You're Behind The Wheel is the blog of AutoNation, the car retailer. The blog was launched in July of 2009, and continues to post content though on an irregular basis in terms of articles.
I did see several polls posted during February 2011, but the first real post I came across was in January of 2011. There was a post about an announcement regarding AutoNation's new community site called AutoNation Ideas, where the community can share ideas, and then be voted upon by the community. The top three ideas are picked by AutoNation to be published on the blog.
As I scrolled back through the archives of the blog, I saw a lot of polls, but also articles that were helpful tips on how to maintain and run a vehicle, or safety.
Here’s a sampling of titles:
-Jump start your car care routine.
-Does your car need a tune-up? Yes and no.
-The truth about distracted driving.
-Traveling with your pet.
All of these articles provide valuable insights into how to maintain or drive. But I saw little interaction from community members, just one or two comments for recent articles, but more comments as you go further back in time, the pet article had over 25 comments.
I was a little disappointed with the content on the blog, because I did not really get a sense of AutoNation other than the company holds sales contests, polls, and provides some helpful tips every now and then. I enjoyed the content strategy of providing tips and insights into the community, but I thought that just once or twice a month wasn't enough. I think it would be great to have more articles using the same strategy. I also wondered if many of these articles were generated because of SEO, someone searched for the top car related search terms and wrote a car article as a result. There's nothing wrong with doing something like this, but if you do, make sure that you've written the best article on the web, because there's a lot of competition out there, and it's tough getting a number one spot. I’d survey top bloggers in the industry, conduct a poll of customers, and reveal the results in the related article. Really work to make the article stand out with personality, in these days of concern about content farms and Google every publisher has to be worried about their quality of their content, and taking a little extra time survey the web for what will beats already at the top of the engines can pay off dramatically.
I also thought it would be good to hear more from AutoNation employees, I did not see any articles written by retail employees, not only would that bring some much needed personality to the blog, but you might also develop a local search strategy. Here AutoNation would write posts that contain information about the local area, what the store is doing, and feature comments from local bloggers.
I looked back through the archive to the launch of the blog, and it did appear that there were more comments from the community in the early days of the blog. But as you look ahead I don't see as many comments. I did see some answers in comments from AutoNation employees in the early days.
It takes a lot of time to write articles, and to monitor the community, and based on the resources of a company sometimes it doesn't make sense to post a lot of content. I'd really like to hear more from AutoNation, the company is an important retailer in the industry, and I think they have a real chance to get a wider voice in the auto content community by writing more content; perhaps with reviews of cars, or a round-up of the reviews in the industry from the car bloggers, and maybe more voice from employees.
Looking at some of AutoNation’s other social media channels; I did think the folks did a good job of linking back to their other channels, such as Facebook, YouTube, and more. For the company's Facebook site, they have a nice site, but I did not see much interaction from the community. Twitter however was a different matter; the stream was filled with conversation between the AutoNation Twitter stream and customers.
This post was written as part of my series on reviews of the Fortune 500 business blogs, where I typically review blogs as a way of giving value to the community, and learning from companies like AutoNation. For example, I really thought AutoNation did a great job of integrating their channels. Check out more corporate blogging reviews from myself and the community, and also learn how many Fortune 500 companies have blogs.