As always, let's start with content. In general, there are two approaches that most company blogs take; they either focus on themselves, or their customers and the role that their products and services play in their lives. Thankfully, Mahindra has taken the latter path. Mr. Combs' posts give his readers a look inside his life as a Mahindra evangelist living and working with the company's products on his 170-acre farm. As always it should be pointed out that letting an evangelist blog at your company blog is a daring move, and in general I tip my hat to companies that are willing to do this.
For the most part, Combs' posts detail his daily work on his farm, including the projects that he is undertaking, many of which are aided by his use of Mahindra products. But he also keeps his readers up to date on other topics such as the Kentucky weather, and the progress that his children are making in school. But above all else, the content is focused on his life on his farm, and its content that appears to be resonating with the blog's readers. The blog also pulls pictures from a Flickr account, and Combs does a nice job showing not only Mahindra products in action, but also what his life is like on his farm. The post formatting and structure isn't always perfect, but I think that is almost a plus, because it comes across as being authentic. Combs isn't a blogger writing about life on a farm, he is a farmer blogging about his life.
Let's now check the comments. Check out this one left to the blog's latest post:
i just happened upon your blog about 2 to 3 months ago and must say i am hooked…i am a country girl at heart but only live on 3.5 acres in california….i enjoy hearing about the country life you live and am glad to hear that it still exists…thanks for keeping my country heart afloat..merry christmas to you and your family…
This comment is a classic example of why a company blog works best as a tool to provide value for customers first, instead of as a direct selling tool. This person enjoys the blog and Combs' writing because she can relate to Combs' life. The positive feelings and enjoyment she has for Combs' writing will likely transfer at least somewhat to Mahindra's products, since those products play a role in Combs' life.
Life of a Farm Blog has one of the more active comment sections I've seen on a company blog. In fact, it has a perfect example of a community on a blog. Combs' does a great job of replying to almost every comment left, and is very warm and friendly in doing so. You can also tell that the blog's readers have great empathy for Combs, as most make a point to either relate their own experiences on their own farms or attempt to help Combs' better complete his current projects. It might be a stretch to say that Life of a Farm Blog's readers are devoted to Combs, but it's obvious that they are quite fond of him, and his responses make it obvious that he greatly appreciates their comments.
Now let's move to the sidebar. First, we have a picture of Joel on his Mahindra tractor, and a link to an 'About Me' section. A picture and bio for every blogger should be a must for a company blog, but many don't add one. Unfortunately, there's not a lot else on the sidebar. We have a link to subscribe to the blog's feed, the archives, one category, and a few links to Mahindra products and sites. While the content portion of the blog does an excellent job of providing value for its readers, unfortunately the sidebar doesn't offer much value to anyone that would live on a farm, or enjoy a lifestyle similar to Combs'. This is another area where many blogs fall short.
If I were Mahindra, I would add links to the blogs from any regular commenters, as well as a few popular blogs/sites devoted to farm life. This alone would go a long way toward ensuring that the sidebar's value is more in line with the value Combs creates in his posts.
Overall, Life of a Farm Blog is like most company blogs in that it excels in some areas, and falls short in others. Thankfully, the blog's strengths are in the two most important areas; content and comments. I also think that this blog is the perfect example of the saying 'good is the enemy of great'. This is a good blog. But with a few minor changes, such as adding more reader-relevant links on the sidebar, the blog could become a great one. Mahindra may be subscribing to the 'if it aint broke, don't fix it' line of thinking when it comes to the blog, especially considering how popular Combs appears to be with his readers.
And now let's turn to the scoring:
Content: 31 (Out of a possible 35) - Love how the blog is positioned from the view of Joel as a farmer, instead of Joel as a Mahindra customer. Still, at times it seems there's a tad too much 'selling' of Mahindra products happening.
Comments: 34 (Out of a possible 35) - Most posts have several comments, and Joel does a solid job of replying and engaging readers. Wonderful example of a company blog having a vibrant community.
Posting Schedule: 4 (Out of a possible 15) - Very sporadic posting, with the blog averaging about one new post a week.
Sidebars: 7 (Out of a possible 15) - Love the pic and bio of Joel, but otherwise the sidebar is pretty bare.
Total Score: 76 (Out of a possible 100)
If anyone from Mahindra wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me. If you're a company that would like to hire me to do an extensive checkup of your blog, you can click here for more information on my blogging and social media consulting services. And if anyone can think of a company blog that they want me to do a checkup on, feel free to email me!
Thanks to Jonathan for the tip about Mahindra's blog.
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, Company Blog Checkup, Mahindra Tractors