Ford tries the ultimate social media experiment

The American Big Three automobile companies are in big trouble. while they seem to be relying more on government bailout money rather than really innovating Ford is going to be to be entering the social media world in a big way this year.

In advance of their new sub-compact model, the Fiesta, hitting the market Ford is going to be handing a set of keys for the Fiesta to one hundred web savvy drivers. The drivers will be given a Fiesta for six months, along with auto insurance and gas, during which time they can post their impressions about the car to such social media services as YouTube, Flickr and Twitter.

The one hundred people were selected based on two scores which Ford referred to as a social vibrancy rating which is based on how much the applicant was followed online and across how many platforms. this was combined with and over all grade on creativity, video skills and their ability to hook a viewer within the first five to ten seconds.

Ford has agreed on a hands off approach once the keys are handed over to the selected people. It will have no control of what is being put online. This could be dangerous for Ford should there be any negative opinions about the car but that appears to be a chance they are willing to take.

When Ford first tossed around the idea of loaning 100 cars without the ability to control what the drivers might say, Ford’s sales chief emerged as the leading internal skeptic.

“I was like, ‘Nah, go to Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica [Calif.], go to Royal Oak [Mich.] on a hot night with the kids out for ice cream,'” said Jim Farley, Ford’s global vice president for sales and marketing. “Pull up with 10 vehicles, give away free T-shirts, have people do test drives, broadcast the whole thing on the Web.”

Mr. Farley said his reluctance softened when a group of sons and daughters recruited from Ford’s largest dealers endorsed the six-month online effort.

“The interest in the Web [campaign] had far exceeded my expectations,” he says. “My hunch was pretty traditional.”

Source: Wall Street Journal Online

Personally I tip my hat to Ford for this initiative as it really is a pretty gutsy move on their part especially since they expect some negative reports about the car. At this point the 100 people have been selected and the experiment is slated to start later this month. Below is the audition video from Brad Nelson one of the winners