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Three Reasons to Start Your Own Social Network

Find out how a private-label social network can help your business and marketing efforts.

By
Aliza Sherman
April 16, 2009
Episode #049

 

Hi there, The Digital Marketer here, ready to help you put the power of the Internet and technology to work for your business.

So you're thinking of marketing in social networks, and then you get the idea to create your own social network for your company or organization. Well, the good news is that there are some great free or affordable private-label social networks you can use. The bad news is that building a social network may not be as easy -- or as worthwhile -- as you might think.

White-Label Social Networks

I've been building community on the Internet for years dating back to the early 90s when I built and moderated forums for women's issues, and 1995 when I started Webgrrls International as an online networking group for women who also met offline. I’ve learned that online communities are most powerful when they're organic but also have a unifying theme or purpose and a strong and respected leader. Starting your own social network is essentially building a community -- often from scratch -- and there are some ways your business or organization can benefit from doing this.

Why Have Your Own Social Network?

Some of the best reasons to start your own social network are:?

  1. to provide an existing online community that you manage with more interactive and engaging tools
  2. to provide an offline community you've organized with online tools for ongoing communications, and
  3. to provide your customers or constituents with an online gathering place to interact not only with you, but with one another.?

In order to have a successful social network, you should have a real reason to build one. Yes, a social network can help you build your brand and increase customer loyalty, but only if you:

  • pay attention to it often;
  • add value so others want to join and existing participants want to stay;
  • cultivate relevant conversations to help you achieve your goals;
  • and did I mention pay attention to it often?

How to Know if You Should Start Your Own Social Network

I rarely encourage my clients to start up their own online community or social network unless I can pinpoint a strategic reason for them to do so. In the case one of my clients, WyomingEntrepreneur.biz, they had three legitimate reasons to start an online community:

  • First, they had a built-in community of business counselors across the state of Wyoming and all of the business counselors’ current clients.
  • Second, they had several clear business goals including to increase awareness of their brand across the state, to offer easier access to their business counselors, and to better serve Wyoming entrepreneurs.
  • And third, there were no other existing online forums where Wyoming entrepreneurs could not only network with one another but interact with certified business experts for free.

So we set up the WyomingEntrepreneur.biz social network on a site called Ning at N-I-N-G dot com. All of their business counselors now participate in the network and they also have special interest groups such as a B2B group and one on Sustainable Business. They currently have over 130 members across the state and growing.

Challenges of Having Your Own Network

Initially, they were unfamiliar with what it took to get the network going. They eventually realized that the first steps of kick starting a social network were similar to hosting a dinner party: invite people to attend, welcome them when they arrive, and seed conversations.

Now as their network grows, they face some challenges including keeping the momentum going, monitoring the conversations to make sure everything is appropriate, and continuing to find new ways to offer value to the network so people stay engaged. Sometimes, the greatest work on your own social network happens when it truly becomes a success.

Bottom Line: Running your own social network can take a lot of time. To make it worth your while, you need to make sure you identify solid reasons to build it; come up with clear, achievable business goals for it; and have the resources to sustain it.

Contact Me

That's all we have time for today. Visit the show’s website at digitalmarketer.quickanddirtytips.com for links to all of the sites mentioned in the show. If you'd like to ask a question or request a topic for The Digital Marketer, email me at digitalmarketer@quickanddirtytips.comor leave a message by calling 206-339-6279.

You can also book me, your humble podcaster, for your next event as a keynote speaker or lecturer on topics related to digital marketing and social media. Visit Macmillanspeakers.com/alizasherman for more information.

The Digital Marketer's Quick and Dirty Tips for Building Your Business With Web Tools is part of the Quick and Dirty Tips network at quickanddirtytips.com.

Tune in for another business boost from The Digital Marketer, the host who's not afraid to go under the Internet's hood & get a little dirty!

Resources

Ning - http://www.ning.com

KickApps - http://www.kickapps.com

SocialText - http://www.socialtext.com

Soceeo - http://www.soceeo.com/

Konnects - http://www.konnects.com/

Online Community image courtesy of Shutterstock

 

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