Social media as mass marketing… Learning from the Ford example

Social Media Marketing… the new Mass Marketing Platform?

At the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education earlier this week, social media marketing was the hot topic at presentation after presentation. And there was strong interest in how to demonstrate “ROI” from the financial and human investment needed in this area.

ROI is a worthy topic to explore if the goal of social media marketing is to increase conversion in enrollment campaigns or to increase alumni giving rates.

But what if social media marketing isn’t about immediate conversion results but general brand awareness? A story in today’s Detroit Free Press positions social media as the next mass marketing vehicle. Ford Motor Company is enthusiastic about the results of a 6-month social media campaign to create pre-launch awareness of the 2010 Ford Fiesta, ready for sale next year.

60% Brand Awareness from Integrated Social Media Campaign

Ford gave 100 cars for 6 months to “mostly young, hip drivers” who were “savvy” with Facebook and Twitter and counted on them to ignite a fire of awareness. Read more about the program at the “Fiesta Movement” website. The results:

As a result of that activity, Ford has measured brand awareness by the public at 60 percent, a level that it projects would have cost more than $50 million in traditional media spending.

Impressive result. But not a car has yet been sold. If you only define ROI by sales results (or students enrolled or dollars raised), there is no direct “ROI” from a campaign like this. 

Note that Ford did one thing that is too often left out of budget-tight higher education branding campaigns: traditional market research that measures results after a campaign is over.

Creative Risk-Taking Needed

If higher education moves forward into social media as fast as ROI measurement allows, that move will not happen very quickly. We need creative risk taking, along with an understanding that measuring the exact impact of individual marketing elements on a final decision to enroll or donate (or buy a car) is not an easy thing. Some would say it is not possible.

What is clear is that we can measure the swirl of activity that does take place around a social media campaign. And we can do that better now than we could for traditional public relations and brand awareness campaigns back in ancient times. We can see and feel and hear the activity taking place. And that just might be all the ROI needed.

That’s all for now.



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