With the rise of niche social networks, many business owners are considering whether a specifically branded social network fits for their businesses and industries.
Unlike general social networks such as Facebook and MySpace, branded networks are built for users to connect and communicate about topics related to their industries. Examples include Shelfari.com for book enthusiasts and ImSaturn for Saturn owners.
Considering a branded network to foster discussion about your industry and promote more traffic to your site? There are some factors that you need to address in order for the benefits to outweigh the costs in time and money.
Business writer Scarlet Pruitt suggests the following points to creating a successful niche social network.
The first and most important issue to address is to ensure there are enough active users before even considering beginning a networking site. To achieve this, you will need to offer a wide platform of topics beyond just your brand and include discussions on how your industry affects the world at large.
Once a cadre of dedicated users is secured, you can move on to obtaining the needed software. There are a few companies out there that specialize in social networking platforms, such as Ning and ONEsite, and offers wide ranging options from inexpensive basic software plug-ins to entire Web 2.0 platforms. You can cut some costs by establishing a revenue-sharing agreement with the provider or by including ads.
Finally, integrating the networking site into your main website will take a little more time and money. But once you have everything up and running, engage your community through blog posts, networking with your community, and sharing information with other sites.