Social media goes global

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Scott Monty, head of social media marketing at Ford Motor Co.
Scott Monty, head of social media marketing at Ford Motor Co.

Though Scott Monty has only been on the job for a few months, he faces a daunting task as Ford Motor Company's new digital/multimedia communications manager: He must take the auto­maker's social media programs — that have not gone much beyond a 2006 video campaign called “Bold moves” and shareable press releases called “digital snippets” — and dramatically expand them across the globe.

“We realize the world is globaliz­ing quickly,” Monty explains. “Social media is lowering [that] barrier.”

Ford is not the only company that realizes the marketing opportuni­ties of social media — from social networks and blogs to videos and photo-sharing — as it expands to every region of the world. However, US brands looking to leverage social networks internationally know that while their messages need to stay con­sistent regardless of the region, the language, cultural reference points, platform and tactics all need to be tailored for each market.

“There are nuances in every coun­try,” Monty explains. “For example, there is a much higher mobile satura­tion in terms of consumer content in Europe and Asia.”

Monty also points out that, while sites such as MySpace and especial­ly Facebook are doing a great job expanding internationally, they face competition from homegrown sites that have popped up quickly and attracted millions of local users.

“There are different social media sites used in Brazil than in India or in the UK,” he says. “So we need to be sensitive what the most popular social media sites in these regions are [as well as] the region-specific differences in the ways people consume content and interact with each other online.”

Social programs boost perception

One of the reasons why Ford is so eager to expand its social media pro­grams is to change consumers' stodgy, corporate perception of the company to one that is technologically savvy appeal to a younger, broader demo­graphic — something Monty com­pares to changing a car's tire while it travels at 60 miles per hour.

The goal requires new strategies, such as the planned global rollout in 2010 of the small, fuel-efficient Fiesta as well as expanding a social media program so it does more than trans­late blog posts and Facebook pages.

“We're interested in the global aspect of social media, but we also realized it has applications across the company,” Monty says. “Whether it is customer service, IT, HR, or prod­uct development, there are a number of uses for social media. And when you add to that all of our constituents — customers, employees, sharehold­ers, dealers, retirees — it becomes a very complex assignment.”

Social media as a marketing vehi­cle is still its infancy, but Shiv Singh, VP of media and global strategies at Avenue A/Razorfish, says most brands already realize that what works in one market may not work in another.

“One of the major reasons why social networks and social media have become a runaway phenom­enon is because it is very localized,” he says. “It is very much a local activity with local friendships and local relationships.”

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