Social Networking with Auto Enthusiasts

Social networks seem to popping up all over the place these days. There are the big boys like Facebook and MySpace, but there are countless other websites devoted to niche online communities too. Car345 is one such online social networking site and it is devoted to “cool cars and hot contests.” In this review, I’ll go over some of the most notable features on this site designed for gearheads and auto enthusiasts.

Social Networking Powered by Ning

If you want to set up a blog, WordPress seems to be the platform of choice. If you want to set up an online social network, it seems that the most popular platform is Ning. Siva, the guy behind Car345, decided to take the Ning route for his online car community, making use of the some of the most popular features.

Each user has the opportunity to set up a personalized profile page (more on this in a moment), but the key to having a successful online community is the ability to interact with other members. Car345 lets you do this in a few different ways.

These include the ability to write on the “comment wall” of other users, not only posting text, but also embedded videos, photos, and widgets (similar to Facebook apps). Discussions can take place in the forums and members are encouraged to upload as many relevant photos and videos as possible. As the site grows and matures, you may want to join a group of like-minded individuals.

Setting Up a Car345 Profile

To contribute to the Car345 community, you’ll need to sign up for a free account. The only information they require is an email address. After you’ve signed up, you can proceed to create your personalized profile page.

At the top of the page is a list of your latest activity. This feed tracks any blog posts that you may have written, any pictures you may have uploaded, and so on. Also on the profile page is a customized area where you can write (and upload) just about anything that you’d like. I’m not sure if you’re allowed to include advertising.

Below this section, you can include some gadgets and then there is a space for you to post an RSS feed in the sidebar. To further personalize your profile page, you can choose from a number of different themes too.

Contributing Content For Free

The beauty of owning a successful social networking site is that you really don’t have to create any content on your own. Instead, you can rely on your members to do this for you. They’ll want to upload funny videos and they are encouraged to contribute to their Car345 blogs. A member’s blog is not only featured on their own profile page, but the latest posts in the community are also displayed on the homepage.

This continuous flow of “free” content is under ideal conditions, of course. As it stands, there are only 11 members of the Car345 community. As a result, the site is pretty dead. I guess the hope is that through this review, they’ll be able to attract a larger user base.

Branding Issues

With all these features and ways to contribute to the online community, the biggest issue facing Car345 is branding. There really isn’t all that much that separates it from other similar Ning-based social networks. The site layout is pretty generic and the header image is not distinctive at all. I’ve also got to wonder about the rationale behind the name Car345. What is that supposed to mean? What is the significance of 345?

What About Those Hot Contests?

In an effort to not only attract more members but to also ensure that these new members actively contribute to the online community, there are no fewer than three contests going on at Car345. All of these are featured on the main page of the site.

The biggest prize is a Garmin nΓΌvi 660 portable GPS navigator. In order to win this, you need to write a post in your Car345 blog. This should help to provide the site with more original content. One of the other contests is to try to invite as many friends as you can to join car345.com. If you choose to sign up, please enter my name (Michael Kwan) and my email address (michael -at- michaelkwan -dot- com) in the referral box during the sign-up process. I wouldn’t mind a free Flip Video Camcorder. πŸ™‚

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR A FREE ACCOUNT WITH CAR345


37 thoughts on “Social Networking with Auto Enthusiasts”

  1. ClogMoney says:

    Looks cool, but on social networks like Facebook you can have groups like I love cars where things like this can be discussed, I guess you can have it looking as good but isn’t it the same functionality?

    1. These types of social networks are great for non-bloggers, but too often they become leeches for those bloggers with real sites… Bloggers can end up spending too much time on building someone else’s boat, instead of their own.

      Kenneth

      1. ClogMoney says:

        Yeah I can see how they can work, the guys there obviously want to make it a success by having the review on here and giving away not too bad a prize-3.

      2. car345.com says:

        On the otherhand, Niche bloggers can get more targeted traffic from these networks for a shorter version of their blog post.

      3. Syed Balkhi says:

        yeah … twitter is one of them lol bloggers are now spending more time there than on their own blogs.

  2. I just read about Ning in Fast Company a few days ago and it was the first I had heard of them, then I read about car345 utilizing Ning, looks pretty interesting.

    1. I read the article about Ning in Fast Company too and was very impressed by the whole concept. I think this site is a good ideal of what can be done with Ning, and will likely attract a good user base who aren’t big myspace/facebook fans.

      :mrgreen:

  3. car345.com says:

    Thank you Michael for nice review. The reason I chose Car345 for the site name was my search for domain name with car and short domain name.

    1. Thiago Prado says:

      I didn’t like the name. It doesn’t mean anything and the number it’s not related to the website. I talk about Brazil in my blog then I named it whataboutbrazil.com. I try to make it easier to user remember the name.

    2. Flimjo says:

      I’m surprised no one else had taken that domain name. It’s a good catch.

    3. used cars says:

      That is a terrible reason to pick a name. You can at least be creative and pick something more meaningful or ante up for a domain that someone else has already purchased.

      1. Joshua says:

        …or at least lie about how you came up with it πŸ˜‰

  4. Flimjo says:

    It’s all about niches. This site certainly targets a specific niche market, and I have no doubt that it will succeed.

  5. make cash says:

    This is a very nice post quite interesting and highly educative

  6. John says:

    Hope the 11 members of Car345 will be totally excited about my car site and talk about it all the time πŸ‘Ώ

  7. Wade says:

    I am not really into cars, but it is nice to see social networks expanding. They have a really nice setup going. I like the idea of giving people their own pages. Also the contests are sure to bring lots of attention.

    Shudogg Dot Com – Make Money Online Blogging

    1. I think with social networks going to more specific niches such as Car345 it should avoid social networking fatigue. I mean, who wants to join another social network? That changes if it is specific to your interests.

      1. Flimjo says:

        Exactly. Social networks targeted to specific niches might be the next big craze. They might have a ceiling (unlike Facebook or MySpace) but they will be very profitable.

  8. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    MrAchievement
    Stanley Bronstein
    Attorney, CPA, Author, Blogger & Personal Motivational Speaker

  9. Paolo U says:

    So ning is thesecret on making a social site.

  10. Bryan says:

    I think this review highlighted what must be the toughest part of getting a new social network off the ground now: actually getting new members who will actively use the site. Ning has made it so easy to create new social networks that an already busy scene has gotten busier. That people would want to socially network around cars makes sense, but will they do so via Facebook groups or any one of dozens of car-focused social networks that probably (or will soon) exist? Unlike most web sites or blogs, a social network needs at least thousands of daily visitors to seem active and worth using so it’s really tough to get started. Right now Car345’s biggest asset seems to be the person behind it. It’s a great idea to run some nice contests and promote the site on prominent blogs. A creative webmaster can work wonders even in a tough market!

  11. pennyblogger says:

    Ning is a neat concept.. I built a Ning network for everyone at my last work…. i guess it’s almost the same as a facebook group, but I wasn’t on facebook at that point, and also, you can put your own personal touch on a ning network.

  12. Terry Tay says:

    It is obviously targeted to the auto enthusiasts so most of the visitors here may not be interested in the site unless they try to win some of the prizes.
    ~Terry

  13. joshuaun says:

    ya……social networking is important………now,part of my traffic is come from there=) 😎

  14. Liane says:

    That seems good. I got one problem though, I’m not that interested with cars and stuff. Is their a techy social networking site that you know? I’ll be more interested on that,.

  15. Right up my alley. Vroom! Coming thru!
    Great article, Michael.

  16. I try myspace and don’t like it. I think facebook is way cooler than myspace.

  17. make150aday says:

    I was checking out some videos on youtube and came across this company/website Lunch 2.0. who had organized a lunch/get-together. I think it was in 2007..but their blog hasn’t been updated for almost a year…I guess they are busy organizing bunch of such programs.

  18. Sha says:

    This isn’t in my niche, but good luck to them.

    And I don’t get when people compare Myspace & Facebook. Sure, they’re both social networks, but there are some differences between them, one of them being that most people use Facebook to find old friends & not Myspace.

    1. ClogMoney says:

      I guess, and sites like this are to make new friends and share an interest rather than alerady knowing each other, it could work. Then again it’s not like the automative market is small in the world, I bet there are millions of petrol heads that would join up to this kind of network if they get to hear of it…

  19. car345.com says:

    Facebook and Myspace are like big oeans with millions of members. Starting a Group on Facebook might give similar features but If there is a point Facebook locks someone’s userid, All the efforts are gone in tubes. Think of people with 2 years of work under wordpress subdomain and wp deletes their id and site because of violating TOS!! How many of us read the 20 page tiny TOS during sign-up process?

    Thanks everyone for expressing your honest feelings.

    1. Joshua says:

      Lots of people commenting are looking at it from a user’s point of view, rather than seeing the bigger (money making idea) picture.

      Creating a group on Facebook or Myspace can have short term benefits, for sure, but developing your OWN domain (be it a blog or ning-powered social network, etc) is ultimately what everyone needs to be doing.

      Think back a year when ‘everyone’ was abandoning Myspace, it was (still is) overrun with spam, and people were joining Facebook by the millions (still are).

      The point is that you have more control when you own the domain.

      Everything you do to develop your domain will help you in the long run, whereas focusing on a Facebook group that doesn’t ultimately lead people to join your domain is a waste of time!

      1. car345.com says:

        You explained what I was going through. I prefer to build something and keep it for long term. Thanks very much.

    2. Joshua says:

      @Car345 – Get a logo!

      😈

  20. Dan Caskie says:

    I flip flopped between many different social network platforms and chose Ning in the end. The key thing is that with Ning, you own your content and can take it with you. This is important if you ever need to set up shop on a different software platform. I think Ning is around for the long haul, and I’m proud to be building my network with them. I just wish their url’s were a bit more search engine friendly, but they do say that they are working on this!

  21. Thanks for the post. Today I came up with (what I think) is a great idea for a social networking site. I was very frustrated though because I thought I was going to have to learn a lot of programming to build the site. I just spent the last 5 months learning HTML, CSS and some Javascript to build my current site, and thought this was going to take a year or longer to learn what I needed to learn. Anway, this makes me VERY happy. I don’t know why I thought there wouldn’t be a social networking software out there that I could use… other than the fact I’m obviously new to this stuff… only just now learning the basics like HTML and CSS. Thanks Michael…

  22. Affiliate17 says:

    Social Networking is cool!

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