Fiat Uno from fiat.com.br
Screencap from Formspring.me
2010 Fiat Uno
Over 25? Chances are good that you're blissfully unaware of Formspring.me, a relatively new service that allows curious types (aka "gluttons for punishment") to receive anonymous questions from folks around the interworld. Users signs up for free Formspring accounts, let the world know they're open for business (or wait for frenemies to find them by name or email), and prepare to answer a barrage of questions ranging from crude to rude to completely unintelligible.
Since its launch less than six months ago, Formspring has taken a lot of heat -- mostly for its anonymous-friendly format. The messages and/or questions on Formspring tend to be pretty nasty, leading most adults to wonder: why would anyone open themselves up to such abuse? Formspring has led to fistfights in high schools, and it's even been named as a possible reason behind the suicide of a promising New York student in March.
Given all that, you might expect that the corporate world would steer clear of Formspring -- particularly automakers. But in fact, Fiat Brazil has jumped right into the fray, using Formspring to help publicize the revamped Fiat Uno.
In a nutshell, Fiat Brazil has set up a Formspring profile, and the company has assigned 15 staffers to respond to the anonymous questions posted by fans, detractors, and the idle unemployed. Our Portuguese is a little rusty, but at the moment it seems as if commenters are being fairly respectful of Fiat (although Fiat may have deleted the more offensive questions). We have no idea if things will remain so even-keeled, but at the moment, the Fiat/Formspring project is accomplishing two important things:
1. It's doing a great job of attracting younger buyers who feel comfortable with the Formspring format.
2. It's giving auto journalists and fans a way to receive quick, authoritative answers to their questions. Sending emails to PR staff is always an iffy proposition, and calling the on the phone is often worse. Fan forums, on the other hand, are full of the same kind of vitriol often found on Formspring. But at formspring.me/fiatbr, knowledgeable staff are responding to questions within 24 hours, and much, much faster than that during business hours. Even better: the answers remain on view, so that others with similar questions can save the hassle of asking and waiting for a response.
As much as we'd love to leave Formspring to the Tumblr set (you know who you are), we think this is a really smart application of the service. True, corporate websites have attempted to provide similar feedback over the years, but to our mind, none has done so with as much speed, efficiency, and ease of use. In fact, we'd be mildly surprised if this didn't catch on north of the equator.