Toyota, Salesforce, and the Future of Social Media: A Social Network For Cars

The future of social media is coming, and it looks like a Toyota. Yes, you read that right; the future of social media might look like a car. Salesforce.com and Toyota have joined forces to create a private social network for Toyota owners.

On Monday March 23, 2011 the California based Salesforce.com and the Tokyo based Toyota announced that they plan on working together to provide a new social networking service called “Toyota Friend”. The network – only available to Toyota owners – will debut in Japan early next year with the new electric and plug-in hybrids. It is expected that the network will go global in late 2012. So, what exactly does the “Toyota Friend” network do?

It will include a number of services which allow Toyota drivers to link to each other and receive information. Features include: real time updates with other Toyota drivers, connection to local dealers, and diagnostic information about their vehicle. “Social networking services are transforming human interaction and modes of communication” notes Toyota President Aki Toyoda. “The automobile needs to evolve in step with that transformation. I am always calling for Toyota to make ever-better cars. The alliance that we announce today is an important step forward in achieving that goal.”

It’s an aggressive move for Toyota, but it’s also a necessary one; Toyota has fallen behind other car companies when it comes to telematics. For example Ford is working with Microsoft on a wireless system for its cars. However, the Toyota Friend network combined with Toyota’s other announcements this year may be about to change Toyota’s position.  

In early 2011, the company announced its Entune Bluetooth feature at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nev. Entune, created in cooperation with Microsoft Crop, has telematics hardware and software built into vehicles. This allows car owners to access Microsoft Bing’s search engines, play music, and access interactive data such as stock quotes and weather updates. The Toyota Friend network, which would mostly function off of third party smart phones, will complement Entune.

“This represents a concrete step towards creating a more mobile society,” Toyoda said at a press conference in Tokyo. “Toyota can learn a lot from an entrepreneurial firm like Salesforce.com.” Salesforce.com sure hopes so. CEO Marc Benioff notes that he proposed the idea to Toyota in January: “Toyota Friend is an idea that I had when I thought about the changes in our industry today,” he told reporters in Tokyo. “The car is the true mobile device.”

More accurately, the car is about to become the true mobile device. For car enthusiasts, the developments won’t be mind blowing; car technology has been headed in this direction for years. However, for those not obsessed with the car industry, there is something distinctly “Meet the Jetsons” about combining social media and cars.

On the one hand, one wonders whether drivers should really be encouraged to interact on social media while driving. Isn’t driving enough? On the other hand,  this integration of social media into new spaces continues to prove that the future is social media, but the future of social media, may redfine “mobile devices”.

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