How to Create Your Own Social Networking Community

social media how toIf you have a medium- to large-sized online network, you might have noticed some of your contacts have been developing their own communities in the form of private groups, forums or social networks that are a mixture of free or paid memberships.

The Pros of Creating Your Own Community

So with all of the existing communities out there, what’s the benefit of creating your own?

Driving Traffic to Your Site – Let’s say that you start a forum on your own domain. If you’re successful in creating a popular community, you’ll be driving a lot of traffic to your website. The traffic, in turn, will lead to the next benefit.

Increasing Your Income – There are several ways to monetize a community. The direct approach is to actually charge your community membership fees for entry into the community or advanced privileges, such as the ability to promote themselves more within the community and premium content.

If your community is tied into a business, having the additional traffic to your site is bound to lead to converting community members to clients, or getting clients to join the community so you can later upsell them with additional products or services.

Then, of course, there are the indirect forms of monetization, such as capitalizing on the additional traffic to your website and offering advertisers banner space.

Becoming an Authority – If you become a successful community leader, you could become an authority in your industry as the administrator of a thriving community.

The Cons of Creating Your Own Community

As with just about anything, there are usually cons (or as I like to call them, considerations) that need to be thought through before jumping into starting up your own community. Here are some of the big ones.

Startup Costs – Generally, to maintain a community on your own site, you’ll have to invest in the development or customization of community software, such as a forum program or social networking plugin.

Administration Time – The next major factor in maintaining your own community is administration.  This involves everything from managing the software platform to moderating the activity among members to be sure that there isn’t any abuse of community rules or harassment of other community members. Without this kind of administration, the community will quickly fall.

Sticky Members – It’s not just about getting people to sign up, but getting them to keep coming back to your community and participate as much as possible. Unfortunately, what some people forget is that there are sometimes too many communities out there, and not enough time to devote to all of them. So if your community is not at the top of its game and requires too much involvement, members might start dropping off in activity.

What You Must Do to Have a Successful Community

So what does it take to create a successful, thriving community to which members are happy to come back regularly?

Start With Research – Before you jump into creating your own community, start by seeing what’s out there in a related niche, join those communities, and then observe the activity. Note what you like and dislike about the way the community operates, from the platform to the members and the leaders. Note which communities keep you coming back for more and how they do it.

Provide Unique Value – Notice I didn’t just say value, but unique value. Think about the communities you researched, and then try to figure out that one thing that no one else is offering that you can. One example would be creating a community that’s more specifically focused by doing a little brainstorming.

Instead of just blogging, narrow down to business blogging, then narrow down again to B2B business blogging, and then further down to B2B business blogging in the service industry. While it’s super-specific and might not allow for a huge following, it IS something unique which will intrigue your members.

Address Your Members’ Concerns – This one may get tough, depending on how many members you have in your community, but it’s always important to acknowledge any concerns that your members have in terms of site functionality, rules or other members. This lets them know that there’s someone actively in charge and always willing to cater to the members’ needs when possible.

Platforms for Your On-site Community

If you’ve weighed the pros and cons of creating your own community on your website and have decided to go for it, here are some platforms to get you started in creating your community.

Forums – If you’ve chosen to create a forum, the most popular platform is vBulletin, which starts at $195 per site/forum. While it’s pricey, it has the most robust set of features and is most widely used. Google vbulletin and your keyword to see what other communities are using this platform in your niche – you’re bound to find them.

vBulletin Forum

Webdeveloper.com is an example of a forum built on the vBulletin platform.

Not ready to invest in forum software? A popular open-source alternative to vBulletin is phpBB. It has less functionality comparatively, but still provides the basic forum functions and needs.

Social Networks – Want to go beyond a forum? Two popular platforms for building your own social network are Ning and BuddyPress.

Ning, once a free service, now has plans at $2.95, $19.95 and $49.95 per month, depending on the number of members you want and space you’ll need.

Ning Network

Tennisopolis is an example of a social network built on the Ning platform.

A great example of a community built on their platform is Tennisopolis, a personal favorite of mine as I am an avid tennis fan and player. Members can connect with each other, participate in forums, create blogs, private message, share photos and video, join groups and much more.

An alternative is the free BuddyPress. The solution is meant to be integrated on top the WordPress platform. So if you’re already familiar with WordPress as a blog or content management system, you should be able to learn the ins and outs of BuddyPress as well.

Ning Network

Hello Eco Living is an example of a social network built on the BuddyPress platform.

An example of a network built on their platform is the Hello Eco Living Network. Similar to Ning networks, members can make friends, write blog posts, participate in forums, privately message each other, join groups and more.

Great Alternatives to Creating Your Own Community

So what are some good alternatives to creating a community on your own website? Try some of the following options on other networks.

Facebook GroupsFacebook is the top social network, so creating groups within their platform is a great way to go in terms of getting people together on a platform that they’re already involved in. You can add members to your group automatically, although I suggest you do this only after asking them if they would be interested, as it can be really annoying to be added to a group by someone you don’t know.

What are the perks of having a Facebook group? Groups can be public or private (invite only). Members can be notified each time there’s activity in the group, or change their notifications to be received only on threads that they’re actively participating in (such as ones they start or comment on).

Facebook Group Settings

Tell members how to customize their group settings for the best experience.

You can also encourage members to check the settings so that your group shows in their home navigation.

Facebook Group Display in Home Navigation

Members won't forget about your group if they put it in their home navigation.

This way, members will always be reminded about your group anytime they’re logged into their Facebook homepage.

LinkedIn GroupsLinkedIn, the top professional network, is also a great place to start your own community through LinkedIn Groups.

These can be especially powerful for a myriad of reasons, including the fact that you can email your group once a week. It’s almost like building a mailing list through their service (although you shouldn’t overpromote yourself on things that you’re selling through it).

private linkedIn group

Social Media Examiner uses a private LinkedIn group for Blogging Success Summit attendees.

Your Thoughts on Building Online Communities

Have you ever created, moderated or even simply joined an online community, forum or focused social network? What were the perks as well as the downsides on ones built on specific domains vs. ones built within popular social networks? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below.

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About the Author, Kristi Hines

Kristi Hines is a freelance writer and author of Kikolani, which covers content, search, and social media marketing. Sign up for her free training, 8 Days to Promotable Content. You can also follow her on Twitter @kikolani. Other posts by »




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  • Chris

    So long as you’re talking about building social networks, let’s remember a great open solution:

    JomSocial. Intranet meets Facebook. http://www.jomsocial.com

  • http://www.colemanmg.com Antonio Coleman

    I tell people to start with ning because its simple and easy to use, plus you can host it on your own domain name..this gives you a little more control..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Thanks for the suggestion… will check it out!

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Ning definitely seems like the most popular option. I know a lot of people were surprised when Ning went from free to monthly fees (and a few of my favorite groups shut down because of it) but the ones that remain have been going pretty strong. Lots of great features for members in those too!

  • http://www.missiondrivenbrand.com rpene

    Nice job Kristi :)

  • http://mytwittertoolbox.com David Perdew

    These are some great suggestions, Kristy. I’ve dabbled in memberships and found some success with incorporating social media into those sites. If my company’s needs were larger, I’d certainly look into some of these other options, but I think the Facebook and LinkedIn pages you suggest are a great alternative for smaller businesses.

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Thanks Rob!

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Definitely David! Sometimes you don’t need to go all out, and it can be easier to get people to participate on networks they are already on regularly.

  • http://donnygamble.com Donny Gamble

    The key here is creating a two way conversation with your community and using video to build a stronger relationship with your audience.

  • http://www.ProfitBlog.com Ben – Profit Blog

    I’ve been seeing a lot of these niche specific social sites popping up. Some of them are pretty massive too. It looks like a lot of work, but could be a good way to make some extra income online.

  • http://softwarebuzzer.com/ Suresh Kumar

    thanks kristi, i never heard of linkedin groups , very cool. I showed to my friends who are like minded and we can involve in the discussions and get traffic from it . Its a cool thing… how about working in google, yahoo groups??

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Precisely! Make sure you are fully engaging your community to keep bringing them back.

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Definitely takes some work to maintain as you have to clean up all the inappropriate content and fix any technical issues. But if you are the founder, there are probably tons of ways to monetize it to make it worth your while.

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    If you’re looking for strictly an email list / group, Google and Yahoo are still good. Sites like the Ning network allow the members to do so much more which will keep them coming back. And groups on LinkedIn and Facebook are more live interaction than just email. It just depends what kind of community you are trying to grow and how you want to be able to communicate with them, and have them engage with each other.

  • Social Web Guy

    Check out KickApps if you haven’t already, it is probably the most comprehensive solution for building your own social community and has an amazing suite of tools that include a custom app studio for building apps and easy Facebook publishing tools. Don’t let social media own your customer, integration your social domain!

  • Paul

    For my master’s degree I did a market survey on 1,339 people concerning niche social media. Interestingly enough, only 4% (56 people) were unsatisfied to very unsatisfied with Facebook providing their social niche needs.

    I further surveyed people around 25 activities that Facebook doesn’t offer out of the box (like activity organizing–meetup.com; niche music/movies/pictures–playlist.com/mubi.co…; and others) only a low percentage (below 20%) of people were inclined to go outside of Facebook for these needs.

    The conclusion of the survey was that it is not prudent to create your own niche social network. Competing against the big boys is an uphill battle.

    Obviously, this form of logic would not of convinced Mark Zuckerberg back in the day of MySpace, and I am sure it won’t convince many budding entrepreneurs now.

    However, I think it was pertinant of you to show how you can create a niche social media around Facebook. Most people just don’t want another social network that they have to sign-in. Facebook really has become the Walmart of social media.

  • http://lauriewallin.com/ Laurie Wallin

    Great overview and ideas! I started blogging more intentionally about 9 months ago and joined a bunch of networking sites. I ended up leaving all but one, starting my own facebook page and inviting the people I met and enjoyed from the other networks to join me there. It’s been a great experience. But I will say, your idea about having too much engagement as a turn off really resonates. When I ask about one question every other day on my page, people stay engaged. When it’s daily, engagement drops. Great reminder to have a balance.
    Laurie (http://livingpower.blogspot.com)

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Lstansbury

    Nice round-up, thank you! Do you have any recommendations for a site I can set up that has excellent privacy measures? We have a professional group that wants to interact, but wants as much security as possible….

    thanks!

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Walmart of social media… that is amusing. I think people will be willing to handle another social group IF it meets their direct needs. Take SERPd, for example. When Sphinn make changes to their voting system (aka turning off voting completely), there was a huge community looking for a place to go for a voting community for online marketing news. SERPd filled that gap and now has almost 1,000 members. It’s all about finding out what people want and giving it to the, not just trying to create another Facebook.

  • http://www.waynejohn.com/ Wayne John

    I like your approach to researching to existing market, Kristi. I personally wouldn’t consider a forum simply because of the time involved (you know me, always looking for that auto-pilot).

    But then, as an alternative, I guess you could hire moderators too, no?

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Yes, it’s all about testing your own waters. Some audiences get bored if they don’t get a lot of engagement while others get annoyed by it. But if you find that balance, you’ll have your engagement set!

  • http://blog.jeroenhoekman.com Jeroen Hoekman

    The idea of a social network community is great and I love the idea, but to my idea you either make it your business and invest all your time and resources into it, or you use the “alternatives” as you call them above. A social network community takes much more resources than a small or even a large company have available and Facebook or LinkedIn groups might just as well fit the objective. As for monetizing on your network: it will take years of building an audience before you can ask money for certain services, otherwise you will loose most of that audience overnight.

  • SocialBeyond

    We are launching a new product that enables groups, companies or individuals to own their enterprise level social network for business. In additions to facebook/twitter integration, our product will have several features including but not limited to messaging, wall posts, groups, forums, classified ads, ad manager, individual profiles, business profiles, interactive calendars for the community as well as each individual, video chat, etc….our platform will be turnkey and allow the user to monetize quickly with little to no investment depending on their current membership. Chamber of Commerce, Churches, Trade Associations, etc will be able to utilize our platform quickly and efficiently. More info? jerry@imdconnex.com. Website and information to launch in March, 2011.

  • http://www.mikelopez.com/ Mike Lopez

    I’ll go for Facebook groups / pages. They’re simple, free and already immersed in the social network environment. Best of all, people are already familiar with it.

  • jesskupferman

    Very well done, Kristi! Great info here.
    I usually advise people to use the tools that are out there first. LinkedIn and Facebook, primarily, simply because they’re easier to manage and people are already USING those tools – rather than giving them a totally new tool to ask them to visit. But I’m a gal who likes to simplify. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=708226052 Megan Getter

    I think that communities are great as long as you start them with a specific goal in mind. Increasing the conversation by reading what people write and commenting back should be the main purpose of any social media outlet. Also a big part of the research should be finding out whether your audience will engage through that medium. There’s nothing worse than spending time and effort on something nobody will use.

  • BigTexas

    Great article

  • http://socialmediarealestatepros.com Ross Hair

    Nice simple summary Kristi,

    I run a number of free Ning networks and have a great deal of difficulty growing the membership base.

    There’s a reluctance to complete a membership form and supply information to join a Ning network. The sites grow slowly and directly proportional to how much time and energy we put into the sites. Our members do not consistently come back to the site and do not actively participate. They like to come to the site and download free content like eBooks and videos.The ones who do comment and post content are generally the members who joined the network because they have something to sell to the network.

    However, the members who join our Ning networks are our best customers who consistently purchase our products.

    Facebook groups and fan pages are easy to set up, grow and add fans or members. They grow much quicker than our Ning sites and get much more user interaction and engagement, usually in the form of comments.

    So if I had to leave a word of advice it would be this – use Ning as a membership site to deliver content and benefits to existing customers and use Facebook to meet as many potential prospects as possible.

  • Jerry

    I agree so much with what many of you are saying. Being new to blogging (this is actually my first time), I am learning as I read. I created our private enterprise network in response to my church’s need to raise money, create a community that did not include 599,999 other Facebook pages and also monetize. There are several sites offering really great “instant” community tools. What we are doing is offering a free community with business in mind. I am not necessarily saying that this would meet most needs, but I am pointing out that there are new choices and the use of private networks is growing….Citigroup, Government agencies, political campaigns, religious groups, etc.

    It’s important to note that the network must deliver value to engage its membership and that the most relevant users are those that already have a group such as a school or church. Thanks for all this information…I never realized that blogging was so educational having come from the web design/development world, I never had time.

  • http://GrowMap.com Gail Gardner

    I am not a fan of forums because they are an extremely inefficient way to collaborate. It takes a lot of work to try to organize a forum in a way that you can find and refer to what is already in it. That said, some also use Simple Machines Forum which is what SBC used until Murray’s sites got hacked. I still hope to find someone who can get it working again to at least get the valuable information out of it.

    Ning WAS a popular option until they changed their business model and then many left. Starting a community on a domain you do not control is a HUGE risk because you could end up losing all your hard work and connections!

    That said, everyone simply can not start their own community because there are only so many hours in a day and we can not be active everywhere even intermittently much less consistently. Back in the day when I was a mod in a forum I spent hours every day there. I can’t do that in multiple communities – even though I do not have a J.O.B. (Just Over Broke) and neither can most anyone else. We simply have to collaborate on building communities too!

  • http://twitter.com/Max_Fackeldey Max Fackeldey

    Check out lithium technologies. They are rated leader by forrester and Gartner. They have an amazing social customer suite. HP, Sephora, Sony playstation, Nokia and many others have succesfully implemented a community into their websites. it’s based on gamification whereby the ultimate goal is that customers are going to help other customers with solving their questions and problems. The unique added value is that it’s also rewarding super users and brand ambassadors. So it’s all good with Ning and the other examples but if you really want to have a great forum that is connected with social media monitoring, rewarding, etc check out Lithium.

  • LivingAwakeInc

    Great comments so far. I have not seen that anyone has commented on Elgg. Is there anyone that has experience with using it running a social network site? Or anyone that can compare it with say BuddyPress?

  • http://twitter.com/clipltd Clip Display Ltd

    Great article, it is true that creating a mini social network could indeed create traffic to your main site. However it is important to offer a network that has a point other than pushing traffic at every given opportunity to your main site.

    This would reduce your chances greatly of establishing a mini community, everyone loves the sound of their own voices (be it online in forums, networks etc) or just in conversation. Giving people the opportunity of using their own voice in forums and alike is a great tool. However a hell of a lot of work needs to be done as setting up your own community is no walk in the park.

    You would need to be wary of the admin, this is not a viable route for smaller companies with limited resources administering a network/forum or community sight can be cumbersome, cleaning out the junk and inevitable spammers will be a daily routine (providing your site is popular)

    Hosted solutions such as forums, buddypress etc are work in themselves, however already established solutions such as linkedin and Facebook are probably the best bet for smaller companies in the first instance. Both require minimal work in terms of setup and hosting costs etc as they are already there and established and have a user base to tap into.

  • http://ofis.opentown.ru/ khibinite

    Thanks for the article! Looking to spread the functionality of our blog http://www.qarchive.org/lab/. Got a few advices to implement.

    By the way, why don’t I receive your blog updates on my FB wall?

  • http://twitter.com/garious1 Garious

    I am thinking of how I can create one when I’ve spotted your blog here. I haven’t heard of the other sites you’ve used here and I haven’t utilized the Discussion page on my Facebook Business page. Perhaps, I’d give it a try first and see which one works for me best. Thanks for the awesome tips!

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    You might want to look into sites like Yammer and Chatter. Both are supposed to be private social networks for people in your corporation only.

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Forums definitely seem to take the most moderation. But you can get people to become moderators too… I just saw one of my private forums, after a year, decide to ask for help and they had tons of volunteers who were so happy with the community that they were thrilled to be able to help make it better.

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    I wasn’t thinking of monetizing by way of services. If you have a large community focused on a particular niche, you could probably start to find advertisers who would like to have their banner ad displayed for those visitors. Some forums build more private, focused sections for paid members – you usually don’t loose anyone so long as you don’t take away what was once free and make it a paid for service. But adding something with additional benefits might work.

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Thanks for sharing Jerry!

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Exactly Mike. If you give people something they’re familiar with, they’re likely to just fall into it as opposed to be put off by having to learn a new service or platform.

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    I like to simplify as well, and find that I visit groups that are standalone less often than I do groups that are on Facebook and LinkedIn. Plus, who can beat having just one or two sign-ons to remember!

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Good point Megan. I think that if you have an idea of who your target audience / member would be for a platform, it might be a good start to collaborate with them from the beginning and ask what they like / dislike in social networking services, and what they would most likely to use given the option.

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Great advice Ross! Maybe what you should do is stagger out the ebook and video downloads, like have something new once a week / month. Then when people download those, be sure to include a little “what’s new” in discussions, blogs, photos, etc. so that they have a reason to go back to check out the network after they’ve gotten what they initially came for.

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    That’s one of the great things for anyone coming into blogging. There are lots of bloggers who write solely about the art of blogging, so there are tons of resources for people at every stage of the game, from beginners to people looking for more advanced strategies.

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Very true Gail. I think I suggest people create groups only when they see a need for one, as in no one else offers the kind of community you are going to. If there are already strong communities based on the same niche / grouping that you are looking for, maybe your time would be better spent collaborating with the creator of that community to see what you can do to further it’s growth.

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Thanks for the suggestion Max!

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    I haven’t heard of that one, but would be interested in hearing from anyone with experience with it…

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    The people / pages you will see the most in your Facebook stream are the ones that you interact with the most. So if you’re not seeing Social Media Examiner’s post, you might want to go to their page and like and comment on a few posts. Then they’ll start showing up as someone you interact with often.

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Great advice… a community shouldn’t be built simply to increase traffic to your website, but around the premise that you are giving people a reason to be a part of the network. Then look at the traffic as an added bonus, not as a goal.

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    You’re welcome!

  • http://www.waynejohn.com/ Wayne John

    That’s just awesome!

  • Lstansbury

    Thanks Kristi! I’ll give them a shot…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathan-Morales/26111502 Jonathan Morales

    I currently run http://www.NJStangers.org – a dedicated Mustang Forum for the last few years and it has been growing fast, I will definitely do further research on this and possibly implement BuddyPress or something similar on my blog at http://www.NJStangers.net. I also run multiple Fan pages, Facebook groups related to my club. Any comments on my sites, feel free to share. Thanks!

  • http://socialmediarealestatepros.com Ross Hair

    Thanks Kristi,

    Staggering free downloads is a very effective idea and works well for getting members back to the Ning sites.

    We tried many tactics but ultimately it is easiest to go with what works. In this case FB far outperforms Ning when it comes to connecting and interacting with potential clients so we spend 90% of our time on FB.

  • http://www.clintonlord.com/ Clinton Lord

    Just over a year ago I set-up two groups for an event that I was involved in, one was a Facebook group and the other a LinkedIn Group.
    I found that the community that the event was focused on were less inclined to join the LinkedIn group, but the Facebook group grew very quickly to over a 1000 members. In fact the group is still going and will remain in place for the future annual events.
    I eventually closed the linked in group a few months ago as there were only a hand full of members.
    I think that Facebook has a much stronger presence as far as groups go than LinkedIn and would probably be the best place to start, you can always start a similar group, or community on other platforms at a later stage.

  • http://www.extremejohn.com/ Extreme John

    Great article Krisit, as can be expected when you’re putting something out.

    As for JomSocial I’m using it right now on one of my test social networks, so far it’s not too bad and it’s easy to find custom programmers out there for it as well. Nice add Chris.

  • Golfnut282

    Great info! Can you lead to some info that would tell me if my idea would work better using a message board or a social network?

  • http://www.videocharacter.com Emily from Video Avatar

    Which is your favorite online community? I seldom connect with bloggers through the other online communities because I mainly connect with them through their blogs or through twitter.

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  • Sk

    Nice article but this is more or less an indirect sales pitch. I thought it would be informative but its only talking about the startups and their websites.

  • http://www.mobilecubix.com iPhone Application Developer

    Some times is very effective for website and promotion but some time it’s dangerous also.if you created a community but no one joined your community then what they do

  • http://ideagirlmedia.com/ Keri at Idea Girl Media

    Totally agree, Jessica! :)

  • LoganBear

    Along with BuddyPress for WordPress, there’s Drupal Commons for organizations using Drupal. http://acquia.com/products-services/drupal-commons As an open-source project, you can roll-your-own, but there are companies who offer this product as a service.

  • http://www.social-networkreviews.com RReinhardt

    Our local non-profit finally decided on Drupal Commons and are close to releasing our first site based on it. We couldn’t find a hosted solution that had all the features we wanted. Drupal Commons didn’t either, but it has a large selection of contributed modules that are allowing us to meet our needs. I ultimately used all the research I did in trying to find the best hosted solution to create a web site featuring my reviews and inviting reviews from others.

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Sounds like you have all of the bases covered. Are you using your pages / groups to direct back to the forum? Sometimes with that many properties for one community, it’s hard to manage unless you are specifically letting people know which one is “home base.”

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    I think it’s really about your preference, as well as your potential community’s. Do you want it to be discussion driven only (forums) or do you want there to be more freedom to discuss, blog, add photos, and let members socialize amongst each other (social network like Ning)?

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    For bloggers, I would suggest the Blog Engage and BloggerLuv for standalone communities. On LinkedIn, there are several good blogging groups including one of my own for women in blogging. :)

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    Hi Sk. It wasn’t meant to be any kind of sales pitch… just an introduction to different types of communities and services you can use if you want to setup forums or social networks on your own site or through thriving social networks. They can be used by anyone, not just businesses but also hobby enthusiasts, bloggers, etc.

  • http://kristihines.com/ Kristi Hines

    If no one joins, you have to look at possibly refocusing your niche or finding better incentives for people to join (ie. if you become a member, you get access to free training / informational videos related to the niche). Sometimes it takes time, but the community will come if you give them a good reason to!

  • http://www.coachingbiztips.com KMallary

    Another social network platform to check out is http://www.WildApricot.com. I’m in the process of moving my network from Ning to Wild Apricot, and I’m really impressed with WA’s admin controls. Have not been so impressed with Ning, although to be fair, they’ve been going through some pretty big growing pains this past year.

    Wild Apricot was originally aimed at not-for-profit groups, but also appeals to solo, small and mid-sized businesses, too.

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  • http://e-marketingforsensiblefolk.blogspot.com Anthony Miyazaki

    Creating community is a challenge in itself, albeit a worthwhile one if your firm is convinced that there will be a measurable benefit down the road that will outweigh the oft-underestimated costs of maintaining a meaningful community. My biggest concern is that most firms getting into social media communities don’t understand how to link community building with sales (whether new customers or increasing volume for existing customers). If that link isn’t there, the expenses of building up communities may never be recouped.

    Granted, there are some who will say “you can’t put a price on brand awareness or goodwill,” but they’re wrong. You absolutely can, and should, put a price (a valuation) on any benefits potentially received by creating online communities for your firm. Then weigh those against the costs and make decisions accordingly.

    Kristi, looks like you’re inspiring a new generation of community builders. You might have your work cut out for you now to keep them afloat!

    Have fun!
    Anthony
    e-marketingforsensiblefolk.blogspot.com

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  • http://twitter.com/digitalvisitor Digital Visitor

    (Obvious but relevant plug coming up)

    I think online communities can be a bit of a game-changer if you’re a brand marketer. Our Visitor Review product (http://bit.ly/h1Iv88) integrates into existing brand websites to help them create their own social media community.

    So yes, I’m on the ‘communities are good’ side. They take a lot of work, but being able to own at least part of the conversation about your brand, collect media from your members and being able to run promotions and offers free of someone else’s T & Cs are all major plus points.

    But as I said, a thriving community doesn’t come easy, and I’d advise against anyone starting a community off as a side project, as it just won’t work without constant care and attention.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DreamAlchemist Maria Mar

    Hi, Social Beyond: Is your service already available? Sounds Interesting! Please let me know.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DreamAlchemist Maria Mar

    Hi, everyone, this is a great conversation and it has been valuable to me in my overall resarch as to how to engage my audience. Thanks, Kristi, for providing this space and engaging us with your initial information.

    Right now I am searching for a solution to expand a product offer by creating a place where costumers who use the product can engage in conversation, ask questions and get answers. This would be private, just for those who purchase the product. I hate shelf-help, but know that a lot of times that’s what happens. So I want to provide my costumers with an alternative to support them through implementing the knowledge in the product. I want this to be all about getting the most from the knowledge both, through my answers and the conversation. Any suggestions, especially no cost ones, as I am a start-up? Thanks.

  • Callista Small

    Hi, great article! I am currently looking for an innovative way to incorporate social media into our company’s internal communication. I am looking for a site (ideally free) that will allow me to create a network with the ability to encourage open discussion as well as house some wikis. Essentially, my main goals are to have forums, wikis, and also pages that cannot be edited such as a newsletter. A big thing is I want it to be graphically pleasing (a drawback I had with many wiki sites). I was looking into WordPress and buddypress but are there any other suggestions? Thanks!

  • Callista Small

    Hi, great article! I am currently looking for an innovative way to incorporate social media into our company’s internal communication. I am looking for a site (ideally free) that will allow me to create a network with the ability to encourage open discussion as well as house some wikis. Essentially, my main goals are to have forums, wikis, and also pages that cannot be edited such as a newsletter. A big thing is I want it to be graphically pleasing (a drawback I had with many wiki sites). I was looking into WordPress and buddypress but are there any other suggestions? Thanks!

  • http://vooruit.be Judith

    Hi Paul!

    very interesting the things you write, is there any chance I can have a look into your survey? We’re now dealing with the question’ do we keep our own social community online or do we grab to Facebook’? Your results would be very helpful!

    Thanks

    Judith

  • http://vooruit.be Judith

    Hi Paul!

    very interesting the things you write, is there any chance I can have a look into your survey? We’re now dealing with the question’ do we keep our own social community online or do we grab to Facebook’? Your results would be very helpful!

    Thanks

    Judith

  • Paul

    Judith- Currently, I only have the raw data from the survey, but plan in the near future to publish a paper around this data. However, I would be more than glad to answer any questions you might have around my study. We should probably take this discussion off of SME. I am sure the other 75 people on this comment thread don’t want to receive our correspondences. You can contact me through my marketing blog: MyMarketer.net. ~Paul

  • Paul

    Judith- Currently, I only have the raw data from the survey, but plan in the near future to publish a paper around this data. However, I would be more than glad to answer any questions you might have around my study. We should probably take this discussion off of SME. I am sure the other 75 people on this comment thread don’t want to receive our correspondences. You can contact me through my marketing blog: MyMarketer.net. ~Paul

  • http://twitter.com/AlexRKiernan Alex Kiernan

    Hi Callista.
    Currently I am looking for businesses and non-profits who are in need of exactly what you are looking for. It would be the case where we meet your needs for free and you in return provide feedback. Please email me if for more information: alex [at] communitypi.org

  • 2social2

    I prefer SocialGO as a 5 year old could build a social network with SocialGO

  • Jay13213
  • Ryan Vergara

    2social2: Does SocialGo support the following Social Plugins: Facebook Like&Comment Buttons, Facebook Like Box,Facebook Comment Box,Twitter plugins,LinkedIn Plugins and Google+ Plugins? How does SocialGo fare in terms of lead generation? Does SocialGo allow the site admins to get infos from their members (such as favorite author, etc) in the member profiles?

  • Ryan Vergara

    Has anyone tried using Spruz.com? It seems to me it’s a great way to create your own social network and design it. The only problem I have with Spruz is that it doesn’t allow the incorporation of a Facebook Comment box (or any external Comment Box in lieu of their default box for that matter). As with SocialGo, I was informed by their customer support that the only info I could get from members who’l sign up on my site are Username and Email Address. What if it’s important and relevant to my site that the users input, say their favorite author or sports team? Anyway just my thoughts.I am a beginner. 

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  • http://twitter.com/siblysarkar02 siblysarkar

     

     

    Dear friends,

    You’ll be able to engage a article author regarding
    community posting, blog site creating, internet marketing,
    selling your business, creating essays, dissertations, article
    marketing and many more. This is such kind of site that helps you a lot.

    Thanks

     

     

     

  • Gope

    hi,
    myself not techy person,would like to build commercial community, for spiritual vegans,to offer their products and service, paid membership,but with rating option of members and products,have forums, events, video, pics sharing option,dont want hosting or platform site to own it,can integrate fb, g+, L-in, twitter etc,not very expensive, easy to manageadvice / suggestions / links are welcomedthanking u

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  • Larry Lance

    Kristi, I really like your comments and research on social networking.  I am thinking of starting my own network to be used as a fund raiser for non-profit organizations in my area and later across the state and nation if it meets my followers needs. I am a school teacher and faced with racing funds every year to send my students to Career Tech conferences.  I am looking for my own domain that I can control and be able to let members login and communicate with each other and take advantage of special business offers and individual requests to sell specific items.  I would like to have your suggestion about how to set up my own website and control the activity of the site.  You can respond to llance05@gmail.com. Thanks, Larry Lance
     

  • Drew Frey

    Hey @kikolani:disqus , 

    Great article. I think that building out your Facebook Group is a great first step to test the waters but if you find that your community is ready to evolve and needs added functionality, you might want to look elsewhere. 

    Keeping the barrier to entry extremely low is another great tip. Make it as streamlined as possible to signup and share with others so that you can bring them into the community as well! The last thing anyone wants is yet another login! That’s why signing up with Twitter, Facebook, etc is so important.

    I wonder if more and more people will be joining niche social networks moving forward. Now that Facebook is making it harder and harder for not only personal messages but also brand messages to be seen without paying Zuck and Co. 

    Last week Facebook came out and said that only 15% of an account’s fans are actually seeing brand messaging on average. The solution to this (of course) is to pay Facebook. To me it seems like they’ve lost their way…

    For SocialMediaExaminer to reach all 105,000 Facebook Fans, you would need to spend (probably) $400 per post that you wanted promoted. And if you only post 1x per day on Facebook, that’s $2,800 per week which is $11,200 per month or 

    $134,400 per year! 

    Just to make sure that you are reaching everyone of your fans. 

    What an eye opener! 

    Really enjoyed the article Kristi. Thanks!

    -Drew
    http://socialengine.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004268522935 Paul Laconte

    It’s very interesting as some guys use ning or elgg to develop their website like http://rucku.com http://haitirewired.wired.com/

    some decided to start from a platform to then detach. You have to spend more, it can make sense.

    A great example is http://www.tennistonic.com/ they have started in elgg (with all the pg stuff) then (I think) they moved to a normal platform to develop their own things.

    After that their popularity did grow dramatically. But you need to do it well!

  • Laura

    Can you tell me how a Facebook clone script works, and will my social networking website as original that as starting from scratch.

  • madhavi

    hi









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