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Social Networking to Enable the Tweeting Prius

Posted By Jeff Moad, May 24, 2011 at 3:52 PM, in Category: The Innovative Enterprise

Automotive manufacturers apparently see social media and mobile applications as platforms that can be used not just to enhance traditional marketing methods but as vehicles for rolling out a new range of information-based services that will deepen their relationships with customers.

Toyota is the latest car maker to push in this direction, announcing a plan to deploy a private social network that will connect customers of its electric and plug-in hybrid cars with their cars and with Toyota. The network, called Toyota Friend, will be built on top of Salesforce.com's Chatter social media platform and will allow Toyota to provide customers with a wide range of product and service information, much of it interactive. Toyota electric vehicles, for example, would be able to use the network to "tweet" owners, alerting them when the car is running low on battery power. Toyota customers would also be able to extend the Friend network to existing social networks of their families and friends via integration with such existing networks as Facebook and Twitter.

The plan is just the latest by a car maker to use social media, mobile technology, and cloud-based services to deliver information-based services directly to cars and their owners. Ford and BMW are said to be developing a variety of mobile apps that will do everything from monitor a driver's blood sugar to present her with public transportation options.

And Toyota last fall announced a $11.7 million deal with Microsoft that will see the company provide a variety of information services to its customers over Microsoft's Azure cloud infrastructure. Customers, for example, would be able to better manage the consumption of energy by their electric cars.

Clearly some of these initiatives will raise privacy concerns in the minds of some customers. Still, car makers see an opportunity to use social media, mobile, and cloud computing technologies to launch new information-based services that, in the end, will strenthen their hold on customers.

Do you think the car makers are on the right track with these investments? Will such efforts be limited to automobile and other consumer products? Do you expect to see such initiatives in other manufacturing markets? What is your company working on?

Written by Jeff Moad

Jeff Moad is Research Director and Executive Editor with the Manufacturing Leadership Community. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Program. Follow our LinkedIn Groups: Manufacturing Leadership Council and Manufacturing Leadership Summit


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