If you've been wondering how Ford plans to launch the 2011 Explorer for sale in the middle of the summer during the auto show off-season, wonder no more: the launch will come on Facebook. Here's hoping the launch goes better than the Honda Crosstour's infamous unveiling last summer. And now we're less than a week away from its unveiling, scheduled for July 26.

Last month it was (briefly) thought that the 2011 Explorer had been leaked, but the image turned out to be a rendering. A few teaser images have emerged, but so far, the SUV has been kept pretty well under wraps--except from the lenses of our spy photographers. Today, Ford added to the pile with another handful of teasers on Facebook, including a peek at the interior, two looks at the roof, and a button that appears to control the rear liftgate.

There's really not much left to the imagination after the spy photos and Ford's official announcements about the planned four- and six-cylinder EcoBoost powertrains that will live under the 2011 Explorer's hood. But that's why the Facebook launch could work.

With the 2011 Fiesta, Ford launched a very early and intense social media campaign, revealing essentially everything about the car over a year before the official sales launch. The goal: to build hype and get everyone familiar with it rather than trying to surprise the buying public with big claims and flashy looks. The same tactic may work for the new Explorer, especially since it is a fairly major change from the previous version.

The outgoing Explorer rode on the archaic but effective body-on-frame chassis that has underpinned pickups and off-road SUVs for decades. But the new Explorer will use a unibody chassis based off the new Taurus platform. Concerns for serious off-road use aside (and who bought an Explorer with dreams of the Rubicon in mind?) the result should be a much more refined on-road experience, with a car-like demeanor and the same basic five-seat, high-riding layout. Getting people accustomed to the idea and familiar with its new face could pay dividends on the dealer lot.

To see the Facebook unveiling for yourself, you'll have to visit the Explorer page below and "like" it to get access to the first photos. Ford says it's coming "soon," but hasn't yet put a hard date on the unveiling. For now, all we have are the tiny glimpses in these teaser photos released along with the Facebook announcement. As an added bonus, if Ford reaches its goal of 30,000 Facebook fans for the 2011 Explorer, they'll be giving away one of the vehicles to a fan.

Ford will also unveil the 2011 Explorer in the "real world" in several cities around the country, including New York City and Dallas, on the 26th.

[Ford via Facebook]