Ford Motor (F) may not have had the hottest sports car at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, but it garnered far more social-media attention than any other carmaker.
Over the course of the 13-day show, which ended Sunday, some 24,080 messages posted on Twitter (TWTR) crowed about Ford’s lineup, more than triple the tally of Toyota Motor’s (TM) Lexus, the next most-discussed brand, according to analysis for Bloomberg Businessweek by Networked Insights, a company that helps major brands craft digital-marketing strategies. Here’s how the field finished in terms of Twitter volume in Detroit:
1) Ford: 24,080
2) Lexus: 7,460
3) BMW: 7,030
4) Mercedes: 6,220
5) Chevrolet: 6,180
6) Toyota: 5,960
7) Audi: 5,610
8) Nissan: 5,270
9) Porsche: 5,160
10) Cadillac: 3,570
The Twitter traffic wasn’t entirely surprising given Ford’s schedule for the all-important auto show. Its unveiling of its new F-150 pickup on Jan. 13 was one of the first and most anticipated revelations of the event. Ford’s new Mustang, which was first shown in December, also drove a lot of online updates, roughly one-third of Ford’s total social buzz, according to Networked Insights.
But it wasn’t just the splashy new cars that made the difference for Ford—after all, virtually every car company had a shiny new ride to crow about in Detroit. Mercedes (DAI:GR) even hired singer Kelly Rowland, of Destiny’s Child fame, to give an encore at a press conference held by its chief executive.
It was the show styling that made a difference for Ford. For the F-150 unveiling, the company booked the Joe Louis Arena, where the National Hockey League’s Red Wings play, and it also locked down a new, 40,000-square-foot ballroom for an exhibit called Behind the Blue Oval, where car fans could check out its newest composite technology and see clay models that designers used to shape recent vehicles. Ford executives held court in the space, far from the scrum of competitors on the showroom floor. Part of the ballroom was cordoned off for media, and it was notably swankier than the press bunker in the basement of the convention center, where reporters traditionally gather to bang out and broadcast their stories. Picture a stir-fry station and a conveyer belt stacked with candy bars.
What’s the return on an investment like that? We’ll never know, and Ford won’t either. The relationship between tweets and car sales is likely a loose one. But a car show isn’t about closing deals—it’s about stoking dreams. And though the industry insiders swooned over Cadillac’s new sedan and Toyota’s space-age sports car, Ford went straight for the mass market.