Segway Gets Social

NEW YORK Segway is hoping to take a page out of Nike’s playbook with a new social networking site designed to help product users of its self-balancing electric scooter interact and build a Segway experience.
Called Segway Social, the new community site allows Segway PT owners to create groups, arrange meetings, and share photos and news. While it is geared to owners, Segway hopes to use the site to attract potential buyers by having current users of its devices show off their finer points.
The site arose from the creation of ad-hoc Segway fan sites, such as
SEG America. Those sites would arrange meetings for events such as “Segway polo” and “group glides.” But they lacked a national footprint and risked disappearing because of a lack of resources, said Eric Fleming, Segway’s marketing communications manager. A survey the company conducted found there was an unmet need for Segway users to find each other: 82 percent said they wanted to connect with other customers.
“We looked at what’s going on with social media,” said Fleming. “We said since nothing’s perfect out there, let’s create something that’s tailored to what customers want to see.”
Segway hopes to use the site to position the device as a sensible answer to transportation needs in a time of rising fuel prices and attention to climate change. It includes a “green calculator,” for instance.
After its much-ballyhooed introduction in 2001 as a radical innovation — founder Dean Kamen once predicted it would cause the redesign of cities — Segway has become a toy for upper-middle class suburban men. The company has also concentrated on commercial sales, such as police and security personnel, as well as city tour companies.
While other brand social networks have failed, Segway’s has a chance to succeed because it is not duplicating existing communities, said Darryl Ohrt, brand manager at Plaid, the Danbury, Conn., agency that created Segway Social.
“It’s making it a tool first,” he said. “You’re looking at it as a tool for your customers and what their needs are and what they don’t have but could use.”
Segway plans to promote the community site with new purchases. The company does not release the number of Segways it has sold in the past four years.
The project is the fruit of an unusual new-business approach used by Plaid. Last summer, the agency set off on a three-week tour of the Northeast to promote the shop. They picked fellow agencies to visit, along with clients they admired. Segway was on the list.

Ohrt and other Plaid workers showed up at the company’s Bedford, N.H., headquarters unannounced last July. Fleming was sufficiently impressed with the agency’s social media skills to keep in touch, eventually collaborating with Plaid on Segway Social.
“It’s like an old-school 1970s cold call,” Ohrt said.