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  • Writer's picturetamera

Toyota’s Hybrid “community” needs a social media remedial

I came across an announcement on MediaPost about the re-launch of the Toyota Hybrid community website and decided to check it out (note to MediaPost — links would be helpful and more social), being an old auto ad chick myself, an environmentalist, and invested in social media. As reported, it sounded fantastic and a wonderful way to get the community involved. And it is pretty cool. But was that the point?

The main issue I have with the site is it’s built completely in Flash. High on bells and whistles, low on seamless integration and usability. It’s also difficult to find. I went to the Toyota Prius page from my Google search and the link there was to the Edmunds Toyota Community. Huh? Cross-linking/referencing new campaigns is a good thing people… you never know someone’s entrance point. I went back to the homepage and saw a cryptic banner for the “Hybrid Synergy Drive“. Excuse me? What does that mean? “Synergy Drive” sounds pretty cool in brainstorming sessions, not so much when you’re looking for a car, or to join a community.

When I finally get to the site it opens in a new window – bad. Then the Flash loads and I get a jumble of meaninglessness, although it looks cool. It’s not a “community”, except in the loosest sense of the word. It is tightly controlled and lacking depth or stickiness. There is no two-way communication with Toyota the company, and the only communication between community members is to view “reasons” people own the car (the reasons Toyota oh so nicely provides to you vs. allowing you to express your own opinions – about 15 -20 to choose from), or to chat via IM with people you’ve added as friends (except good luck finding someone, you’re identified by # – how personal and social).

Sure, once you’ve picked your Toyota-approved “reasons” you can manipulate their graphics to personalize a bit and you can upload a photo or video tied into your “number”, but so what? That kept me engaged for approx. 10 seconds. Why would I come back?

On the plus side, I do like the ability to search by various factors (age range, miles driven, vehicle colour), but with all the issues identified above that functionality is not optimized or persuasive.

The rest of the tools are ones you’d find on the vehicle branded page, which has nothing to do with community, and everything to do with the purchase funnel. It’s not a bad idea per se, to provide these tools on a community site, but they should be secondary to the purpose.

It’s disappointing to see that companies and agencies still don’t get it – if you want to form, join, or lead, a community, it has to be about them, not you. I’m sure the hybrid community has a lot of things they are passionate about and like to share about their vehicle outside of what Toyota allows… on another website. Although, I shouldn’t be too surprised as it appears companies and agencies still don’t get that search engines don’t index Flash either. Could be why it was so hard to find in the first place.

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