Just recently Toyota announced it is building a private social network, “Toyota Friend”, for its customers. Toyota Friend connects Toyota customers with their cars, their dealership and with Toyota. It will first be offered in Japan in Toyota’s electric vehicles (EV) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHV) in 2012.
There are two purposes of Toyota Friend.
1. Customer Relationship Manager: According to Toyota, Toyota Friend will provide a variety of product and service information as well as essential maintenance tips, creating a rich car ownership experience. For example, if an EV or PHV is running low on battery power, Toyota Friend would notify the driver to re-charge in the form of a “tweet”-like alert.
2. Friend & Family Communication: While Toyota Friend will be a private social network, customers can choose to extend their communication to family, friends, and others through public social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. The service will also be accessible through smart phones, tablet PCs, and other advanced mobile devices.
While this is a very smart move on Toyota’s part and it is likely that other auto manufacturers will follow suit, how many social network is too many? Currently, we have public, semi-private and private social networks.
For example, there are customer communities for peer-to-peer customer support, healthcare patient communities, government campaign communities, communities that support specific professional and personal interest groups like marketing or running, corporate social networks for employees, health related communities for people with specific conditions (diabetes, cancer, etc. ). And the list goes on and on.
But when will the consumer marketplace get overwhelmed with public, semi-private and private social networks? How many social networks can people actively belong too and participate in? This answer is yet to be known. But just like any other marketing strategies, as long as the social network offers value to its participants, it is likely to be successful.