I was looking at the Ford blog to attempt to determine what platform the company is using for its website for my post on business blogs of the Fortune 500, and decided to write up a blog post on the Ford Content Garden.
A content garden is a website that seeks to generate quality content using various content creation methods from; paid journalist, commission journalist, consumer generated media, social community, and/or aggregated content. Content gardens are not content farms, but curated websites of quality content.
Ford has come a long way in just a few short years from the My Bold Moves website. There's the same concept a content site where good quality content is aggregated, but this time Ford does a better job of sourcing content, and bringing the customer's voice to the table.
Here’s an overview of the site by each individual section:
Customers can submit stories to a section called Your Stories. Readers have the ability to comment, share the content in social media and find the most popular content.
Ford has hired journalists or writers to write good well researched articles on Ford and car related topics. This gives Ford the ability to write content that's keyword focused, and tell their story. Again the design of the page means that readers can share content or comment easily. A widget let's you immediately see what are the most popular articles on the site.
Readers and customers can submit their ideas to the site. You have to register to submit an idea, and also to vote the idea up or down. Again you can share or comment on any one idea. And there's a widget for identifying the most popular ideas, and related content. I found the category of ideas interesting, from; convenience, green, infotainment, performance, personalization to safety. A big theme throughout the site were green cars, I believe this helps to give the Ford brand a positive impression in the marketplace.
As of my review of the site there were 848 images on the site, this was an interesting feature, a wall of images appears on the site, and when you roll over each image, you see more information to an individual story. This means each image was included in an image library, and this section of the Ford site gives readers and customers the ability to scroll or search through images easily. You can search by articles, submitted stories, categories, period of time and types of vehicles. Images is a nice innovative feature.
78 videos on the site, most of them, 68, are featured on Ford articles, but 10 were submitted as part of Your Stories. Again you can search the videos by categories, time frame and article or story.
One interesting aspect of The Ford Story content garden is that blogs are not directly integrated into the main navigation, rather there are links, but they are seen as a separate site, though if you do go to the Ford Blogs the rest of the content Garden is clearly part of the blogs, in that the overview of the Ford Blogs has a top navigation to the rest of the content garden. I've be interested in hearing from the Ford digital team why they took that tactic?
Ford doesn't have a corporate blog, rather customers or advocates write on various blogs about cars and events related to Ford. I think this interesting, one because it may mean there's more ROI from having customers talk to readers, but the approach goes a little against the trend of corporate blogs highlighting employees. This may be that Ford would rather employee voices come through social networks like Twitter and Facebook, which actually makes sense to me. It's really tough to get employees to write a blog, while employees are using social networks anyway, and that's where customers are hanging out. The other issue with employee corporate blogs is that you don't get focused content and that’s one reason why Ford's content garden does an excellent job with the article section.
If it's difficult to talk about innovation from product managers with vehicles, the submit ideas section may do a better job of picking up ideas anyway. And customer service is not really a Ford issue anyway, the dealerships handle customer service, or the Ford social media team handles issues directly on blogs, or in social networks. It makes sense you would not necessarily have a corporate blog.
What I really liked about the design of the site was its ability to highlight other content throughout the content garden, even when content was generated by different sources, or even exists off site, such as the Flickr site. Plus, the ability to sort through content and find what's important, this reminded me of earlier sites that I called blog aggregators.
Overall, Ford’s content garden is a great site, and obviously works for Ford, though, there must be some lost opportunities not having employees blog, but given the design, content sourcing, and innovation features of the content garden, a corporate blog may have been more of a distraction in terms of content generation given all of the social content the garden is already producing. Supplemented with journalist content in the article section, the Ford content story is really one of content from customers and advocates.