It was only a few short months ago that I picked up the phone at RD2 and met Ammar Khan of Ford Canada for the very first time. He was contacting us because he wanted to create the best blog imaginable for Ford Canada. Ammar held BlogSouthwest.com in high regard and asked a lot of questions about our process for working with the team at Southwest Airlines to build such a stable community platform. My reply to Ammar, “It’s been a journey, and a very rewarding one.” His reply, “We’ll need to go through that journey in weeks, rather than months.”
During the course of our working with Ammar and his team to build this new community home base for Ford Canada, we implemented every trick in the book, some old and some new. Ford Canada endeavored to create their social media home base the right way, rather than the easy way. We’re so pleased to have had the opportunity to work with Ammar and his team. We hope this post in some way helps others to understand a little more about what it takes to create this Ford Blog.
4 in 6 – Four Ways Online Social Properties Have Changed in Six Years
- Building online social properties is no longer an experiment for corporations. It’s the real deal, with real conversations that connect to measurable benefits for both the companies facilitating the conversations and the audience.
- In the beginning, it was common practice to host a blog on a provider platform and pay as little as $30.00 per month; the rationale for spending more was difficult to justify. These “cut-rate” hosting solutions don’t meet the demands for big corporate blogs today.
- Brands are no longer limited to the breadth and depth by how they can control their brand’s presence through design on a given platform. Blogs and community platforms can be beautiful, engaging, and can offer an extension of brand.
- Content teams have transformed from company employees who passionately blog during their day job (nights and weekends), to highly organized content creation and response teams. They have the tools, the plan, the people, the experience, and an audience. Not long ago were the days that even BlogSouthwest.com was managed by one or two people who wanted to engage their community. Now they have an entire social media team.
Ford Canada wanted to create a key social property to speak directly to the Ford Canada audience. The team at Ford Canada wanted to have its own voice in the Ford social landscape and they wanted to do so by building a best-in-class blog.
So, how does Ford Canada prepare its home base blog property to become part of the enormous (http:// http://blog.ford.ca/) Ford Social ecosystem? Following are some high level critical steps to plan for success.
User Experience Planning, Design, and Technology:
- Personas – Position your blog persona from the perspective of your audience. Ford paid special attention to the characteristics of the anticipated user base. They know this demographic well and are very focused on communicating to them the way they want to be communicated with.
- The forgotten audience – Don’t exclude your content team, they are an audience too. They will not only watch, read, and listen, but they will also interact and they need a clear understanding of how to do so with the chosen toolset.
- Inspiration – Look both inside and outside of the industry. Only looking at competitors will lead you to behaving like them if you are not careful. Go deep and wide on the research.
- Prototyping and User Testing – Ideas and concepts must move into fast prototyping, starting at low fidelity (sketches and wireframes) to high fidelity (full color design compositions). This is a facilitated process with key constituents at Ford and with an audience that fits the Ford customer demographic.
- Mobile, it’s not an afterthought – The Canadian community demographic using mobile devices is relatively larger than that of the United States, as such, Ford and RD2 are implementing near-term and future phase strategies to step the audience into this mode of communication.
- Make it look amazing – Have you seen the new Ford automobile lineup lately? The Ford brand is working hard to make its lineup look fantastic and any Ford online social property should work just as hard to uphold the brand image.
- Use the best tools on earth – WordPress is a proven tool. It’s the most commonly used blog platform and has had years of refinement. It does the job extremely well for many big blogs and it’s easy to rally a content team within its user interface.
- Plugins? Be Selective – The available plugins for WordPress is like a deep ocean. For big blogs, our short list looks more like a puddle. Ford Canada will evolve its blog and it will also manage versions and upgrades to WordPress. Ford Canada will want and need to be nimble and would rather be enabled by plugins rather than constrained by them.
It Takes a Village
Currently Ford has over 9 million Facebook fans and many millions more on distributed social channels. What’s been amazing about this project is that we worked with an entire team at Ford Canada whom we have never actually met in person. As you might imagine, a blog such as Ford Canada launches with various additional campaigns that are run in parallel. We’ve met some tremendous people who have been rock solid to deal with.
On behalf of RD2, I’d like to extend gratitude to the following for their participation both at Ford and an agency in Canada called Sonic Boom. Thanks Ammar Khan and the Ford Canada Team. Also thanks to Mark McKay, Helen, Rannie, and Richard Zeidel for their tireless efforts in working through the parallel activities and for great leadership in content. You are a team of amazing people and we are so glad to have had the chance to work with you!
And Now for the Screen Shots