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Nike+, a social network that works

March 20, 2008

Right now, when people write the words social networks, they often qualify it with this: (Facebook, MySpace, etc)

Facebook and MySpace get all the social networking pixels because they are what we generally think of social networks.

But there is more to the story, as Nike+ has proven.

In stark contrast, there’s Nike+. Chances are, you’ve heard of it: it’s the Apple, Nike product mash-up that intuitively combines the running show with the iPod, something a lot of runners were already doing.

The Nike running shoe has a chip that broadcasts information to an iPod. When runners come home from a run the iPod uploads their running information to the Nike+ website where it’s aggregated with all the other running/walking data uploaded by all the other runners and walkers in America.

Without joining, people become part of a ‘social network’ of runners and walkers. And Nike+ can drill down for people so they can join their city’s running group and let their miles add up in a challenge that might see the that community trying to ‘outrun’ the a neighboring community. Imagine New York taking on Chicago. Boston versus Portland. Or a section of South Chicago versus another section of South Chicaog. That’s community. And it’s a social network.

What works:
Running is incredibly solitary. But there isn’t a single runner who gets home from a run and doesn’t want to share that run with others. Only problem, telling your roommates, or friends how great your 6 mile run was isn’t that fun for the friends. But if you could tell other runners…

Joining a group of runners in real life isn’t the solution because everyone runs at different paces. Now though, Nike has turned this immensely solitary pursuit into a social endeavor. One call tell their community about their runs simply by uploading the data. As people enjoy, they will likely join challenges. It’s not a stretch to think they will even recruit other running friends to join their running community (and to join, one obviously has to buy Nike shoes.)

And just think: there was a time when air miles got you free flights. Now they can get you stuff other than flights. Imagine if Nike began offering you things for your miles. What if you could build up miles and then donate them to underprivileged kids to get shoes? Or, you earn miles to get songs from iTunes? Or your running community could pool their miles to get something for their community? None of these things might happen, but all could. And all would make Nike a brand hero on a level that is only imaginable.

This social network is head-nodding smart. Since I don’t have Nike+ shoes, and I recently ran my iPod through the washing machine, the functionality of the Nike+ website is minor. But they are working on things. Like adding functionality to gyms.

This is good stuff.

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