Community-Building Web Sites
"In this article, Linda talks about various community-building sites and how you might use them to create a “glue” to keep community active."
Lindatalked about community and its relationship to marketing in the
previous article. If you plan on building community, will you rely on
social networking sites to keep that community together? Or, will you
include a Web site in your community-building plans? In this article,
Linda talks about various community-building sites and how you might
use them to create a “glue” to keep community active.
Community-Building Web Sites
Linda talked about community and its relationship to marketing in the previous article. If you plan on building community, will you rely on social networking sites to keep that community together? Or, will you include a Web site in your community-building plans? In this article, Linda talks about various community-building sites and how you might use them to create a "glue" to keep community active.
Using Community-Building Web Sites as Glue
Community building is not easy. It takes time, effort and leadership qualities to start, build and maintain cohesiveness within a community. While you can begin to build a networking community at Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed or other social networking sites, you might consider using a platform site as "glue" to hold that community together.
While Ning has gathered steam as one of the most popular community-building Web hubs around for the average Joe and Joanne, other options exist that may suit your abilities and skill levels. The following list is not all-inclusive, as this type of network-building site is growing constantly and new options may be available to you even as you read this article. But, the list below contains a handful of the most user-friendly options in a variety of platforms. The links at the end of this article provide more options.
A Handful of Community-Building Site Options
If you are a Web designer or programmer, the following handful of social networking platforms may appeal to you. Some are fairly straightforward Web-based applications. Others will appeal to the developer, as these possibility-laden open source downloads can become addicting. In all cases, the applications are free to use with some caveats in some cases (such as advertising). Be sure to read all the documentation for each site to learn what works for you (or not).
The following social network platforms are listed in alphabetical order, with links that lead directly to those sites. Below each description is a screen shot of the home page for each site, which also is linked to that given site:
BoonEx: Download open source software to your server to build community. Open source means that you can modify the code, re-brand the software, change the design and re-organize the navigation. This software comes with strong community support. As of this writing, over 50,589 Web masters, designers, developers and entrepreneurs are registered in Unity, BoonEx's community management system. BoonEx Unity is the source for your extensions, templates and language packs where some developers and service providers also have opportunity to earn money. The platform is called Dolphin 7, and Dolphin-powered sites can be clustered, hence no scalability issues.
Elgg: Elgg was voted best open source social networking platform in 2008. This platform comes with a set of default profile fields that can be extended or completely changed by the site administrator. Utilize widgets, notifications, blogs and build groups. You can extend those activities to community members as well. The new media embed feature allows users to easily include their photos, audio snippets and files within blog posts, pages, comments, discussion topic and profile fields. The modal window allows users to upload resources and get access to the files they need while constructing their content. Users also can post view "the wire" and SMS to push wire posts out to Twitter. Note that Elgg is a downloadable platform that you upload to your Web host. Some hosts may offer Elgg as part of their services.
KickApps: If you're a Web developer who wants to incorporate social networking features into your existing Web site, KickApps provides one of the most basic default templates available to satisfy your goals. You have immediate control over header and footer code as well as CSS styling. You can customize the URL for free, take advantage of unlimited storage and bandwidth for multimedia content and create a way for members to feel that they belong to your network, not to a platform like Ning provides. You also can work with KickApps to make their platform as invisible as possible and use their pay per performance option to pay KickApps a portion of your affiliate advertising rather than pay KickApps to remove their ads.
HiveLive: This networking platform is slightly different than others in that you can control modules deployed within a social network called "Hives." Users can choose to add hives to an existing social network, configure the type of hive such as blog, forum, wiki and more, and then determine who within the network can use them. This type of activity is similar to groups within Ning (see below), but the controls seem to be a bit deeper. Additionally, this platform is geared specifically to product owners, brand manges and market research professionals who want to build a customer-based community. Utilize concept testing, panels, discussions as well as blogs, file and media sharing, calendars and more to learn how consumers might view your products and ideas. This is a Web-based easy-to-configure application.
Ning: Ning offers a way for anyone to build or join a social network. I've used this network tool before, and I know that it offers an easy way to build community, share information, photos and more. You can brand the site with a logo and colours and create your own design with CSS. Enjoy member profile pages, customized advanced search, moderation, invitations and search engine optimization, custom text and dwidgets as well as RSS feeds in and out. You also can build groups within the site, and you can grant permissions for members to build groups as well as to develop their own blogs. You also can use a personal URL, but it's not easy for non-techie types to accomplish. Free to use, but you also can pay a small fee to avoid advertising.
Linda Goin carries a B.F.A. in visual communications with a minor in business and marketing, and an M.A. in American History with a minor in the Reformation. While the latter degree doesn't seem to fit with the first two educational experiences, Linda used her 25-year design expertise on site at archaeological digs and in the study of material culture. Now she uses her education and experiences in creating social media environments.
Accolades for her work include fifteen first-place Colorado Press Association awards, numerous fine art and graphic design awards, and interviews about content development with The Wall St. Journal, Chicago Tribune, Psychology Today, and L.A. Times.