The specialist motorbike insurance firm is launching Bike Social, a website based on the main Facebook principles, but offering additional features designed to attract British bikers and create loyalty towards the brand.

Many companies use Facebook to create a community around a brand. Others however feel that it’s not enough just to unite their customers around the brand and the community -
such as Bennetts, the UK-based specialist motorbike insurance firm for instance, which has
decided to set up its own social network. Bennetts is now preparing to go live with its Bike
Social platform, with a view to widening its appeal to the 1.1 million-strong amateur biker
market in the UK. Bennetts associate director Hannah Squirell explained to L'Atelier: “We
want to become a hub for bikers, to assemble all information on the subject of biking in one
place. Bikers are a very special community; people like to communicate and share.” Grégory Pouy, expert in social media strategy, sees this as a promising initiative, since “the network
will help the brand understand bike owners better, will help build a strong relationship
with them, and above all will enable Bennetts to create a database of users.” This in itself
is nothing new of course. “Footlocker (a global athletic footwear retailer) has recently
launched the equivalent for its industry – ‘Sneakerpedia’”.

Promoting bikes, especially the brands

The Bike Social site will be providing functions similar to Facebook, such as user profiles and
groups, but will also offer the option of interacting with other bikers and publishing photos.
It will include bike-specific features such as route mapping so that bikers can share their own
favourite routes and directions with others. The network also aims to help small bike clubs
to establish a web profile by setting up groups to share details of local events and private
and public meets. Manufacturing brands such as Yamaha will also be encouraged to set up
profiles to interact with the biking community. Will this provide an opening for Bennetts’
competitors? Not really, reckons Gregory Pouy, because “it will first and foremost give
Bennetts a hook into the sector which other brands don’t have.” Which is a distinct advantage
for a firm which, like Bennetts, is looking to diversify.

Bumpy road ahead?

Hannah Squirrel explains that Bennetts, which holds a 20% share in the UK motorbike
insurance market, “has up to now been known as an insurance brand, but now we want to be
seen as everything biking.” But is the new social network a good idea? Grégory Pouy thinks it
certainly is as long as the firm accepts some limitations. “First of all it mustn’t try to push ‘the
brand’ too much,” as this would risk scaring off users. And if Bennetts wishes to encourage
bikers to share information, it would be a good idea if the company itself took a back seat.
To which Hannah Squirrell responds by underlining: “We’re not looking to sell our products
on this site; it must remain a space for sharing information and ideas.” Grégory Pouy further
points out that “in order to be successful, this project is going to require an investment of
both money and time. And given that that the biker people almost certainly already have other
organisations elsewhere, this might end up being a very expensive investment,” he warns.