A new social networking site has unfurled its sails, and hopes to attract bareboat charter lovers, as well as all recreational boaters and marine industry professionals.
TheOpenSea.com hopes to become the new Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter for the boating world.
Designed to connect boaters and marine businesses, the creators of the site believe bareboat yacht charter enthusiasts will feel just as comfortable using this site as industry professionals. “It doesn’t matter if they’re on a kayak or superyacht, our URL will be open to everyone,” says Todd Russell, who co-founded TheOpenSea.com with industry veteran Gary Druckenmiller. “There are a lot of websites for boating, but we felt like there was a major disconnect with no social or professional marine networks. We believe that a social network is a great way to improve the industry.”
According to Russell, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter rely on users to generate generic content, while traditional websites tend to “push out” content to users, whether they want it or not. “We see ourselves as a combination of Facebook and LinkedIn for the marine industry,” says Russell. “But we thought Facebook was too broad, so decided to create a foundation for boating.”
Like all social networking sites, TheOpenSea.com wants to attract as many diverse groups as possible, from crew members on megayachts looking for jobs, to yacht charter customers, to groups focused on industry issues. “The Genmar bankruptcy is a great example,” says Russell. “All of the Genmar dealers, for instance, could create a group and start communicating with the manufacturer and then the boaters. We don’t see anything else out there that would allow them to do that.” Russell says that the same Genmar dealers could also promote their boat lines with photos, videos, forums and logs (the nautical URL term for blogs). “Our URL can be used in so many ways,” he adds.
Hundreds of large and small boat companies have signed up, including West Marine, Westerbeke, Garmin, and Triumph Boats. The National Boat Owners Association has already formed their own user groups for the social network.
The site founders hope to attract 100,000-200,000 users, as word about the social networking site spreads. The network has been designed to host and support over a million users.
Westerbeke, one of the initial sponsors, is a strong believer in the use of Internet-driven social networks. Tom Sutherland, director of sales and marketing, initially turned to sites like Twitter and Facebook to market engines and generators. “But I like the idea that the Open Sea is strictly focused on marine,” says Sutherland. “You can go in and set up different groups, talk to very specific types of people, and you’re not just limited to 52 characters. It’s a great tool to get in there and reach out to customers.”
Sutherland also likes the capability of responding instantly to consumers. “We can really see what people want and need, and it can allow us to talk about issues and products that are of interest to consumers,” he says. “People want instant information, and this gives us that capacity. It’s also a great tool for building our brand.”
Westerbeke plans to create logs for owner groups and master distributors, as well as promote instructional videos and release new product announcements. “You can do just about anything on this site,” says Sutherland. “They have really brought together the best of what’s out there in the social media space. Another thing I really like is that, besides the time, there is really no expense involved.”
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