Social Media Smackdown: Cannondale vs. Trek

It’s the time of year when cycling-nerds worldwide turn their eyes to France, anxiously awaiting daily stage results, jersey changes and, uh, doping allegations. I watch the Tour purely for Phil Liggett’s commentary – and to remind myself to get my butt in gear and start riding more. It’s no secret that many TdF cyclists are active on Twitter (Lance even announced the birth of his son via a tweet), but far fewer bicycle manufacturers, especially high-end ones, seem to be employing social media tools as domestiques in their quest to influence the peloton and spur genuine engagement among brand fans.

OK, enough with the lame cycling analogies. Let’s get to it. This installation of Social Media Smackdown pits Cannondale against Trek, two of the world’s largest bicycle manufacturers.

(Note: I’m a loyal Jamis girl, so I really don’t have a dog in this fight.)

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Round One: Twitter

Both brands have a Twitter presence: @RideCannondale and @TrekBikes. Each has roughly the same number of followers, but some vast differences emerge.

Trek: Following 1,032; Follwers 1,122; Tweets 158
The @TrekBikes account does a good job, despite just having started on Twitter, interacting with people and offering up useful information. A majority of its tweets are @ replies and range from helping with bike repairs, directing folks to their customer service e-mail address, sharing information on how their bikes are designed and offering encouragement to riders. The account also shares links to cycling stories on various races and events. My only real criticism is that the Twitter bio doesn’t identify who’s actually doing the tweeting for the account. It would be great to have a name to put behind the tweets. An excellent job. It also turns out that Trek has some additional accounts for its different audiences (@Trekmtb for mountain bike fans and @trek_ben for roadies).

Canondale: Following 3; Followers 1,095; Tweets 79
Another newer account on Twitter, with only 79 tweets so far, @RideCannondale doesn’t seem to understand the engagement component to Twitter. They’re only following three people! None of the tweets are @ replies. I will give them credit though – it doesn’t appear that their tweets are automated feeds from a blog. At least it seems like there’s a real person behind the account and not a bot. Many of the tweets share information about professional cycling races (Cannondale sponsors Team Liquigas) and share links to product announcements or videos. It’s not overly sales-y, though. It has the potential to be a great presence for Cannondale on the Web – but they really need to start following back and engaging with fans to get real conversation going.

Point: Trek gains the maillot jaune here for a great combination of conversation and information sharing. Cannondale needs to engage more with followers.

Round Two: Facebookcannondalefan

Trek’s Facebook fan page has 3, 325 fans, but it doesn’t appear to actually be managed by Trek! There’s a Trek group that appears to be the “official” Trek presence on Facebook. The group has 2,445 members, 187 wall posts, and four discussion threads (all with minimal activity). The group has close to 300 photos posted and most are pictures of single bicycles with no people in them.

If you check out the Trek fan page, there doesn’t appear to be any input or participation from the brand. The page is pretty weak. No wall posts from Trek Bikes (or whoever manages the page) and no content posted. Trek’s missing an opportunity here. Even if they didn’t create the fan page, they could take Coca-Cola’s lead and offer to participate or help manage the page. As it is right now, Trek’s Facebook presence is fractured among groups and the fan page.

Cannondale’s fan page on Facebook has merely two posts since 2008 andthere’s very little content posted by the page owner. More than 7,700 Facebook users have become fans of Cannondale, so even if the brand didn’t create or doesn’t manage the page, they’re missing out on an opportunity to reach interested consumers. Fans have uploaded more than 500 photos of Cannondale bikes to the page.

BUT WAIT! When I went to Cannondale’s Web site, the Facebook icon at the bottom of the page took me to a completely different fan page! This one is slickly designed with spaces for videos, promotions and events. There’s not much content on there yet and only 406 fans, but Cannondale is sharing information on the wall, posting links and sharing race results. The trouble is, this page didn’t even show up on the first page of Facebook search results for the term “Cannondale”. Having a great fan page that no one can find won’t help much. A simple fix would be to post a message on the wall of the other fan page on Facebook (you know, the one that’s accrued 7,000+ fans?!) and direct them to the new page.

Point: I hesitate to give a point to either one here. Neither brand is really maximizing its use of Facebook. Cannondale has started building out a nice page, but how are they going to migrate fans to the “correct” Facebook page? Trek has a nice little group growing, but Facebook groups don’t provide the flexibility or reach that a fan page does. It’s a draw.

Round Three: Web site

Each site begins with a landing page that asks you to select your country, so I’m basing this evaluation off the US version of each site. I was specifically looking for how “social” the sites were. Yes, I expect that each site is trying to provide product specs and information, but I wanted to see how interactive each site was, how easy it is for consumers to link to and share information, and how the brands are integrating social media tools like blogs to attract and engage with potential or current bicycle owners.

Trek’s site doesn’t link to any social profiles from its home page. The page is dominated by a link to watch a video, which takes you to a page with several videos about the Livestrong team. The videos are documentary-style and follow the team as they train, test equipment and ride in races. All have links to share or embed and there’s a prominent link to Trek’s YouTube channel. The “Trek Life” portion of the site includes four blogs (road, mountain, fitness/rec and women). The road bike blog hasn’t been updated since March, but the others are fairly current and even have a handful of comments on many of the posts. It would be  nice to have obvious RSS feed icons for all of the blogs. It also would be great if this portion of the site (or even the home page) had icons and links to other social media outposts.

Cannondale’s site is slick and visually pleasing, but not very social at first glance. There’s a tiny Twitter and Facebook icon at the bottom of the home page, but it was “below the fold” on my screen so I actually didn’t even notice it for a while. Most of the pages detail product lines (either bicycles, apparel or gear). It turns out there’s actually a fair amount of social interactivity on the site – but you have to dig a bit for it. The “Cannondale Planet” section of the Web site includes links to RSS feeds of videos, photos, and the “Ask Brad” blog. However, this section isn’t the easiest to navigate and a lot of the content isn’t that easy to share. The “News” tab takes you to some pretty cool sites that profile Cannondale’s various cycling teams, like Liquigas. This is where the site shines. It features videos from professional cyclists preparing for races, links and widgets to various cyclists’ Twitter streams, and links to news items and wallpaper images. I just wish that this cool content was more prominently featured and easier to find and share.

Point: Trek wins here for its use of blogs and video, but could take a lesson from Cannondale in making links to social outposts available on the home page. Cannondale has a lot of interesting content, but it’s not easily findable or shareable.

3302949809_95574f9444Round Four: Other social sites (Flickr, YouTube, etc.)

Trek’s YouTube channel includes 17 videos and these range from the Livestrong clips to product tours to TV commercials. The channel has 216 subscribers and some of the videos have 40,000+ views! The Trek Bikes group pool on Flickr has more than 264 members and close to 1,000 images, but I have no idea if Trek created and/or manages this group. There’s also a Trek Bikes profile on Flickr that includes a handful of promotional photos of bikes and gear, but it doesn’t seem as though Trek is doing too much with this photostream.

Cannondale did not appear to have a Flickr profile (but the name and many permutations of it are taken). There is a Cannondale group pool on Flickr with 200 members and nearly 900 photos uploaded. Again, hard to tell if Cannondale created this pool or if it was done by fans. On YouTube, Cannondale comes to life. Their channel is designed to match their Web site’s colors and theme. It features 70 videos that are sorted into playlists based on topic. The channel has 143 subscribers and has received more than 5,000 views. Brad, of the AskBrad blog, was uploading new videos as recently as this morning.

Point: Both are doing a good job utilizing video in their social media strategies, and both could take advantage of photo and leverage Flickr more. Even though Trek’s YouTube channel has gotten more views (having Lance helps), I’m going with Cannondale here. I love how they’ve designed their channel in the Team Liquigas colors and have Brad maintaining it for consistency with their Web site.

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The Final Verdict: In a sprint to the finish, Trek is the winner. Cycling is a sport with a fanatical level of engagement, so it makes sense that social media is a great fit for these fans to tap into their consumer bases. Both need to refine their Facebook strategies a little more, and Cannondale would benefit from being more engaged as a brand on Twitter. But it’s a good showing, especially when many bicycle manufacturers aren’t participating at all.

Allez!

Previous Smackdown: Columbus, Ohio vs. Columbia, S.C.
Previous Smackdown: Mountain Hardwear vs. The North Face
Previous Smackdown: Magic Hat vs. Bell’s Beer

Images via Flickr users trekbikes and Celso_Flores