Battle of the Digital Brands: Ford vs. GM

DIGIDAY notes: In this week’s edition of Battle of the Digital Brands, we look under the hood of two of companies that have defined America for the last 100 years: Ford and General Motors.

Facebook: Over 1.5 million people like Ford; an additional 4 million like Mustang, Ford’s iconic brand. The company has a deep history, going back 109 years. The timeline effectively and artistically showcases the evolution of the company through images (everything from the first Model-T to the revolutionary assembly line) and links to stories about the company. There are 12 different links within Facebook that take users to photos, announcements, videos, events, news, other Ford-related brand pages, contests where users can swap their cars, enter a photo contest. The company posts several times a day, posting news, images and asking fans questions. Ford seems to use Facebook as a key tool product promotion, but in an engaging and not markety way.

Twitter: Ford execs Scott Monty and Craig Daitch manage the Ford Twitter account. It is a model for all brands on the social networking site. Beyond engaging its roughly 130,000 followers, the company posts frequently and responds to many who tweet out to the brand. Each tweet is followed by either Scott’s or Craig’s initials, giving the brand a human face. There are promotional tweets, naturally, but many are just communicating with fans. The duo have some fun, such as a post last week tweaking GM for pulling ads from Facebook. It shows not only the competitive nature of the brands, but also that Ford is planting its flag in the social space.

YouTube: There are 57,000 people following 344 videos on Ford’s YouTube page, racking up just a hair under 5 million views. Videos range in content — from interviews with company executives to branded series (Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian swaps his ride for a Ford Focus) to videos of features in Ford cars. Ford appears to be using YouTube as a brand awareness and promotional vehicle in a creative way.

Mobile site: The mobile site greets visitors with rotating banners about Ford products and sales event. Links take you to a vehicle showroom, dealer locations, dealer inventories, local quotes as well as links to personalized owner information site, certified pre-owned cars, and roadside assistance. Ford provides a deep mobile experience on its site.

Mobile app: Ford has several apps in the iTunes app store. One app lets people customize a Mustang; another app lets people virtually drive a Ford Fusion; a third app gives details and images about the 2013 Lincoln MKZ. There’s also an app that lets users emulate the the MyFord Touch, a technology system inside new Ford cars.

Facebook: GM has 380,000 fans on its Facebook page and the timeline image is a quadrant of logos of different GM brands. The timeline itself goes back to the company’s founding in 1908. Much like Ford, GM’s history is intertwined with that of the nation’s. The company’s 2009 reorganization efforts are clearly highlighted in the timeline. Images, links and videos are peppered throughout the site, as are posts that ask questions to its fans. With last week’s brouhaha, where the company announced it would not be advertising on Facebook, it posted on Facebook that while it will not be advertising on the platform, it will continue to talk daily with its fans.

Twitter: General Motors has 56,000 followers on Twitter and is operated by four people. The account takes a similar approach to Ford’s Dynamic Duo in what, how and how often they tweet. Tweets range from promotional to informative to customer service to @ replies. The operators also include the author’s initials to put some humanity to a faceless organization.

YouTube: GM’s main YouTube page is branded as GMBlogs. It has 344 videos, 1,700 subscribers and 3.2 million views. Videos include the car company’s “Faces of GM” series that highlights its employees as well as older videos from Fritz Henderson, the CEO who replaced Rick Wagoner after Wagoner stepped down at the request of President Obama. The YouTube page is where GM parks its corporate branding videos. The company also has a Chevrolet YouTube page that, like Ford’s Facebook Mustang page, gets more views than the corporate page.

Mobile site: GM’s site introduces visitors to “the new General Motors” with a video and text about the company. Links let visitors choose a brand, view latest news, a link for careers and a link for investors.

Mobile app: GM has at least 17 apps in the app store. There are brand specific apps, like myGMC, myCadillac, my Chevrolet, myBuick. The Chevy Dealer app is for GM dealership personnel that helps dealers submit customer quotes and display Chevrolet models, among other tools. The consumer-facing app, Chevrolet Showroom showcases cars and trucks, and lets users choose interior and exterior colors, as well as search dealer inventory. There’s also a Chevy Game Time app that was built to get people “experience the Super Bowl in a whole new way” while also giving away 20 Chevys and other prizes.

: Both auto manufacturers clearly understand the power of the social world, and each uses Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in creative ways. This was a tough battle as both brands do social exceptionally well and each should be considered as a solid template for other brands in the social world. Ford wins out because of its social hub, Ford Social, where people congregate to connect on all things Ford.

Mobile: Again, both companies do mobile well. But Ford’s mobile site is deep and rich, giving it the slight edge over GM.

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