Ning: Facebook Alternative for Building a Real, Custom Community

Establishing a solid foundation for your social community is core to the success of any organization or brand today. You want to foster a two-way dialog with your audience, grow customer loyalty and increase organic word of mouth marketing through the power of the social graph. The problem? It has become increasingly challenging to get control over the valuable data you’ve accumulated on your social channels.

For example, Facebook Groups provide an easy way for lightweight group interactions. But in May, Facebook updated its Groups feature, phasing out and archiving many legacy groups created over the years. While the goal was to shift groups and organizers to its new Groups feature, what actually happened was that Facebook group admins were left without options to migrate their data elsewhere, and there’s been no clear solution allowing admins to maintain groups or group membership.

 

Similar situations have happened before. Remember Geocities? In 2009, the Yahoo!-owned service abruptly deactivated all 38 million user-built pages on Geocities. This left Geocities publishers with no access to the pages they created.


Must-Haves For Your Social Community

More and more savvy organizers and marketers are embracing social autonomy by having greater ownership over their online presence. Having a social media presence essentially means nothing if you can’t make use of the assets you’ve gathered from social channels to drive your business or organization goals.

As you craft your social media strategy to map back to your goals, it’s important to holistically evaluate the options you have in front of you and identify the ones that can scale as you grow. Some questions to help you get started in making that choice:

  • Do you have complete control over critical data, such as access to contact information like email addresses?
  • Can you always access data you have solicited from your community, like responses to polls and profile questions?
  • Can you download information added and hosted on your community site and do you retain the ownership to this content?
  • Do third-party analytics tools like Google Analytics integrate with the service?
  • Do you need to jump through hoops to use and develop third-party applications and services to run simple promotions and contests?

At Ning, we believe in giving you the flexibility and toolset to manage your community as you see best suited for your goals, at all times. You are always in full control of your community — not only can you tailor the social experience with features that fit your unique needs, you also have complete ownership of your social community — you’re empowered to take it to the next level.


Diversify Your Social Media Efforts

More than anything, it’s important to diversify your presence across the social media channels and platforms best suited to address your community needs. No one social media service is created equal: Facebook is great for lightweight user reach; Twitter is excellent for real-time broadcasting; Yelp provides a quick sounding board for local businesses; and Ning is known for enabling people to create and manage custom social communities.

Ning communities allow you to easily aggregate and pull in your presence from services across the web, and likewise extend your Ning community to the rest of the online world. From photo editing via Aviary’s easy–to-use tools, WordPress plug-ins enabling posting on Ning websites, social sign-in integration to enable simplified login through services like Google and Facebook or 1-click sharing via Twitter, we recognize that being a part of the social ecosystem is what really matters — and all on your terms.


Now What?

At the end of the day, it’s important to understand your audience. Think about what they are looking for in their interactions with your organization, brand, community or group, and how best to serve them. Within social, there are a myriad of tools and services that can meet these needs, and it’s good measure to take a minute to evaluate the best way to achieve these goals, not simply settling for the status quo or following the crowd.

About the Author:

Jason Rand – who has written posts on Ning's Official Blog on Social Networking Sites.