Shel's article on General Motors and Ford, “Shel Israel & the Detroit Wheels,” gives us some insight into how social media is being approached by both companies.
I've been following both GM's and Ford's efforts with blogs for a number of years now. I've been encouraged by the hiring of Christopher Barger at General Motors, as the company's social media leader. Both companies are in a bad state when it comes to customer perceptions, people think that American cars are not as good as Japanese or foreign cars. I don't think social media can change that perception without some changes in the structure and business approaches at both companies. Social media has a role to play in giving business leaders at both companies insight into current customer concerns, and a role in changing perceptions once structural issues are resolved.
Both companies are in a worse position than Dell, yet Dell had similar problems with perception, though thankfully Dell does not have to work against the perception that the smart people don't buy "American," the company merely had to change views about Dell itself.
I've seen how social media and a change in business strategy can adversely affect a company's fortunes, and if managed well help in the process of reviving those fortunes. I hope that social media and a change in business strategy can do the same for Ford and General Motors.