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Ford Leveraging Social Media for ’11 Super Duty Launch

Memberships in the top 10 Super Duty enthusiast sites outnumber that of the top 10 Mustang sites, Ford says.

PRESCOTT, AZ – Social media marketing techniques don’t just apply to 20-something urbanites who covet small cars.

Ford Motor Co. says convoys of diehard truckers are jamming the information superhighway to get up to speed on the latest diesel technology.

“The membership of the top 10 Super Duty enthusiast sites is more than twice that of the top 10 (Ford) Mustang sites,” says Brian Rathsburg, marketing manager for the blue oval brand’s heavy-duty pickups. “This customer is very much dialed in to technology.”

Rathsburg anchors a team planning to use the online interest in trucks, and diesels in particular, to hype the redesigned-for-’11 Super Duty, scheduled to launch next month.

The new Super Duty comes with either a 6.7L Power Stroke V-8 turbocharged diesel or a 6.2L V-8 gasoline engine. But up to 70% of Super Duty buyers opt for the oil burner, making it a focus of most marketing initiatives, Ford says. While truck buyers have a presence in the online world through blogs and enthusiast sites, they spurn increasingly popular outlets such as Twitter and Digg.

So Ford is planning a Super Duty Facebook page and posting videos of the new truck on sites such as YouTube. The auto maker intends to “slow-walk the cutting-edge stuff,” Rathsburg says.

Tapping into truckers’ online conversations is a primary strategy to raise the Super Duty’s profile, adds Eric Peterson, Ford’s truck and SUV marketing manager.

Computers are “a communication tool for everyone today, and everybody uses (them) differently,” he says. But some consumers are less interested in mobile applications and “having Twitter on your cell phone.”

For this segment of the buying public, social-media usage entails “getting on your computer at night and going to a chat that’s talking specifically about diesel engines,” Peterson says.

Ford already has established links to various features of the ’11 Super Duty on the auto maker’s main vehicles page. Included are videos starring Mike Rowe, from the cable television show “Dirty Jobs,” as well as links to reviews by independent third parties.

“One of the things we did was (offer) a video player that can take a lot of the content we have and administrators can grab that content and post it on their site or forums,” Peterson adds.

Although marketers are eager to get their message out on the new Super Duty, it’s important to tread lightly and not interfere with the online conversations of truck enthusiasts, he says. Doing so would cross the boundary separating social media drives and traditional marketing campaigns.

To help foster conversations, Ford has made top engineers available for online chats.

“It’s more about providing access,” Peterson says. “And it’s up to the forums and people in the space to decide what’s relevant.

“It’s a different place to have a conversation. You could have had it in a bar previously, now you’re having it online. And it allows people to focus on things they want to talk about.”

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TAGS: Vehicles
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