Another Question from the Audience: Social Networking Sites
Conducting marketing training is one of my favorite activities in the spectrum of our practice here at the marketing firm of Maple Creative. At our workshops and seminars, I always collect questions from my attendees. The ones that we don't address in class often make good blog topics.
Q: Is there any reason for an organization to build their own social networking site instead of using ones that already exist?
No! Rarely can marketing questions be answered succintly. Now, here are three, straightforward reasons why no company or organization should attempt to build its own social networking site:
1- Traffic - You need it. Today, you have none. Facebook, for example, is viewed on a daily basis by 12.9% of all Internet users. It's the 5th most popular Web site on the Internet. It has many great, built-in applications (join group, events, bulletin board, chat, form sub-groups, one-to-many and one-to-one communication, etc.). Facebook has tons of traffic--and it is free! By contrast, it takes tons of investment and a great deal of time to build traffic for your new site.
2- Experience - You are late to the game. You have little to no experience. Existing sites like Twitter, MySpace and Facebook, have a deep track record. They are continually striving to improve and refine their products, based on insights gained from their experience and feedback received from users. Let the experts do the hard stuff. Adapt and customize their applications to suit your needs. To do otherwise--at this juncture--is a total waste of time and resources.
3- Convenience - Your target audience is already using certain social networking sites. They may be using several, in fact. Plus, they have 2 - 4 email accounts to visit and manage. The last thing they want is one more Web site to deal with today. Build your presence and place your social content in a convenient location--one that your customer base is already visiting. Make it easy for your customer; don't burden them with something else to worry about.
There are many other Web sites that have a social networking element (or elements). Flickr (photo sharing), YouTube (video sharing) and Del.icio.us (content tagging and sharing) are but a few. These might be a better social networking solution for your company or organization than Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. If you want some guidance on which social networking site(s) to build your effective platform upon, you have two options. You can certainly poll your audience directly to find out their preferred sites. When in doubt, ask!
You might also refer to The Groundswell, a wonderfully eye-opening and well-researched book by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff that explores the social media habits and trends in today's world. I highly recommend this book. It gives great insights about social media preferences according to demographic and psychographic factors.