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As the newest Fortune 500 list came out this morning, we've pulled two of the top 10 to be today's competitors in our Twitter showdown: General Motors (ranking 5th on the list) and Ford (who came in 9th). 

Everyone knows how passionate people are about their cars but will their standings on the Fortune 500 reflect how they are doing in the social space? Let's find out.

Ford

In recent years, Ford has been looked at as a lead player in the social space. Since Scott Monty, Ford's head of social media, joined in 2008, Ford have pushed forward with a unified social strategy that been used to build strong communities of customers, advocates, and more recently, software developers, engineers, designers and scientists. 

Not only is Monty building this social strand for Ford but he is looked to as an expert in the field as he writes about the intersection of advertising, marketing and PR. In fact, he has almost 74,000 followers on Twitter, which surpasses the number of followers GM has. Not that numbers matter, but as Monty is putting what he writes about in practice at Ford, it is no wonder he is a go to in the social sphere.

Looking at Twitter, Ford splits its Twitter efforts into two main channels:

  1. @Ford focuses on the corporate side of the company focusing on product, innovation and social. It's run by Scott Monty himself as well as the Ford Social Media Manager, Craig Daitch. For the most part, they link back to Ford's social hub. This site allows you to become a member and you can keep track of your blog comments and any ideas or stories you've submitted. If you do want to take part but don't want to sign up, you can still comment using Facebook sign in.
     
  2. If you mention @Ford but you have a customer service query, @FordService now responds. The handle is managed by a customer service social media team of eight, who are all listed and pictured under the Twitter bio. Ford assists 2000 people per week via social media with the agents assigned issues that remain their responsibility until it is resolved. On average the team tweets responses every 3-6 minutes between the hours of 9-5 ET. They also post their hours of operation and where you can get help when they are not online.

As for sentiment, it's generally neutral to positive. This could be due to the majority of users going offline for customer complaints, or going directly to the dealership. Either way, people seem to like Ford online.

Other Ford social presences

Ford is active across most social platforms including Google Plus where it posts content fit for a socially savvy audience. Who doesn't love I haz Cheezburger style photos to highlight Ford's move to reduce the weight of its vehicles by creating carbon fiber composite-intensive materials 

On Facebook, Ford takes advantage of the timeline feature and starts it's history with a picture of one of the most well know cars on the planet, the Model A.

The cover highlights the Ford headquarters, and though it integrates with the profile picture well, it's not the most inspiring photo for a company that has enough car porn for everyone.

Ford's Facebook account is highly followed with almost 1.5 million followers and over 19,000 people are talking about Ford though Facebook alone.

The Ford online experience

Everything is about integration here and Ford are continuing to build a community to share stories on its own social hub. This hub does highlight all the places you can follow Ford online but stresses over and over again that it wants you to "follow the story." Ford is also pushing into the co-creation territory that is still a distant future for other brands through its "Your Idea" tab.

In an even bolder move toward community building, Ford has recently invested in TechShop, a space that houses high tech equipment for Detroit-area engineers, designers and scientists to innovate on their own time. This is a logical move following the success of its ongoing "Your ideas" section of the Ford social hub, which generated over 3600 submissions during its pilot, and its hundreds strong developer program for Ford SYNC, Ford's voice activated technology that syncs with your phone. 

General Motors

As this is a Twitter show down, let's start with that. General motors uses its Twitter account to, as it states in its bio, bring GM information to Twitter one Tweet at a time. It's run by Mary, Rebecca, Pete and Michael and not only do they use their initials in their tweets so you know who you are talking to, but you can see their pictures, names and personal twitter handles on the background of GM's twitter page.

This is very much a corporate account in terms of the information presented but the tone is light and personal. Some of their tweeters even use a plethora of exclamation marks. The account highlights positive press, responds to its fans and most recently live tweeted GM's earnings, a tactic also used by companies like eBay in order to spread important corporate announcements into the social space. 

As for sentiment, it's generally neutral to positive just as Ford is. When reading the @GM mentions, it's mostly praise and there are not a lot of complaints or customer service issues coming directly to them.

Other GM social presences

General Motors is also on YouTube (people love videos of cars), Flickr (people love pictures of cars) and Facebook.

According to the frequency of posting, it appears GM have abandoned their Flickr accounts for the most part at the end of 2011. As a community, Flickr is no longer at the top of the photo chain with Instagram far surpassing it. That being said, GM has still kept in the widgets for Flickr on a lot of its blogs, so when you click through, it feels like an abandoned channel. If GM is no longer strategically using this platform, then it should remove it from its main pages.

As for Facebook, GM have taken advantage of the new Facebook timeline feature (like Ford) to outline its history as a car manufacturer. Its focus in on the founder rather than its first vehicle and its cover highlights the main GM brand logos.

As a community, its focus is not on customer service and it encourages people to go to its contact us page for assistance where they have options for email, phone or mail. Despite looking throughout its sites, blogs and social channels, there seems to be no way to have queries answered through any official social channels.

With 375,773 likes and 4497 people talking about them, the bigger brand of GM seems to be the quieter of the two car manufacturers.

The GM online experience

This is where things become a little disjointed. The link from Twitter goes to the GM blogs page where there is a list of most of the official blogs GM runs. If you click on the first few more corporate blogs, some of the sections are out of date and it is hard to find links to its main social channels from there.

The next few blogs are region specific and this is where you can really see the community taking shape. Each region has different initiatives and different blog layouts so it lacks consistency with the main brand. There are also links to separate Twitter/ Facebook accounts for either its regional community or a regional initiative. 

This segmented approach makes it hard to find relevant information or to see the great care GM takes with its local communities. It could indicate a lack of strategy for the brand with each separate marketing departments taking it upon themselves to carve a niche in the social space without any regard or awareness of what other factions of the brand are also doing there.

The numbers and the results

Ford far surpasses GM in the land of Twitter according to the infographic by Visual.ly. It talks more, is mentioned more and is followed more. Ford look to be the more social of the two. Its social media strategy is cohesive and connected and you can easily find what you need, when you need it and Ford are also proactive in the social media space for customer service.

So Ford wins today in the social media game but it's still GM who are winning in the battle of real dollars. Will Ford's social media strategy help them surpass GM in the financial game moving forward? With the release of today's Fortune 500 list, they haven't done it yet but Ford is definitely creeping up there.

 

Heather Taylor

Published 8 May, 2012 by Heather Taylor

Heather Taylor is the Editorial Director for Econsultancy US. You can follow her on Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.

236 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

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annalisa

I work for GM... and while this is interesting, this comparison seems incomplete as GM is not a nameplate brand - our products are sold through Chevy, GMC, Cadillac and Buick (not to mention our global brands) whereas the Ford brand is represented by Ford and Lincoln respectively. So you are comparing a corporate presence vs. a corporate/brand presence - which is not a fair comparison. In my opinion, if you really want to go head to head - you need to throw in all of GM's brands to get the total picture.

over 4 years ago

Heather Taylor

Heather Taylor, Editorial Director at Econsultancy

Hi Annalisa,

We chose to take two companies from the top of the Fortune 500 who were in the same industry so GM and Ford stood out for that. But, if you look at Chevrolet vs Ford (lets say), I would argue that there is still more engagement from Ford on Twitter: http://bit.ly/JVuS9d Ford also pulls in it's social platforms into a social hub and uses it to good effect.

If GM did the same and I could have a picture of what it was doing across all its brands, then it would be an easy comparison. But the brands live separately and social doesn't appear to be as much at the core as it does for Ford. It's there, yes, but it's not integrated. If you would like to provide us with more details of your integrated social strategy, I believe our readers would love to see it.

Thanks for reaching out!

over 4 years ago

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Jetson Gospel

I totally agree with annalisa here, I guess Ford is very much involved on Twitter but, Ford Service is a single service channel that Ford uses whereas GM used service handles for Cadillac (CadillacCustSrvc) Chevy, Buick separately etc.

Heather, I am curious to know is "@Ford" was counted as a mention or "Ford" was counted as a mention.. Typically being in the industry I know for fact that "Ford" brings in ton of Harrison Ford, Tons of Ford Dealership mentions like Northwestern Ford etc.

Jetson Gospel(https://twitter.com/#!/jetsongospel)

over 4 years ago

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