American automaker is becoming the leading example of how US automakers can turn things around—by diminishing expensive ad-spends and shifting their priorities to content production and conversation kick-starters. Keep on truckin’, Ford.