From time to time I get invited to go to events where companies want to tap into social media. They usually do this to produce buzz about an event, product, or service. I always feel compelled to write something up when I go to these events so others can see a bit of what it feels like to be catered to. Most of the time it's an awesome experience. Some of the time, it can just be confusing. It's always interesting to see how others treat others when they want to influence them. My aim is to place as much media into these posts as possible, so you can see as much as I see.
I will also include a review of the event. Think of me as a social media critic. I will break down and highlight the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is just as much for the people that read my blog and for the people that throw these functions so that they can learn, and improve. I hope this will also train me to pay more attention to the people in charge and leading the event, and not just on the message they are trying to give me. I am a natural translator, so I forget a lot of what people say, but retain what they meant.
This event is brought to you by Ford. It was separated into four distinct parts.
- Meet-up at the Austin Convention Center
- Escort to the show floor
- Escort from the show floor to the Cedar Door (pub)
- Test drives given right outside the Cedar Door
Meet-up at the Austin Convention Center
I really like the diverse group of bloggers they brought together. Some of us have never met and I knew a few people from other circles that haven't met before ever. Some of us even followed each other but haven't met outside of twitter. That was awesome.
When I arrived there was no one to greet me. I wasn't even sure I was in the right place. There wasn't any signage at all. I walked up to people in the room and asked what they were there for to reassure me that I was in the right place.
If you look through the pictures above you will notice the nice lady in purple. She was sitting at a desk right by the entrance and looked very official. When I asked her if I needed to sign in or anything, she had no idea what I was talking about and her expression matched her confusion. She wasn't overly rude, but it was not at all welcoming.
Escort to the show floor
We were given free reign of the whole show floor, not just the Ford exhibit area. There were plenty of people on hand if we had any questions, but they didn't hover over us. Hank, the interactive robot, was awesome. Even if you discount the novelty of a talking robot, the operator knew their stuff. Hank was very knowledgeable about the Ford product and social media culture. The sound effects, commentary, and interaction were all top notch.
I wish we were given a short tour of the layout. There were a lot of things to see, and not all of it was self explanatory. Ford has a lot of models in their catalog so the cars that were there, were there for a reason. I wish I knew why they brought what they did and what went into that decision.
We didn't really know how long we had to look at everything. There was a timeline given in the email invite, but that wasn't followed from the start. When it was time to leave it felt very abrupt. If we were given something like 15 minutes heads up that would have been so much better.
Escort from the show floor to the Cedar Door (pub)
When we got to Cedar Door there was a private room waiting for us. The staff was great and we got excellent service. There was ample room to either stand and talk or sit and eat.
The food wasn't ready when we got there. Some of us came strait from work and then spent a fair amount of time at the convention center. That's a long time without food and I heard some complaints about that from the other bloggers. When we entered the private area we were not greeted or directed. I found the name tags at the bar and some blank forms next to them. I had to ask what the forms were for. There was a PR rep sitting at the bar. Her name was Lisa. She told me that it was a waiver form for the test drive.
Towards the end of the night Lisa came by the table where I was sitting and asked if anyone wanted anymore drink tickets, and held out some tickets she had in her hand. She was visibly intoxicated. I said I wanted a ticket. She immediately yanked the tickets back and dangled it above me. She said she would only give me a ticket if I tweeted out the hash tag #FordAustin right then and there. This was totally demeaning and pissed me off. I felt like a trained seal forced to do tricks for some cold dead fish. I told her that I was no longer interested and returned to my conversation. What also made me feel devalued was the twitter contest around the hash tag. The person that sent out the 100th tweet with the hash tag #FordAustin won a prize. That person was me, and I won. The grand prize was a t-shirt. Guess what? We all got t-shirts. Way to make a guy feel special.
Test drives given right outside the Cedar Door
We had three vehicles to choose from; the Explorer, Fusion, and Fiesta. Even with there only being three cars there was little to no wait to get into a car. We were allowed to go where ever we wanted, and how fast we wanted. The PR rep that came with me wasn't able to answer all the technical questions I asked, but he was smart enough to bring backup. He had a car salesman from a local dealership ride along and he knew his stuff. He was able to answer all my questions and show me some stuff that I would never think of asking. The awesome part, he didn't try to sell me a car!
The test drives really should have come before the free drinks. I am not much of a drinker, so this wasn't an issue for me.
Nothing really ugly here. Good execution on the test drives.