Company Blog Checkup: Mahindra Tractors

Mahindra is a company that produces tractors and other farm equipment. With their 'Life of a Farm' blog, they have turned the keys over to one of their evangelists, Joel Combs. Smart move? Let's take a look...

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.


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posted by Mack Collier @ 8:56 AM,

10 Comments:

At 10:35 AM, Blogger Shama Hyder said...

Mack,

This was a great look into what a company blog should stand for. I don't deal with farm equipment, but now even I am curious to check out their farm blog.

 
At 10:46 AM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

Shama I also think Life of a Farm Blog is a great example of what an 'authentic' blogging voice sounds like. If Mahindra had written this blog themselves, it would have likely had a completely different tone, and it probably wouldn't have near the community it does now.

And interesting case study in turning over your company blog to your evangelists.

 
At 12:39 PM, Blogger Jennifer Laycock said...

Mack,

What a great example of a company empowering an evangelist. I'm finding that my favorite company blogs are those that really rely on that customer voice to get their point across.

With rare exception (Southwest springs to mind) most of the businesses that blog are limited in their ability to tout their products or services because it all sound so contrived. Pull that out and unless you have a REALLY interesting company atmosphere, things get boring.

The companies that are making use of evangelists (Fiskars springs to mind) are really scoring points here. The voice is genuine, the community builds quickly and the positive sentiment attaches itself to the brand.

Thanks for pointing this one out!

 
At 12:48 PM, Blogger jptrenn said...

Mack

The great thing about this is that we found the guy through a dealer. In other words, Mahnidra used their own network of people to reach out and get someone. Very natural. Or I guess you could say "authentic".

I especially like it because I spent a lot of time on a farm growing up. Drove a tractor before I drove a car.

 
At 1:58 PM, Blogger Anne Adrian said...

Mack,

Thanks for this evaluation. Life of a Farm was one of the first blogs I started following. At the time, I was looking for blogs that would interest Cooperative Extension agricultural agents and their clients.

This post certainly helps me explain why our agents themselves should blog and not go through the Communications/Marketing group. Also the comments help me consider ways to include clients in blogging.

Thanks for the post.

Anne

 
At 2:13 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"This post certainly helps me explain why our agents themselves should blog and not go through the Communications/Marketing group."

Anne that's one of the best complements I've ever gotten on a post ;) It's the difference between an authentic response, and a scripted one.

People gravitate toward authenticity, they are repelled by scripted language that attempts to be anything but.

 
At 5:05 PM, Anonymous Des said...

Mack

Excellent story and valuable post. Your evaluation makes very recommendable reading for any business owner or exec, for businesses large or small, considering the "so who's gonna blog for us?" question. And you wisely point out that there is a risk involved in getting a product/company evangelist to do it. Just as there is a risk in getting your PR person to do it :)

 
At 6:48 PM, Anonymous A Week In The Life of A Redhead said...

Mack,

I just discovered your blog today and found that I am making some blogging mistakes myself. I used to go to Life on a Farm, but forgot about it until now. He used to never really interact with the readers, so the site gave off the feel of a business-type blog ... I don't know whether or not that has changed for the better.
I enjoyed your blog.
Catherine, the redhead

 
At 5:20 AM, Anonymous Tractor - used and new said...

Fantastic - I love a good blog - and was looking for blogs about tractors, farming, etc. We grew up on a farm and I didn't realize how much I miss it. I'll be back. :)

 
At 6:38 AM, Anonymous aditya said...

Great to know people are interested in corporate blogs. I wanted to tell you about our official corporate blog (mahindrauniverse.com). It discusses four basic issues : sustainability, innovation, customer centricity and globalization. I would like to get your views on it.

 

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