The first thing to note is that Fender’s website is far slicker than Gibson’s.
Built using responsive design, it has a clean, uncluttered look, with embedded videos, and big, gorgeous images of its products.
It’s a smart, up-to-date site that puts Gibson’s old fashioned, DIY template website to shame.
And it’s home to some excellent content, though it’s not immediately obvious how to find it all.
Other than ‘Products’ the options in the top nav are quite vague so it’s a case of trial and error to find what you’re looking for.
As far as I can tell, both the ‘Music’ and ‘Play’ sections are home to editorial content, though each has a slightly different focus.
In Music you’ll find articles on new albums, artist interviews, reviews of famous performances, and more general music-related posts.
There’s even a section for Spotify playlists featuring songs from artists associated with Fender’s guitars.
Over in the ‘Play’ section things are a lot more product focused.
It includes product demos, lessons, how-tos (e.g. how to get good bass sound at medium-size club gigs), product updates, and articles about very techy guitar stuff that I don’t fully understand.
Each section is updated on an almost daily basis so there’s plenty to keep people interested and coming back for more.
The rather grandly named ‘Fender University’ isn’t as good as it sounds.
While Gibson offers free access to tons of videos lessons, Fender occasionally posts videos explaining how to customise or fix your guitar but doesn’t offer any tips on how to actually get a tune out of it.
Instead it promotes Berklee Online guitar school and an app called Rock Prodigy, both of which users have to pay for.
This is quite lame and a missed opportunity for Fender.
It’s in the brand’s interests for people to keep learning and using their guitars, and with a bit of investment Fender could easily create some useful tutorials that would both generate traffic and encourage people to keep playing.
Fender hosts all of its video content on YouTube, so there’s a lot of content available on its channel and it’s updated on a regular basis.
As with the content on its website, the videos are a mixture of artist interviews, product demos and the occasional live performance.
It’s all quite interesting though I think Fender would benefit from having a more structured approach.
The content on Gibson’s channel is based around regular features so the audience knows what to expect and can look forward to new posts.
Even though I assume there’s some strategy behind it, Fender’s videos appear to be a bit more random so people can’t anticipate what’s next.
Facebook and Twitter
Those of you that read my previous post will be aware that Gibson has more than 20 accounts on both Facebook and Twitter.
Fender keeps things simple by having one official Facebook page and only a couple of Twitter feeds.
Focusing on Facebook first off, the feed is mainly pictures of guitars or famous rockstars playing the guitar. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that and all of the posts attract many thousands of interactions.
The social team also gets involved with the hallowed social tradition of Throwback Thursday by posting images and interviews from the archives.
Most of the content links back to Fender’s articles and ecommerce site, and as far as I can tell it never shares content from third-parties.
Over on Twitter it’s much the same and the feed is full of links to Fender’s articles.
However it also mixes things up with Vines, YouTube videos and links to its Instagram feed.
Our featured album this month is @FallOutBoy ‘s “American Beauty/American Psycho.” Rd review: http://t.co/UXVedn3Ekv pic.twitter.com/zOcsdChtU8
— Fender® [Guitars] (@Fender) January 22, 2015
On the community management side of things, Fender frequently retweets other users and very occasionally it will respond directly to an @mention.
The retweets are a great way to acknowledge its online community, but I think Fender could do more to actually engage people in conversations.
Even so, people who are interested in guitars will still probably find enough articles and cool pictures to keep them interested.
RT @VintageAndRare: 1965 CAR & 1964 LPB Fender #Jazzmasters. What do you think? #vintageandrare #vintageguitars pic.twitter.com/QdFPxDjpTB
— Fender® [Guitars] (@Fender) January 21, 2015
Tumblr and Instagram
Fender has left no social network unturned.
I’ll quickly mention its Tumblr and Instagram feeds here, though I won’t dwell on them too much as the content is exactly the same as that which appears on Facebook and Twitter.
On Instagram it has 325,000 followers and generally attracts around 20,000 ‘likes’ on each post.
It’s funny to note that Fender also puts Bitly links in its posts, in the forlorn hope that one day someone might actually copy and paste one into a browser.
Much like Gibson, Fender offers its community a place to kick back, relax and talk about guitars.
There are a range of forums that host conversations pertaining to different Fender products.
For example there are three forums within the Fender Guitars category, three more for Fender Bases, and then others for the Custom Shop, Accessories, Acoustic, International markets and nine forums for different Fender amps.
The most popular forum is the Fender Lounge, which contains more than 23,000 topics and 420,000 posts.
According to Fender’s stats, there are 551,000 members and the record for the most users ever was set back in March 2008 when 1,349 people were online at the same time.
I wouldn’t be surprised if user numbers had nosedived since then due to the rise of other social networks.
Even so, music is a topic that naturally drives conversation so these forums are a great way for Fender to involve itself in the music community.
It also creates a place where people can come to discuss Fender’s products and give each other recommendations and advice, which will likely lead to additional sales in future.