Last month I received an e-mail from the president of smart USA announcing its new social network for smart car owners. Smart USA Insider runs on the Ning platform and is a great way to support smart owners and connect fellow brand enthusiasts. I actually found the idea to be a bit of a no-brainer and wondered why more companies - especially those with such a fanatic user base - aren't doing the same thing. So I decided to wait a month to see how the network grew - maybe it wouldn't catch on?
It's now a little over a month since I received that e-mail, and smart USA Insider has more than 7,600 members and almost 3,500 user photos. Like the car, the smart social network seems to have caught on. And the Ning platform is perfect for rallying owners in this type of fanatic network - blog posts talk about receiving delivery dates from smart (there currently is a waiting list for the petite car), getting the call that a new owner's smart has arrived, road trips and the resulting miles per gallon (often 40+) and more. The Events tool helps owners gather one another in person for meet-ups (with some great resulting pictures), and the Forum allows owners to interact, answer questions and provide advice like how to properly acknowledge other smart owners on the road.
Smart USA also has a goldmine of data here - many smart owners also are sharing the problems they are having with their cars, such as check engine lights going on, wheel dust and dealers acting improperly. For a young vehicle and brand (in the US anyway), this information - if mined properly - should be incredibly helpful for smart. It looks like the site has moderators, but another step could be to have smart representatives answer questions and concerns (right now it looks like owners only).
I'm not an owner myself, but after hanging out on the site for a while, it's hard to not get caught up in the excitement around the brand and the interaction among the owners.