When it comes to branded social networks, some can seem a bit forced. (Remember 2007's ArtoftheCookie.com, the social network from Pepperidge Farm?)
But Lego thinks it may be on to something with ReBrick.com, a new social platform that lets Lego fans show off their favorite creations.
ReBrick is the first attempt by Lego to start its own social network, but it's hardly the first Web community centered on the tiny plastic bricks. Sites like MOCPages, Brickshelf and Brothers Brick have been around for years, attracting Lego fans looking for tips, inspiration and bragging rights.
The purpose of ReBrick is not to replace those networks. Instead, the site lets members bookmark pictures or videos of their favorite Lego creations that have already been uploaded elsewhere on the web, yielding publicity not just for the Lego skyscrapers, monster trucks and X-Wing Fighters but the other social networks that host them.
"Lego has a very strong and vibrant community, with hundreds of thousands of videos and many millions of pictures on online," said Peter Espersen, Lego's online community leader, "but they're all distributed across hundreds of blogs and thousands of websites."
Lego hopes ReBrick will serve as a central clearinghouse for that content "not to compete" with existing blogs and social networks "but to highlight what is already out there," he said. "It's about giving fans the credit that they deserve and putting an amplifier to the interesting stuff they're doing so everyone around the web can find it."
Indeed, Lego developed ReBrick in consultation with existing Lego fan sites, who are presumably happy to get the additional traffic. Lego enthusiasts have been given special access as well - the Danish company has been gradually rolling out the site over several months, inviting small groups of fans in one at a time and incorporating their feedback into the site design.
Lego has promised to keep the site free from advertising or marketing messages, though Espersen made it clear that the site itself is intended as a marketing tool.
"This is not just for existing Lego fans but our fans-to-be, for people with what we call 'latent Lego affinity,' who might be Lego fans, they just don't know it yet," he said.
The site, still in beta, opened to the general public in December. Lego has done no promotion or advertising, but has instead relied on word-of-mouth from the Lego community. Espersen declined to give exact membership numbers, but said ReBrick already has well over a hundred thousand unique users.
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Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
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