I read two interesting blogposts today about the issues and choices involved for organisations implementing social networking sites applications
Michael Webb, the head of IT and media services at Newport University, blogged that when your organisation sets up a social networking site for staff or customers (or in his case, students) you face the choice of either:
- developing and hosting your own application
- piggy-backing on an existing, externally hosted application like Facebook
- using an externally hosted 'design your own social networking site' such as Ning
Newport University wanted to set up a social networking application for its future students, so that they could meet each other and their student mentors online, before they came to the university.
They decided to use Ning.
Michael describes the pros and cons of taking this approach
- Speed: it took days to set up. If they had hosted and built their own social networking environment it would have taken weeks or months.
- Cost: Ning will charge them once they go above 10GB of storage, but it won't cost much
The disadvantages are:
- The Universtity can't develop the functionality to the site. Ning controls the future development of the funtionality. Newport University have received requests from users for developments and tweaks to the system, but they can't do anything with them
- Ning pushes advertising to the sites (you have to pay if you want to get rid of them)
- The terms and conditions are drawn up by Ning (though Newport University didn't have too much of a problem with them as Ning acknowledges that they own the content, and the data in question isn't business critical)
Michael seems happy with the way that the site is turning out. Users can display their profile and set up new groups and events. They have over a hundred members of staff and students up and running with it and are just about to invite the forthcoming students. I look forward to reading up dates on Michael's blog. (and thanks to Brian Kelly for the link).
Read Write Web put up an interesting blog post yesterday entitled Corporate Social Networks are a waste of money . They quote a Deloitte report that looked at social network applications set up by companies to encourage their customers to form a social network around their brand. These sites have been set up to build a brand, so a lot of money has been sent on their design to ensure that the sites reflect brand design values. Deloitte say that nearly 60% of the companies concerned spent over $1million on their sites. But the money seems to be wasted: Deloitte discovered that 35% of these sites have less than 100 members. Read Write Web pours scorn on the whole idea: it questions why people would want to network around a brand, and is particularly withering about Nestle Purina's attempt to create a social networking site for customers of its cat litter.
I agree with Read Write Web here: even where there is a brand I am loyal to (like Fulham football club) there is no compelling reason for me to contribute to the social networking site provided by the brand owner: I can just as happily contribute to a site or message board set up by fellow fans.