Allow me a moment of cynicism. Perhaps, I’ve reached a point of over-connection through my Twitter, FaceBook and ADVRider accounts, but do we really need another social network to divert our attention from riding? Ducati thinks so, and I’ll admit after a few days toying with DucatiCommunity.com, which runs on the Kontain social network platform, it is one of the slickest social platforms out there.
Kontain, and hence Ducati Community, places an emphasis on visual sharing so there’s a lot more photo’s and videos than text, and the graphically rich user interface is one of the cleanest I’ve encountered. So DNA can go ahead and call Ducati Community, “a cutting edge social media site for Ducati enthusiasts to come together and share their experiences via photo, video and written anecdotes.” Though there are some unintuitive actions, like attempting to reply to a comment left on a post, which undermines the apps social goals.
Ducati Community is being launched initially in North America, but the flying-D envisions it “connect[ing] Ducati enthusiasts from all over the world. With a passionate following unique to the Ducati brand, the new Ducati Community completes the previously unobtainable link between Ducati, its dealers, the Desmo Owners Clubs (DOC) and Ducati fans – all of which were previously separated by geographical boundaries.”
That last bit really is the marketing speak kicking into high gear though, there’s a number of long time pre-existing web forums and FaceBook pages dedicated to Ducati that have served such a purpose. Even if they can’t be synced with Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites or follow a blog’s easier to scan revers-chronology, or updated via a as yet unreleased iPhone or Android app.
Your tweeps and FB friends will, of course, rejoice at a constant feed of motorcycle related missives. Trust me, my aunts really do love it. Leaving Ducati Community unconnected from Facebook and Twitter, may be the strongest argument for the site – you’re sharing with like minded riders who care, rather than shouting at your 16 year-old niece who doesn’t.
“We are beyond excited about the launch of the Ducati Community site. This new platform will keep us at the forefront of technology and current web media practices. Ducati owners can now share everything from a cell phone image of Nicky Hayden in the paddock to a lap of Willow Springs from their last track day. All of this can be done right from a cell phone and reach users around the globe instantly,” said John Paolo Canton; PR Manager for Ducati North America. “It is not just a website, it is a way to connect people and give them the full Ducati brand experience.”
Undoubtedly, Ducati Community is the type of application that PR folks gush about and over. There are also a few interesting implications, by it’s own admission, “Ducati will regularly use the Ducati Community site in order to relay news, model unveilings, major events, and unique promotions for all of North America.”
That’s a move that in the long run could cuts into Ducati’s need for external media, print or online, to reach “the brand’s most loyal followers”, which in turn that diminishes independent voices. The other concern is that unlike the existing web forums, Ducati could moderate negative comments about the brand. So threads commiserating and problem solving over flaky Multistrada 1200 S electronics may never see the light of day. You can’t really complain about a lack of free speech if you’re playing in Ducati’s big, glossy, red sandbox. Call me paranoid, but I wouldn’t be posting shots of the Hypermotard in the dirt if I’m planning a warrantee claim any time soon.
What strikes me about Ducati Community though is how it fails to push much beyond existing social media, though the site is a huge leap forwards from a majority of the creakingly archaic forum platforms serving this and other motorcycle communities. There is potential for Ducati Community to do so much more. With the integration of GPX file uploads, Ducatista could be sharing favorite routes. Given geo-location, there is the unrealized potential for connecting local Ducatista with each other for spontaneous group rides, targeted event announcements, or a nearest dealer look-up, or even an emergency roadside assist button, integrated into the iPhone/Android app, linking users to the nearest dealer. As an incentive to use Ducati Community, the later would cinch the deal for many riders if only for piece of mind. One wonders what the site’s development road map and product management plan looks like?
With a reasonable starting price for a base web-instance of Kontain, the community represents a strong investment for Ducati in comparison to print advertising rates. The interface and specificity alone provide enough motivation for Ducatista to reallocate a portion of their day from other social media and forums to Ducati Community. Timing of course may be the biggest barrier to adoption, as we move out of the winter silly-season and into spring where riders are spending more time on the bike and less in front of the computer.
At the time of this writing the site is off to a moderate start, with just under 250 user. So if you we’re planing to get to know everyone in the early days, you’ve blown it. Ducati Community is well past Dunbar’s Number. Having signed up on the second day, I feel like a seasoned veteran.
The Ducati Community can be found at: www.ducaticommunity.com