How Ford Social energized their core customer base with “Badges”

Ford has a long history of making headlines with its social media success stories, most of it probably very much thanks to the brilliant Scott Monty (btw recommend reading his blog).

If you’re a frequent reader of my blog, you also know that the way I have approached social media is from Forrester Research’s Groundswell; 5 key areas for social media tools & technologies. I highly recommend reading them, but in this post I want to highlight Ford Social’s Badges, an ingenious way of energizing customers and prospects.

Designed around people

In the old economy we told prospects how good our products are via advertising, in the new economy we need to lead by example and prove that we’re good as the market place is too transparent to hide any flaws. Forrester’s groundswell talks about “to energize your customer and prospects”, in such way that you design your communication around people and their interests.

Given that you have a product with a core customer base that genuinely likes what they’ve bought, you’ve now a very nice opportunity to Energize that customer base to spread the word. Not that this is something new, you’ve probably been doing NPS (Net Promoter Score) surveys in the past, and figured out ways of designing programs that utilizes these net promoters in a favourable way. That’s all great, and have this in mind now when we look at what Ford has been doing.

Happy customers? Energize them to spread the word

The father of the modern automobile, an icon in the American history, Ford Motors is a company that needs no further introduction. Ford’s challenge was how to utilize this customer base and energize them to spread the word, preferably in a way that scales.

Ever seen those stickers on cars popular in the 70-80’s, Ford – I drive one!”? People put these stickers on their cars not because they where told to do so, but because they thought they had the best car and they were proud over it.

If you have a product that people like and you can figure out how you can help people share their passion, and at the same time make them look good, then you’re on to something very good.

Ford’s answer to energizing their most passionate customer base is “Badges” which is a core feature in Ford Social which replaced Ford Stories.

How does Ford Social’s “badges” work?

I counted to 54 different digital badges that Ford Social have put up on their site. The tactic is very simple; we have a strong core customer base that are passionate of our products, let’s provide them with cool digital badges so the can show off. All being Ford branded of course.

I for example chose the 100K miles badge, an epic badge on for those who have driven the Ford a very long way. The badges comes as digital image files optimized for a plethora of devices. Each time you share it, or some one sees your badges, that’s an extra brand impression for Ford.

I just swiftly browsed through the first 6 popular badges, I counted to +130K badges downloaded. A number that may not say much in it’s isolation, but if we try a simple numbers game; cost of development? Shall we guess it took a developer 1 full week and the same for a designer? That’s around €2K in employee costs. I know this is silly calculation, but take the employee cost and divid it by the number of downloads and you get €0.015 in download cost. If someone told me I can get any of my customers having my company branded desktop background for only €0.015 I’d pay that any day in the week.

Now of course this badge program is a part of something much bigger, and I don’t think the metric Scott measures is cost per download, in fact I don’t think he is to stressed over measure anything else than if people will use it or not.

 A word before you rush to setup your own badge progam

Anyone can spend €2k on getting a similar setup for their company, it’s dead easy. Now, getting people to actually download and use the badges, that’s where it gets tricky.

Your customers are not stupid, they see your priorities and they will judge you accordingly. If you’re in the transition of adopting to the new economy, still facing serve product issues or likewise, maybe a badge program or any other social media activity where you try to get help from energized customer just simply wont work.

Many people have said it before, social media is great at amplifying your brand. But for it to work in your favour, it needs to be supported by a company and organisation ready for the new economy.

Update: I got the opportunity to interview Scott Monty at this years Social Media World forum in london here.

About Joakim Nilsson

I've this thing that I'm obsessed with helping brands and organisations to make better use of their social media data... so in 2013 I launched the SCRM Cloud, now a Paris based Social CRM agency providing some of the biggest names and brands with technology and professional services for social media monitoring, analytics and engagement. My +10 years experience in various online marketing & communications roles have provided me with a solid grounding in both operations and strategy, most notably as Head of social for one of Europe's largest iGaming groups. Having an entrepreneurial mindset and genuine passion for Internet applications spending part of my time as a small seed investor with various Internet start-ups such as; Curious Hat (500startups), Casumo, Casino Saga, FundedByMe, Nordic Design Collective, Kyoogi, AvalanShare, Unified Inbox, Åre Water, Virtuous Vodka and NOA Potions.