When we started working with Ford Motor Company in July 2007, social media was a top priority within the Communications department. They understood fully that they needed to “get” social media – as one senior executive put it, they knew that the business model behind much of their communications was rapidly becoming obsolete. They understood they needed to adapt to a changing landscape.

Later that year, in support of the 2008 Focus launch, SMG designed a program that included inviting digital influencers to media drive events (a first), capturing video for the web, establishing a company Flickr account (on which all the images were licensed under Creative Commons) and perhaps best-remembered, created a Ford Focus social media press release (SMPR) on the Digital Snippets platform. Small things, but big steps for Ford (or any Fortune 10 company) in 2007. Following the Focus launch, we continued our work in integrating social media into the Communications toolkit, supporting dozens of programs and providing strategic counsel on the use of social media.

Flash forward a year to July 2008. Scott Monty joined Ford as Global Digital & Multimedia Communications Manager and the public face of social media. Within weeks, Scott established a number of Ford Twitter accounts and began actively engaging online on behalf of the company, reaching out to thousands of people in support of his goal to “humanize the brand”. Taking our direction from Scott, we continued our work integrating social media into every “traditional” Ford media event, experimenting with content syndication, giving hundreds of online influencers the opportunity to experience Ford vehicles firsthand, developing key social media metrics and working in lockstep with the Communications team on digital crisis communications and aggressive story correction around the Automotive Congressional hearings (among many other things – it’s been a busy year, as Scott can testify!).

Together, Scott and I presented a case study on the results of “setting content free” at Ford this spring at Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. Among the good stuff: 5,000 unsolicited blog posts, almost 1.5 million views on YouTube and over 120,000 views on Flickr. Ford now has more than a dozen SMPRs, and making content readily available has become institutionalized. It’s just part of what they do.

And this month we saw public acknowledgment of Ford’s amazing progress in social media. In July 2007 the only Ford social media property was a YouTube channel. In February 2009, Ford was recognized as one of the Top 10 Brands in Use of Social Media According to Social Media Leaders by Abrams Research. The results of the survey were published on eMarketer.com.

Please join us in heartily congratulating Scott and the Ford Communications Team on their tremendous achievement! And now? Back to work! 🙂

**Side note: Ford was similarly acknowledged by Mashable in February of 2009.