Ford Ditches Auto Shows for Facebook

Ford’s latest Explorer model won’t be introduced at a glitzy auto show — instead, it will make its debut on Facebook. The company will launch the car with a campaign that focuses on drivers’ real-world experiences, rather than with glamorous TV ads. “We live in a 140-character society … When we have people’s attention, we want to make sure it sticks,” says Scott Monty, Ford’s head of social media.

Ford engineer Jim Holland is pictured on the left with 2011 Ford  Explorer. This is as much as Ford has shown of the new SUV, which debuts  this summer.

Linking the Explorer with Ford’s social-marketing strategy could help the brand become more relevant. Monty says Ford is using the Internet to help customers see it not as a faceless monolith, but as an organization of people like them who can answer questions, and listen to ideas and complaints.

Still, the Explorer reveal on Facebook is chancy.

“The auto industry is so closely tied to reviews and news from traditional media outlets that I think it is a risky move to eliminate an auto show announcement,” says Heidi Sullivan, vice president of media research for Cision. But “the buzz created could far outweigh any negative reactions.”

With the 2011 Fiesta, Ford launched a very early and intense social media campaign, revealing essentially everything about the car over a year before the official sales launch. The goal: to build hype and get everyone familiar with it rather than trying to surprise the buying public with big claims and flashy looks. The same tactic may work for the new Explorer, especially since it is a fairly major change from the previous version.

To see the Facebook unveiling for yourself, you’ll have to visit the Explorer Facebook Page and “like” it to get access to the first photos.