Ford launched a new website, Ford Bold Moves, to showcase the efforts the company is making to make changes with its products back in June of 2006. I looked at the site when it initially launched but thought I'd conduct a deeper review on the results of this social media experiment.
The Ford website has some real server problems. I had trouble loading the videos, and even loading the article-listing page. I think who ever sold the company the website did a poor job of building the site. I had to keep on shutting down a page and reloading the site in another browser.
I noticed on the article listings page there were the following authors listed. So I thought I would read at least one article from each author, count the number of comments from blog readers and determine if any of the authors or Ford editors answered any of the blog reader comments. Here’s the list of 13 writers and someone called Ford Press Release!
Ford Press Release
The first article, "Behind the Curtin: Ford Gives rare access to film crew," Jonny Leahan is the managing editor of Ford Bold moves. Jonny's background was in writing and the film industry. He did not appear to have a background in the automobile industry.
There were 30 comments on the first article. Most of the comments were positive, though there were a few negative comments. Jonny did not answer any of the comments; I found that lots of the comments on this article were from Ford employees. Also no way to check on the authenticity of the blog readers, as I found no live links back to a blog reader’s original blog.
Jeff Bressler wrote the article, “Muscle is Back: The Resurgence of the "Cool Car" an article about the return of the Mustang, was written by a freelance journalist and received 16 comments. All of them were positive. Though there were a few questions, Jeff did not respond to any of the comments.
Mike Millikin runs a blog called Green Car Congress, dealing with energy, technologies, issues and policies for sustainable mobility. Though reading his bio, it looks as if he may be a freelance writer; I sent him an email asking him if he was paid for the article. It will be interesting to see if he responds. In the article, "How to reduce your car's carbon footprint," there were seven comments on the blog, nothing negative towards Ford and no discussion or follow up from Mike with the people who commented on the blog.
I found 17 comments on this next article, some of the comments were critical of Ford, but there also some interesting discussion from blog readers about what the author Jillian Alexander, a management consultant, had to say regarding Ford's future business strategy. No one answered any blog reader comments.
Peter Frey has a background in the Automobile industry as a journalist. He was associate editor of Motor Trend Magazine from 1977 - 1981. There were 17 comments on the post, "Ford Families," quite a lot of critical comments about Ford, as well as a lot of positive comments, none of the comments were answered by Peter.
I thought this comment was interesting,
"This "human interest" stuff has little to do with informing Ford employees, retirees and others what is being done to revitalize the company. Keep your articles focused on what you said in the beginning Bold Moves was all about.
By: Anonymous - 11/3/2006 3:01:30 PM"
I looked at a few of the videos but most of them appeared to be professionally produced film which was very positive about Ford, and as I had such trouble with the site I thought I would stick with the articles for the moment. My initial assessment is that Ford missed a big opportunity with this site. I would have had Ford employees writing on the site rather than outside people, or hired freelancers, especially the people who had no connection with the automobile industry.
Even though each article I’ve read received a number of comments the number of comments appeared to decline as the website progressed, and none of the authors I have reviewed so far has answered any of the blog readers. Key to running a successful interactive social media website is dialogue, otherwise why bother allowing comments on a website. I have not seen any attempt at dialogue with the audience from Ford Bold Moves, and therefore I'd give this website a low rating in terms of its effectiveness with its audience, I think the decline in blog reader comments over the six month period the site was running is a reflection of that.