DEARBORN, Michigan: Ford, the carmaker, is using Twitter, the microblogging service, to engage young consumers and gain insights into evolving trends and preferences in the automotive sector.

Executives from Ford recently visited Twitter's head office, located in San Francisco, as the two companies sought to identify ways in which Ford could attract 16-32 year olds, or "millennials".

Sheryl Connelly, Ford's global consumer trends and futuring manager, argued that this audience is currently characterised by a desire for real relationships with brands.

"This group of consumers is an incredible market opportunity, but the way that millennials interact with brands is totally different from earlier generations," Connelly told Advertising Age.

"Understanding their priorities helps us market to them, so that we're giving a message that is relevant to them."

Two core elements behind Ford's tactics on the social network is taking a targeted approach to distributing material and providing personalised replies to enquiries, aided by having a dedicated team covering this area.

Similarly, tracking feedback and buzz generated on Twitter lets Ford to gauge which forms of content, search terms and hashtags yield the best response among millennial consumers.

Based on insights drawn from Twitter and equivalent platforms, Ford has adapted its marketing strategy, moving away from emphasising vehicle details and specifications, which have traditionally dominated communications is the auto category.

Connelly suggested that young consumers see cars less as a status symbol than was previously the case, instead viewing it as a "lifestyle enabler".

The trends identified by Ford include an interest in "tattoo-ing" cars, allowing them to pick between various designs and colours on the inside and outside of the car, reflecting the fact around 16% of millennials have a tattoo.

Equally, Ford is attempting to integrate digital technology inside its vehicles, mirroring the rise of devices such as tablets and smartphones.

As shown by the recall of the F-150 truck, Twitter can also serve as a useful tool for dealing with requests, correcting any inaccuracies in reporting and spreading important information.

Data sourced from AdAge; additional content by Warc staff