Looking at ford.digitalsnippets.com you might just see another press release web site. But for the source code curious, under the hood you see the HTML code revealing that the site runs on open source WordPress blogging software and uses a custom SMPR or Social Media Press Release theme developed by the Social Media Group.

Maggie Fox and the Social Media Group have done a great job by being able to communicate to a Fortune 100 company what social media can mean to them, and you can even view their third revision of a Social Media Press Release (SMPR) layout. Digital Snippets may not look like WordPress at first glance, when when you view the source code it’s pretty obvious:

Ford Motor Company - digital snippets

You can see from those couple code snippets that they’re using WordPress (revealed by the wp-includes and wp-content dirs, in addition a the SMPR or Social Media Press Release custom theme. Well, maybe the generator tag I found on the Focus product page was a tell-tale sign too. The also are using multiple feedburner feeds for various products and categories. On the homepage you can see that they’re using a Flickr widget and the bottom of the page has an automotive type of blogroll in the footer. They’re using a Creative Commons license on the bottom of every page – an “Attribution-NonCommercial” license. Basically you can remix the content for Non-commercial use, which I believe is a first for such a big corporate giant as Ford – especially for media assets such as these.

Take a look at one of the product pages such as this one for the Ford focus. You see Flickr images linked in the top banner, and in the “quick links” section under the header you see words that lead you to believe this is actually a blog, like “conversation”, “community”, “tags”, and “share”. Sadly when you click on these that’s not what you find at all. Conversation is just a half dozen links to other auto web sites with stories about Ford products. Community is just the footer with a blogroll of “other interest” automotive links. Tags leads to “Suggested Tags” which are keyword the products and product pages are tagged with. Last, Share is your usual menangerie of social bookmark links begging you to save a bookmark somewhere (anywhere!) to one of the pages. The only thing that really impressed was the fact that they had a block of YouTube videos on the page.

The thing that disturbs me is that WordPress (a blogging platform) was used to set this up, and admittedly you can structure and manage a static web site using WordPress. But the functions and features it natively provides, like interactivity (comments and subscribers), blogging (posts and archives), and third party plugins (offering a plethora of options) have all sadly been lost on this implementation. The Social Media Group was obviously hired by Marketing and Sales management at Ford who had been reading the latest trade journals touting the social power of the Internet. Not to belittle what SMG (Social Media Group) has done, this was idealistically a good move for a behemoth Fortune 100 company. But other than the fact that Digital Snippets links to (and uses some of the) images and video uploaded to YouTube and Flickr using a Ford Motor Company account, AND the fact that you can subscribe to (press release) RSS feeds throughout the site – what other uses of the social media does the site actually use??

It’s funny, because the things that Digital Snippets lacks are actually available if you follow the links on the videos and pictures to Flickr and YouTube. At those two sites you can create an account, and comment on the assets themselves. But none of that information is carried back to digital snippets (and it easily could be using their API’s). It also seems like a cautious move on Ford’s part, we’ll foray into the world of social media a bit by allowing social bookmarks and displaying some links to YouTube and Flickr. But we don’t want any interativity “here” (because we’d have to police that and pay attention to it).

That brings me to my next point of who this site is actually supposed to be for. Who is the audience – the press and media or consumers (or both)?? The links at the top of every page are Ford.com (for consumers) and media.ford.com (for the media). The contact information (like that on the Ford Focus page) is clearly for the media. The name, the layout, and contact information clearly seem to present this as a site for the press – but the assets that have been placed in YouTube and Flickr – aren’t they for consumers? My point here is, it would seem that at some point (some volume of) consumers should arrive at this (public) site. Shouldn’t there be some kind of message addressing that (consumers here, media here, etc.). Maybe I should refine my point further – this entire web site is billed as a “social media press release”. Isn’t that term an oxymoron? Who are the social media? The people using reddit, digg, google blog search, technorati, techcrunch, YouTube, mySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, Twitter are CONSUMERS – not MEDIA. And a press release is for the media – typically to announce something (that they can report on). So – what does this make an SMPR?? Information released to the social media for public consumption but styled like a press release? Does this make sense?

Getting back to WordPress, any good blogger, web designer, or seo can tell you about the default out of the box seo qualities (in addition to spam protection) WP possesses. But what happens when a “social media” or advertising company uses something like WordPress, can these qualities be lost? Maybe, if you don’t have a good blogger or online marketer on staff.

Take a look at this code from the Ford Focus page:

      THE 2008 FORD FOCUS - Ford Motor Company - digital snippets


Other than the product and company name does that title describe at all what is on the page? 2008 Ford Focus WHAT? Pictures? Reviews? Can I buy one? Media slick, press release, news – what is it? If I worked on the main Ford.com web site I’d be pissed there was another (Ford site) with a title like that (so similar to what the official Ford.com product page would have). At least if you visit the official 2008 Ford Focus page the html title says “Ford Vehicles: 2008 Ford Focus – See pricing, photos, options, packages, and more“.

Now take a look at the code above for the description. It’s blank. What do you think that will show as a result in google? I’ll show you:

Ford Focus google result for digital snippets

Look at the description under the title link – it’s the quick links text from the page (because it’s the first thing the search crawler read when indexing the page). WordPress could have helped create not only better SEO title tags, but better meta descriptions a hundred different ways. How much do title tags and descriptions matter in search nowadays? Quite a bit! You can find 284 indexed pages in google for Ford’s Digital Snippets today, but if you look at how many are actually available to come up in search results it’s only two. Yes, two! Why? Because 119 results were sent to google’s “supplemental index hell” because of duplicate content (from the bad meta descriptions). Maybe the Social Media Group should hire someone with seo and online marketing skills to assist in situations like this. The Sales and Marketing execs at Ford will never know anything beyond the pretty google analytics stats they’re fed, but so much more could be done with this web site.

While I applaud Ford Motor Company for what they probably thought was “exploding into online social media” – I encourage them (the Sales and Marketing Execs who purchased this from the Social Media Group) in the future to purchase an unbiased review and some consulting time from one or more of the reputable consulting (and online trend predicting) companies. You can’t always completely buy in to what they trade rags say is the buzzword of the day.

And WordPress? Well, we will watch for the next big Fortune 100 company to use your open source goodness, and we hope next time you are exploited to your full potential!