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 nüvi 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. 🙂

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR A FREE ACCOUNT WITH CAR345