by: Matt Rhodes

People are always asking us for great examples of online communities in their particular industry, so we thought we’d start a series of great examples from different industries: Online Community Examples. Each Monday we’ll be taking a particular industry and giving three short case studies of online communities, whether for marketing, customer engagement, market research or other reasons. Today we start with the automotive industry.

Online communities in the automotive industry

The Automotive industry is a great candidate for social media and online communities in particular. The product is one that people are passionate about, either because it is an aspirational purchase, or because it fulfils a very important and functional role in their lives. People very often have strong allegiances to particular brands and may choose to always purchase, for example, a Ford or a Renault.

In this kind of market the best examples of online communities are those which build on and strengthen the strong consumer-brand link, or those which leverage the passion and involvement to help support the brand. The three examples below show how this can work. Feel free to add your comments of other examples you know of in this industry.

Harley-Davidson Museum Blog

The Harley-Davidson Museum Blog shows how brands in the automotive industry can capitalise upon the strong connection consumers feel both to the brand and to its heritage. The blog provides a way for Harley-Davidson to involve people in the brand, keep people up-to-date on what’s happening, share knowledge and content about the brand, interact with consumers and fans through the blog and comments. It’s a good example of where social media and online communities can really add value to an experience:

Before this blog existed, people would have to visit the physical museum, or get in touch with the brand direct to learn in this way. Now people all over the world can learn and even interact if they want. Whilst there are many fan sites out there, this has the benefit of coming from the brand itself. This not only lends it a level of credibility but also, and perhaps more importantly, means that they have information and data to share that others won’t.

This is a great example of engaging a passionate consumer base (and indeed a fan base), and the blog is a great way to share information and knowledge. It would be good to see more community and sharing elements included in the site - an ‘Ask Harley-Davidson’ discussion area would, I’m sure, be really popular.

Mini Insider

The Mini Insider online community is a fantastic example of amplifying word of mouth. The community was originally set up to work in tandem with an offline advertising campaign but has since grown in both numbers of people engaged and the ways in which it is used. It’s reported that 75% of Mini owners in the USA are now a member of the community, providing a rich resource of advocacy and of information. Not only do most members of the community stay loyal to the brand and buy another Mini, but it’s claimed that about half of all sales leads are actually generated by the site.

A resource like this is a great way of decreasing your conversion costs. Getting existing owners to talk about and showcase their own Minis helps those who are new to the brand to understand what they could have and what they might want to buy. We know that people trust peers more than a marketing message and so the Mini Insiders online community can be a much more powerful conversion tool than other sales and marketing routes. And when compared to face-to-face advice or sales, the online community is significantly cheaper.


GM’s GMnext community is an interesting example of using the brand and the consumer’s relationship with it to talk about another issue. The site brings together people from senior GM exectuives (up to and including Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner), front-line employees, and retirees as well as consumers. They are encouraging conversations in five areas: vehicle design, current and emerging technologies, the environment, ideas and global corporate social responsibility. For GM, these are the areas that they think will drive the future of the automotive industry and they want to be part of (and perhaps own) the debate in these areas.

This is a good example of brands using their position in an industry to discuss issues amongst themselves and with their consumers in a very public arena. This can be a great way to position yourself as both being at the forefront of your industry, and also of being an innovative and responsive communicator. Using internal expertise and seeking external commentators is what many brands probably want to do, and online communities make it really easy for them to do it.

See all our Online Community Examples

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