HARTFORD, Conn., and WARREN, R.I. – TheOpenSea.com’s executives are proving they’re serious about becoming the central social and professional networking site that connects boaters and the boating industry as they take big steps ahead in both their offerings and their affiliations.
In early January, Gary Druckenmiller Jr., co-founder of the social media site for the boating community, TheOpenSea.com, spoke in an interview about his company’s focus on targeting the marina business.
“Hitting the marina and boatyard market is huge for us because that’s where the boaters are,” he said.
A few weeks later, Druckenmiller presented at the International Marina & Boatyard Convention, speaking of the importance of social media as a customer communications and marketing tool for marinas and boatyards.
Now, the company is announcing a new partnership with the Association of Marina Industries. Wendy Larimer, AMI’s legislative coordinator, explained in an interview that the group added a new “Good of the Industry” category of partnership in October, and TheOpenSea.com is the third such partnership it has developed.
“We’re all making this move toward social networking,” she said. “Tools like Twitter make a lot of sense for big companies, but are they useful for the marina down the street? Probably not. But TheOpenSea.com does make sense. It’s great because it’s targeted toward our industry.”
AMI also appreciates the fact that TheOpenSea.com’s founders want the association’s input and assistance as they further develop their social media site, Larimer added.
The first priority in moving forward with the partnership is to educate AMI board members, staff and affiliates on what tools like TheOpenSea.com can offer, according to Druckenmiller. Then, TheOpenSea.com wants to start communicating with AMI members and their customers, getting them up to speed with the site’s technology so that they can use it to their benefit and their customers’ benefit.
“The technology can be used to maintain marina’s and boatyard’s relationships with their customers throughout the seasons, which is really important even in the south,” he explained. “That’s a big step toward sustainability of market, sales, anything.”
Factoring into TheOpenSea.com’s early success – the site still aims to get to 100,000 users by summer time – are the industry professionals that have been attracted by the concept and have helped to promote it.
Some of the members of TheOpenSea.com board of directors are the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s Carl Blackwell, Matt Harvey of the Houseboat Industry Association and Tom Sutherland of Westerbeke.
The next market TheOpenSea.com plans to target is marine dealers.
Pushing the limits
In addition to those developments, TheOpenSea.com will partner with GeoWake, intertwining interactive Google technology with GeoWake’s NOAA charts. This will allow marinas and other on-water marine businesses the ability to begin marketing themselves as a geographic point on a map.
Boaters will be able to use the maps to plan their trips, clicking on points of interest along their route to gather more information, which might include photos, descriptions and eventually reviews and ratings from other boaters. They also will be able to share their favorite boating spots or even businesses with friends, family and their social networks. As they edit the Google Maps to suit their preferences, those updates will be posted to their various social networks, Druckenmiller explains.
Down the road, TheOpenSea.com also expects to offer a free e-commerce solution to those marine businesses using the site, which would allow boaters to use the same e-commerce platform to do business with any TheOpenSea.com member businesses. In addition, it is looking at video and mobile advertising technologies.
“We’d like to take a number of technologies out there today and mash them together to create new applications that we can make available to any business in the boating industry,” explains Druckenmiller.
Both the GeoWake application and e-commerce technologies will be offered for free. TheOpenSea.com’s revenue model includes advertising, sponsorships, and premium members and services.
“Instead of going out there as Joe Dealer or Marina to build a social networking platform on your own using money that should go into your store, docks, etc., use the solutions that are cropping up today,” advises Druckenmiller. “We’re investing money into the solutions so you can use them for nothing.”
He concluded by explaining that he wants to industry to take ownership of TheOpenSea.com. “Tell us what you need and we will build it for you.”