Was Ford Right To Take An Easy Dig At General Motors?


Peter Claridge

August 8, 2014 6 min read

Updated on September 18, 2019

UPDATE: Scott Monty, Head of Social Media at Ford Motor Company has responded to this blog post in a comment below. He points out that the article doesn’t take in to account all the Facebook Fans across Ford’s 77 (holy moly!) managed pages.

There have been some epic battles through the years, some that spring to mind are Luke vs Vader, cat vs dog, Ron Paul vs media blackout and of course the battle to end all battles: Ford vs GM. There has been no shortage of potshots that both companies have traded against each other over the years and today was just another in a series of oneupmanship.

With the imminent IPO of this century’s (second?!) hottest stock, General Motors announced that they were curtailing their $10m per annum ad spend on Facebook. The reason? They weren’t seeing the benefit of sending hundreds of thousands of people to their Facebook pages because it wasn’t translating in to sales.

Ooo, how could Ford resist a statement like this? Well they couldn’t. GM had basically painted a big target sign over themselves and apparently not satisfied with that, then held up a big neon sign saying “do your worst“. Sure enough, shortly after the GM news broke, Ford (Mr. Monty?!) decided to bite and posted this gem of a tweet:

Now that got us folks at Unmetric thinking: If you’re going to throw stones, you sure as hell shouldn’t be standing in a glass house. On what basis was Ford confidently proclaiming that they are seeing value in their social media efforts, particularly in Facebook advertising? As it happens, Unmetric is in the perfect position to find out.

Fans vs Market Capitalization

Market Capitalization is used to gauge the size of a company and while it probably isn’t a great way to compare social media performance, it’s unusual to see that despite far lower sales, Chrysler has far more fans. Ford, in contrast, has the highest market capitalization but less than half the number of fans of both GM and Chrysler.

Fans vs Market Capitalization

Update: Ford, GM and Chrysler all have dozens of FB pages between them. In this analysis I have only focused on the US based divisions. I have not included the pages dedicated to individual models like the Ford Mustang page and Chevy Camaro page which have 4 million and 2.8 million fans respectively.

Breakdown of Fans

Comparing the social media of auto brands like Ford and GM is a little bit like trying to compare the smell of an electron with the colour of an elephant. General Motors is a parent company that owns a number of auto brands. Within these auto brands are a number of models. The parent company, the auto brand and the auto model each has their own Facebook page. Any analyst would go stir crazy trying to analyze each and every page, and since I only had a short amount of time to write this blog, I only looked at the major divisions for each company. The fan numbers are likely to be slightly higher if you included the individual auto model Facebook pages.

Total Facebook Fans

Clearly, Chrysler is leading the field in terms of fan numbers with their Jeep brand. I’m actually quite surprised just how few fans Ford has on their main page. It’s interesting that there is some parity between Ford’s truck page and GMC’s truck page.

Update: Ford, GM and Chrysler all have dozens of Facebook pages that they manage. In this analysis I have only considered the US based brands and not included the pages for individual auto models.

Facebook Fan Growth Rate

The time period that I analyzed was from January to April 2011. In those four months the benchmark for growth in the Automobile sector was 120%. Two of GM’s divisions, Corvette and Buick exceeded this benchmark with fan growth rates of 146% and 133% respectively. On average, the GM brands grew by 80%, lower than the sector average but still higher than the 64% growth managed by Ford. Chrysler appeared to struggle with growth in the last four months with an average growth rate of 34% – well below the sector average.

Auto Brands' Facebook Growth

Update: Ford, GM and Chrysler all have dozens of Facebook pages that they manage. In this analysis I have only considered the US based brands and not included the pages for individual auto models.

Fan Engagement

OK, this is where things get really juicy. We’re talking about Engagement, with a capital ‘E’. Unmetric gives every post on Facebook an engagement score based on our own algorithm (you can read about it at the end of this article). General Motors is quoted in the WSJ article as saying that they couldn’t find a link between paid ads and customers ultimately purchasing a car from them. On the other hand, Ford claim that they found ‘value’ in the paid ads they ran. Perhaps Ford was talking in terms of engagement as the graph below shows:

Average Fan Engagement For Auto Brands on Facebook

In a sector that contains desirable brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Porsche, Ford and GM are not quite on a level playing field. The engagement score benchmark within the Auto sector for each Facebook post is 50. Ford’s Truck page is the only brand that meets the benchmark, all other brands are lagging far behind.

It’s surprising to see that the two brands that have the best engagement are trucks. Maybe men have been completely misunderstood all this time: they do want to talk, they want to do it on Facebook and they want to talk about their truck!

Maybe this is what Ford means by finding ‘value’ in their paid ads. They are getting the best average engagement out of the three companies I have analyzed here.

Most Engaging Day To Post

The day of the week and even time of day can have a serious impact on the levels of engagement a brand will see. The multi-coloured rainbow of a graph below illustrates how engagement levels change day by day for each brand and the auto sector as a whole.

Auto brand engagement by week day

Saturday and Sunday are clearly the best days to post in terms of engagement according to the sector average but it’s surprising how few auto brands I analyzed actually do this. The volume of posts on the weekend drops substantially even though Ford and Chrysler achieve higher than average engagement rates. General Motors is the most consistent performer throughout the week in terms of engagement, but they need to play catch up to Ford and Chrysler.

Unmetric Score

A very quick and simple way to judge the overall social media performance of GM, Ford, Chrysler and their many divisions is to use the Unmetric score which is a scientific blend of over 24 qualitative and quantitative metrics. It provides a snapshot of how a brand is doing as the graph shows below:

Automobile Unmetric Scores

Chrysler managed to have the brand with the highest and lowest score, I’m not sure whether to congratulate or commiserate them!

The Battle Rolls On

If the data tells us anything, it’s that considering the Auto sector as a whole, all three brands need to raise their game somewhat. The European auto companies are wiping the floor clean when it comes to growth and engagement. Out of the three companies I analyzed, General Motors are certainly not the social media dullards that some people are saying. They have impressive fan numbers any more than impressive fan growth. Ford are doing a good job of engaging their fans but growth rates are a little short of the sector average. Chrysler seem to be punching above their weight in terms of fan numbers and are engaging well with their community, however their fan growth numbers are well off the mark of the Auto industry average.

Data Analysis Methodology

The Engagement Score calculation is based on the number of Likes, Comments, Shares and estimated impressions, so a page with a lower fan base can still have a better engagement score than a page with a huge fan base even if they don’t get as many interactions.

All data has been compiled and analyzed from the Unmetric application which tracks dozens of metrics to enable brands to benchmark themselves against competitors and their industry sector. Gain access to all this data by claiming a 10 day free trial.

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