Yes, it could be argued that they have it easier than most as music is by its very nature a communal activity, but they still deserve credit for accommodating their fans and getting involved in the conversation.
In this post I’ll look at the work done by Gibson before following up with another focusing on Fender.
Let’s begin with the website…
Gibson’s site is beginning to look quite dated, but I’m not here to moan about the shoddy UX or the fact that it has not one but two carousels.
I’m more interested in the massive amount of content it publishes, along with the tutorial videos and forums.
On the homepage you can see a widget that links to the latest articles from its news/lifestyle section and another that includes featured posts.
Lower down the page there are links to video lessons, Gibson events, Facebook & Twitter feeds and its regular ‘Battle of the fans’ feature.
It’s a bit cluttered but the focus is definitely on keeping people entertained as well as selling them guitars.
Gibson publishes several articles per day, including short copy-and-paste style news releases and longer features.
For example, in the news section the posts announce who will be headlining a particular festival, detail new album releases, or wish happy birthday to some rock legend.
Meanwhile the features might discuss who is the best female drummer of all time, give a history of loudspeakers, interview a famous guitarist, or look at new guitar designs.
The articles generally attract a handful of comments so it would appear to have an engaged audience.
I assume Gibson must have a full-time editorial team to maintain this level of output, which is to its credit.
Among the other content it publishes, Gibson also hosts regular competitions and has a clever ‘Battle of the fans’ feature.
This is a simple but effective premise where Gibson poses a question, such as ‘Who’s Your Favorite 3-Guitar Band?’ or ‘Which decade had the best hooks?’, and then lets fans debate the answer in the comments section.
It’s a popular feature, with some of the articles attracting upwards of 50 comments, but Gibson doesn’t push its luck by overusing the format.
In general these ‘battle of the fans’ articles are published once a month at most.
Any brand looking to do more with video content would benefit from looking at Gibson’s YouTube channel.
It actually has two channels, Gibson Entertainment and Gibson Guitar, the latter of which has been largely neglected recently but does still host a high number of interesting and good quality videos.
Some of it is product-focused but most of it sets out to entertain or inform, so it includes interviews with famous musicians, live performances and tutorials showing how to customise a guitar or master a certain technique.
Over on Gibson Entertainment none of the videos are explicitly product focused.
Instead there are a variety of regular features that aim to ensure the Gibson brand stays relevant to a younger audience.
The series include Artist Spotlight, Three Guys and Guitars, and Outside the Label.
New episodes are posted every few months while regular live performances from ‘The Listening Room’ ensure there’s always something new to watch.
The videos all have several thousand views, though one live song from a band called Echosmith has clocked up more than 100,000 views.
Guitar lessons and tutorials are massively popular on YouTube so Gibson might be missing a trick by hosting its Skills House videos exclusively on its own site.
There’s a huge amount of content here, including foundation lessons, tips for intermediate players and videos showing how to perform a particular song.
The song lessons have something for everyone, from classics such as Call Me and Rhiannon down to dross from One Direction.
There are even live lessons hosted one or twice a month via UStream.
This is both a great content marketing exercise and a good aftersales tool as it helps people to get the most out of their guitar.
It’s in Gibson’s interests for people to continue learning and improving their guitar skills as they’ll then buy more products in the future.
Gibson’s online forums have nearly 60,000 members, which is good going for a corporate-owned message board. At the time of looking there were 373 people active on the site.
The forums are grouped into different topics – Welcome, The Gibson Family of Brands, All Things Gear and Guitar, and Gibson International.
Some are obviously more popular than others, but I’d say most of them have been updated in the past week and around half have been active in the past 24 hours.
Gibson rewards active forum members with access to The Gibson Lounge.
You must have contributed 15 posts before you can join the discussion in The Lounge, which is a great way of stimulating discussion and making people feel valued.
Gibson has a heck of a lot of different social accounts.
According to the website there are 32 Facebook pages and 31 Twitter feeds, which cover each of the different Gibson brands and also do communications for local markets.
So on Facebook, for example, there are pages for Epiphone (427,000 fans), Flying V (130,000), Les Paul (1.5m), then others for France (7.7m), India (20,000) and Nashville (1,189).
With the exception of some of the smaller markets the pages are updated on an almost daily basis and posts achieve a consistently high number of interactions.
The most popular pages, such as Flying V and Les Paul, generally receive upwards of 5,000 ‘likes’ per post.
As one would expect there’s a strong focus on Gibson products and the rockstars who use the guitars, which means the content is hugely appealing to music fans.
Gibson also shares a good amount of articles, videos and posts from other Facebook users, though there’s also a lot of links back to its ecommerce store.
On Twitter it’s a different story. There are still feeds focusing on local markets but not on the individual brands.
Instead there are accounts for Events, PR, a product evangelist and product specialists.
These are obviously less popular as the content isn’t as interesting as a Facebook page that just has loads of pictures of cool guitars.
Most of these feeds only have a few thousand followers and aren’t updated that often. The careers feed has actually been dormant since 2011.
On a more positive note, the main Gibson Guitar feed has close to 1m followers.
It’s very much an outbound messaging strategy and I can’t find any examples of Gibson responding to an @mention from anyone other than a celebrity.
In general the feed is made up of retweets of other brands and celebs, and links to Gibson articles and content.
Lesson time! This one’s on “Combining Harmonics and Chords” http://t.co/p92ojhwqyi #makepracticefun #GibsonSkillsHouse
— Gibson Guitar (@gibsonguitar) January 12, 2015
There’s very little in the way of best practice here as Gibson makes no attempt to engage its audience directly and doesn’t bother using images or Twitter cards, but to be honest I still find it quite interesting to follow.
Gibson also has close to 100,000 Instagram followers, though it really is one for the connoisseurs.
See if you can notice a theme here…