Social Media: Using Social Media to Put Out The Fire

Often when we blog here about what many large corporations are doing online with search and social media marketing it’s to call them out for some blunder or another. We do learn from our mistakes after all, even if the parade of corporate ineptitude can threaten to turn into an America’s Funniest Home Videos-esque montage of proverbial crotch kicks.

Today I’m putting the spotlight on a company that is doing things right, in a situation that threatened to go very wrong.

Ford today sent fansite (dedicated to lovers of their small pick-up trucks) a lawyer’s letter over copyright violations. This sent the dozens of other Ford fan sites, many of which use Ford branded names, into a tizzy over fears that they too would be asked to stop using Ford names in their URL’s and site materials. By the time the story surfaced on major car blogs like Jalopnik and Autoblog the story had been boiled down to Ford’s lawyers asking for $5,000 or the site gets shut down.

So far, so bad.

Luckily Ford’s Head of Social Media Scott Monty ( @scottmonty on Twitter) was keeping track of these developments. Monty was using Twitter to follow the brewing controversy and quickly began responding online.  One post that he began sending out in reply to inquiries was this:

I’m in active discussions with our legal dept. about resolving it. Pls retweet #ford

This let fans and interested parties know that Monty was acting as a window into what was going on online for Ford’s legal and corporate team. He continued to Tweet as he received more information and finally was able to clarify the situation.

It turns out the issue was really the fact that the site was being used to sell counterfeit Ford parts. Beyond posting on Twitter, Monty wisely used TheRangerStation’s own forum to get the message out, clearly in conjunction with the site as they locked the forum to keep the message clean and clear. This was also a great way to win the trust of the site and its followers and even send some traffic their way.

He then made sure to socialize Ford’s response on Twitter to get the word out:

Here is Ford’s official response to the fansite cease & desist debacle #ford Please retweet

The entire lifecycle of this was less than 24 hours – a model of rapid response using social media. A story that was beginning to spread like wildfire on the blogs and social networks was effectively answered using those same tools.

We believe most companies can benefit from using social media not just for outreach, but also to gain insight into what’s being said. When it comes to managing your corporate reputation online, leaving out social media can undermine everything else you do.

Consider the fact that Twitter posts and blog posts can end up in search results for your company’s brand name. They can even rank quite high depending on where and how the user is searching for you. Nipping these problems in the bud can help prevent bigger headaches. As Monty’s response shows, it can even deepen your relationship with fans and influencers online.

For some of the negative examples of badly managed brand reputation online I referenced earlier, you can check out this post, this post, and of course this post, with some good tips on this post.

Responses? Feel free to send me a message or follow me on Twitter at @nmallin .

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