Yet Another Bike Community

In the 3 years that we’ve attended Interbike, the industry has started not only understanding and embracing blogging and Social Media, but also now launching their own communities. Interbike saw

Ok, cool, but do we need yet another bike community and more fragmentation of an already niche audience? At Textura Design (the parent of Bike Hugger) we advise businesses to not start their own social networks or communities, but instead to join one and take part in the conversation about their brand and products. I talked about that with my fellow panelists during the Social Media session at Interbike.

Interbike 08 Day One: Another bike community Business should start a YouTube contest, get themselves onto Flickr, or most importantly just start blogging like SWOBO does with their blog. While Bummer Life, may look like “Fixies, trucker hats, and PBR,” it’s really a sophisticated and crafty approach to brand.

I don’t know when it will happen, but I hope soon that marketers pop their heads out of their cubes and realize the web isn’t about “clicks and banner ads anymore.” It’s a Google economy: page rank v. impressions. Want proof? Google yourself. More proof? Try launching your own community! While I understand the thinking that an affinity club for your product will rule the blogworld, and I’m not dissing anyone that does it, I’m asking, “but why, really?”

Wouldn’t a hub of all-things-commuter written by geeks in that community make for a better spend? Wonder what that Mobile Social thing is all about? It’s more than cyclists harmoniously united by a mutual love of beer, schwag, and music. It’s about connecting the industry to their customers. Ibex owners really dig the product and really dig talking to the Ibex brand manager all about Merino wool.

When you launch your own, brand-specific community, what it says is “our brand doesn’t fit into your life.” That may be a TRUE message, but it’s unlikely that it’s the one you’re going for. Instead try a “ We make bikes and you like bikes; so, let’s talk.”

Readers? Your thoughts? Do you want to join any of these communities? Would you start your own?



9 Comments

Considering how easy it is to launch a community via Ning or a similar tool, I see the temptation. But no, I don’t think all these new communities are needed. Some of them, maybe. There is that niche-within-a-niche that might catch on.

@Todd,

It does make sense, but in the case of Cateye, we’ve already got mapmyride and bikeradar and routeslip and other sites I don’t even know about. It is a nice-looking site and may very well do good. Also, I didn’t get a photo or spend any time there to know for sure, but I think QBP had something as well for bike shops, which does make sense. Help a bike shop start a website to promote commuting from their store or in their community.

I would say that Bummer life is actually more moustaches, Budweiser, and bacon, but I may just be a devotee…

I want to join as few social networks as possible, and yet read many blogs for information.  As a web reader, I don’t want to make a username, make up a new user name when mine is taken, make up a password, make up another password when my usual one doesn’t meet the requirements, and then remember all that info once a week or so. 

this problem of fragmetation in the bicycle-friendly community is huge and has been going on since the beginning of bicycle-riding-time.  cyclists, by nature, are usually free-thinking, independant people and that independance very often leads to doing their own thing - instead of joining with others who are doing something similar already.  i dont see that ever really changing - and in fact - those differences should probably be embraced as part of our collective culture - cuz - really, at the end of the day, we are all pedaling something that moves us forward.  some may see these divides as negative but from where i sit i think those divisions are what make our community so vibrant and exciting.

for example - lets look at bike polo, grasscourt and hardcourt styles…similar game but might as well be oil and water.

@BigBrian

I agreed and wrote about that in a [design critique of Facebook](http://texturadesign.com/blog/2008/05/social_media_doses_online_pres.htm). The reason Flickr became so popular and YouTube (millions blown on dotcoms that tried before them) is they don’t make you sign up just to see the content. A larger problem startups are working on right now is social presence—meaning, a new networks wants me to create another profile, and upload photos, and what’s next are we going to meet your parents? It’s ridiculous. Portable profiles can help, but there’s no way that Cateye, Civia, and Pedros would allow that. I joke that there is no ROI on Facebook—there is a good opp to have a group about say, “bike to work challenge,” but I don’t spend any real time there. Same thing with Meetup, we used that for the Mobile Social RSVP and that’s it.

@S

That’s correct—many niches within a niche. At the Mobile Social, we had Cargo, Folders, racers, and just some peeps hanging out. During the race, the Cargo talked cargo bikes, blended drinks, and Fossil Fool rapped—damn cool. We had different interests, but with a bike theme. No BMX dudes though . . . that could’ve started a fight.

@Byron-
Facebook is an interesting example.  At almost 24, I would guess that I’m near the upper end of their core demographic, and I use it on a daily basis to keep track of friends and communicate.  What I don’t use it for is anything related to marketing.  I have the company I work for on my page, and that is it.  I don’t join groups associated with products, and I get generally annoyed when I see ad space made to look like news feed items.  This may be different among those younger than me, in the 18-22 range maybe?  But I started using facebook very early on, as a cleaner, more effective replacement for myspace, and I still see it as just a friend site.
It may just be my view (or ignorance) but I see and hear a lot of companies (including my own) trying to figure out a “facebook strategy” and I just feel like they’ve already failed at facebook. 

/ramble.

@Bigbrian

You’re right. We tell our clients to sure, sure, set up a Facebook group and use it for special events, a conference meetup, or customer evangelism, but do not market there. I despise the ads so much on Facebook that I sometimes subversively type totally off-topic stuff or skew my profile just to skew their demographics. Yes, send me Toyota Matrix ads, I’m sure to click on those.

The communities that have a solid core will always filter to the top.  Look at rock climbing dot com and cascade climbers dot com.  They are really the two main forums for climbing and mountaineering in the country.  There is beta, you can find climbing partners and it’s just plain entertaining.  What gives these communities credibility is the users and the content.  Some of the best climbers in the world are users on these sites. 

As played out as forums are, they can really create a strong sense of community.  Look at how many responses bike hugger gets that turn into conversations.  What if other bike hugger enthusiasts had a vehicle for posting interesting content and a place to discuss it?

The issue is when the big companies try to create what these forums already have for marketing purposes.  Most people can see right through that.

@Geoff,

Good point and the long-awaited Hugga 2.0 will bring on forums.

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