Thursday, April 10, 2008

Company Blog Checkup: Innocent Drinks

Innocent Drinks is a UK-based company that sells smoothies and flavored water to retail outlets. Innocent Drink's selling point is the use of its 'fresh' ingredients in its products, and this has helped the company become the dominant player in the UK smoothie market. But how does the company's blog, Daily Thoughts shape up? Let's find out.

As always, let's start with the content, which is probably the biggest stumbling block for many company blogs. Far too many companies make the mistake of trying to shine the spotlight on themselves with their blog, and turn the space into a promotional vehicle. But look at what Innocent Drinks has done with Daily Thoughts. There is almost zero direct promotion. But when the company is promoting itself, it finds a way to involve its customers. For example, the company has been promoting its AGM (Annual General Meeting), but is encouraging the blog's readers to use it as a mechanism to give them feedback on the company's direction. Also, they are encouraging customers to attend the meeting, and are posting pictures of customers that will attend!

The company also posts about recent efforts to plant trees to help the environment, and numerous updates on what the employees themselves are doing. But what strikes you as you read Daily Thoughts is that this is a FUN blog! The employees are having fun, the customers appear to love the brand, and a good time is being had by all. Again, very little promotion of the company's products, plenty of promotion of the customers, the employees, and stories that relate to the issues that are core to the brand. Daily Thoughts has hit a home run on the content front.

The posting pattern for the blog is pretty solid. They don't appear to have a set schedule, but still seem to be churning out about 4 posts a week, a very good amount for a company blog.

Now let's move to comments. I think the comment section is another area that there's a bit of a misconception among companies that blog. I believe they feel that if their posts are getting comments, then don't touch anything. Most of the posts on Daily Thoughts are getting comments, but I think the blog's writers could be replying more than they are. It's a tricky line to walk because you don't want to monopolize the conversation, but at the same time you want your readers to know that you are reading their comments, and will reply as you can. If I were Innocent Drinks, I would turn up the volume on replying to comments just a tad.

But as for the number of comments, many of the posts are getting comments, and some are getting several. It seems that Innocent Drinks has a blog that's resonating with its readers, and making them feel comfortable commenting. A VERY good sign.

Finally, let's look at the sidebars. The blog itself features a very handsome 3-column layout with the wider column being in the center where the posts are published. This gives Innocent Drinks the ability to put much more content on two sidebars, instead of one.

The sidebars feature all the main elements you'd like to see; categories, archives, links to other blogs, as well as subscriber buttons. Also, there are tons of links to Flickr pics, YouTube videos, the company's Facebook page, and areas for photos that customers have submitted. One glaring omission is, I don't see the section on the blog's writers. I need to see at minimum a link to where I can view a picture and the bio for EVERY one of the blog's writers. This SHOULD be on the front page of the blog, but if not a link should be there. Yes it's great to have links to Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and all that, but your readers want to see YOU. This is a key element of a company blog that is often overlooked.

I think that more than any other blog I've reviewed in the Company Blog Checkup series so far, Daily Thoughts really captures the 'fun' element. As soon as you visit the blog, it just seems like a fun place that you'd like to visit again. I think this is partly due to the fact that is probably looks more like a personal blog than your average company blog. The content is very low on self-promotion, and high on customers and employees.

And now for the scoring:

Content: 35 (Out of a possible 35) - The blog is fun, it focuses on the customers, it's fun, it focuses on the healthy aspects of the product, it's fun, and it's fun. Did I mention that this blog is really fun?

Comments: 29 (Out of a possible 35) - Not every post gets comments, but many do, and the Innocent Drinks team is usually good about replying and being active in the comments section. And note that this post currently has 432 comments. That's a sign that the blog is doing something right!

Posting Schedule: 14 (Out of a possible 15) - The blog is averaging almost a post a day (which is exceptional), but there are still some gaps. For example, there was only 1 post during the first 4 days of August, then FIVE on August 5th! Eliminating the few gaps by spreading out the posts would give the blog a perfect score here.

Sidebars: 9 (Out of a possible 15) - Very nice, and I love the addition of the company's presence on social sites like Facebook and YouTube, but no writer pics or bios is a big no-no.

Total Score: 87 (Out of a possible 100)

If anyone from Innocent Drinks 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!

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Anonymous said...

Mack - nice find and evaluation. I love the Innocent Drinks story and actually included it in my book as a great example of a brand with personality. The blog was part of how I learned about them ...

Anonymous said...

You are right, everybody in the UK loves Innocent! Innocent is a nice brand - a tasty healthy product for health conscious consumers, good packaging and a company that cares about the environment and gets invovled with charity projects. Around xmas time they get consumers to knit hats for the bottles and 50p from each bottle goes to Help the Aged

Mack Collier said...

Thanks for the comments, Rohit and Lolly. It's pretty obvious that Innocent Drinks has a fairly devoted following, and I'm sure the fact that they seem to put so much emphasis on their customers is a big reason for this.

dangermain said...

Hello Mack. Thank for featuring our blog on your site. Some great thoughts - we'll be discussing them all when we (the blog team) next sit down together.

Dan (innocent blogger)

Mack Collier said...

Dan thanks for checking in, good sign that Innocent Drinks is monitoring the blogosphere!