Ford CEO Tries Out Twitter and YouTube. But To What Effect?

Posted by: David Kiley on April 23, 2009

Anyone who knows or has spent time with Ford CEO Alan Mulally knows that he finds it hard to leave his “Isn’t this neat?” persona. Mulally, who came to Ford from Boeing, wanted to be an astronaut when he was a kid, and that enthusiasm and Americana comes out of his pores when you spend any time with him.

This video, posted to Ford’s YouTube channel shows Mulally in shirt sleeves getting acquainted with Twitter.

The video shows him sitting with Ford’s chief Tweeter, Scott Monty, dictating his answers to questions submitted on Twitter.

I confess, I am still working out the benefits of Twitter. I am tweeting, and am collecting new followers every day. But so far, for me, it is a little like drinking eight glasses of water a day. I’m not sure what good it does me, but I know it can’t hurt. And there is research on both sides of the issue.

Corporations and their CEOs have struggled for a few years to know just how to take advantage of blogging and social media. Now, it’s Twitter.

While I like the cross-media tie here between Twitter and YouTube, I think what I want to see from CEOs using social media is more attention to delivering meaningful content rather than flat-out commercials.

The exchange here shows Mulally answering a question about what he thinks the best or most important Ford cars are. Clearly, he took it to mean Ford brands only. He rattles off all the Ford passenger cars in the U.S., plus the European Ka, which probably isn’t coming to the U.S. Asked about utility vehicles, here again Mulally rattles off all the Ford SUVs.

I hope this was just a “get your feet wet” chapter for CEO Mulally and Twitter, so he could see what it was about. Cuz, it ain’t exactly Frost-Nixon.

The recipe for this sort of thing should be a combination of real, substantive questions and answers, mixed in with a little light-heartedness.

Here is a CEO with a lot to say, and a lot to tell people who are looking at Ford vehicles and Ford Motor Co. anew. The press lately has been great for Ford. Its vehicles are being well-reviewed. Quality ratings are up. People are taking notice. Mulally is hailed as the only CEO in Detroit who knows what he is doing, while GM and Chrysler flirt with bankruptcy. Show it a bit more.

Let’s get some dynamism going here boys. It’s video. It’s Twitter. If people think you have something to say, they’ll go looking for you in the future. If they tune in, and see Mulally and Monty elbowing each other and giggling like two guys who cut school for the day…not so much.

Reader Comments

Scott Monty

April 23, 2009 6:53 PM

Hi David,

Thank you for taking the time to focus on this. As you know, Ford has been doing a lot in the way of social media of late. It's part of our overall communications strategy in demonstrating that Ford is different, and it allows us to interact with consumers in a new way to discuss on our fuel-efficient, fantastic new vehicles.

Twitter can be hard to understand. I've been using it for well over two years, so I'm pretty conversant in the benefits and nuances of it. But when I first began using it, I gave it up for a few weeks. It probably took me a good 2-3 weeks to get the hang of it and really understand how to use it. Part of it is about using the search capability, and another part is understanding how to interact with people there. If you need any pointers, I'd be happy to spend some time with you (I know you're local).

I appreciate your perspective in the post here. While we did want to answer questions directly (and there's only so much Alan can say publicly about products, their launch dates, and future plans, you understand), the point of the exercise was to show people how accessible, human and likable Alan really is. For a reporter like you who already knows who Alan is and what he's made of, it's no big deal. But for the general American public - who may not even know that Alan is the CEO of Ford - it's a huge eye-opener.

The video is only meant to be a window; the full transcript of the conversation is available at: http://www.thefordstory.com/planandprogress/ford-ceo-mulally-engages/

We'll be continuing to investigate other ways to connect with our constituents and that may include Twitter, video, live chat, blogging, etc., but to be clear, what we're witnessing in the digital communications field right now is unheralded - changes occurring at light speed and content creation that can come from just about anyone. We're learning as we go. But we expect to be there on the forefront and to keep innovating in our communications, just as we are with our vehicles.

Thanks again for sharing. This is an important way for us to learn how to continue to improve.

Scott Monty
Global Digital Communications
Ford Motor Company
http://thefordstory.com

Check us out at Twitter at http://twitter.com/Ford

Tony Caliando

April 25, 2009 5:09 AM

I'd love to know how much Ford's chief Tweeter earns per year. That a CEO can't type and has time to canoodle like this is really just stunning.

frankloweser

April 25, 2009 2:50 PM

I agree. I think Mulally is doing a great job. But I'd like to hear more substantive things.

mmusa

April 27, 2009 9:44 AM

I don’t see anything wrong with being a bit lighthearted. One certainly does not want to come across stuffy in such a situation. It might also be representative, intentional or not, of what appears to be Ford’s improving position.
On the other hand, in times like these, especially with the auto industry on the ropes, it’s important to project a certain seriousness in these matters to inspire confidence. More info in the answers would have been better but we are talking about Twitter where your comments are very limited. It’s really a judgment call and different approaches could be taken at different times. In any case, it’s good to see a major corporation taking the social media concept all the way to the top.
BTW, how about a Twitter session from the test track or the factory floor either with Alan or an engineer or someone on the line?

dee

May 6, 2009 10:23 PM

Maybe less time spent tweeting and billions in tv advertising and I could get the new ford I should be getting especially since I was mailed a price reduction letter from my dealership. And, to find out that my 3 year old focus which is in great shape and has all highway miles is worth only $4,500 ...Are you kidding? I will never get out of this upside down loan they put me in. I am outraged to the max. KMA Mulally

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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