Your network. Your rules.
You can join many social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. They are often free in exchange for your privacy. That's a high price. Your activities are tracked and you may be shown ads. We routinely accept those trade-offs. There is another option to consider.
You already have your own network. What are you doing to nurture it? A newsletter isn’t the answer. How can members of your network get in contact with one another? How can you help each other?
Public vs privateA public network has advantages and we are part of many. A private network has even more advantages if it is yours.
Why run your own?Your network may prove to be your most valuable asset if filled with quality people who can interact with each other.
The HassleBuilding and nurturing a community takes resources. The biggest cost is your time investment. If you like calculating an ROI, you may be disappointed in the short term.
When you build community, you are building an asset which grows in value with time. A local community can meet in person but still needs a way to stay in touch. An online community have a mechanism for staying in touch and is not restricted by geography.
Goodyear Toastmasters in 2011 and like the platform. It works very well if you want strangers to join your group. There are no ads because you pay a monthly fee. However, members get emails from Meetup to announce other groups that fit their interests.
I started a new group this month. I won’t give the link because I’m in the process of shutting it down. Strangers joined even though I wanted initial members to be people I personally knew. Within days, I realized that I did not want strangers in the group at this time.
Meetup is intended for in-person gatherings. I also saw that an online community would offer more flexibility via options like web meetings. Face-to-face meetings can take place later.
To help with the costs, I wanted a mechanism to charge a monthly membership fee. Meetup does not seem to do the billing automatically and I don’t want to be in the collections game.
However, LinkedIn keeps changing (not always for the better)
- LinkedIn Answers ended in Jan 2013
- LinkedIn Events removed in Nov 2012
- Partnership with Twitter ended in Jun 2012 (see how the split helps you)
- was locked out of LinkedIn for days in Jan 2011
Google+ CommunitiesGoogle+ keeps improving and communities are another option with reasonable controls. However, you need a Google account to join and Google gets to collect even more data about you. That affects the privacy of members.
There is currently no way to charge for access but you can have video Hangouts.
Sanctum for TRUST AND YOUSince I couldn’t find a suitable solution, I decided to create my own private social network on Ning 3.0: Sanctum for TRUST AND YOU. This community is designed for people who dream of a world in which we trust each other by default. Naive? Perhaps but we can take steps to achieve a reality at least within small communities.
Here are the features of the Sanctum:
- private (no access for search engines)
- approval process (want quality members)
- no advertising or data mining (instead a membership fee: currently $5/month or $50/year)
- no blatant self promotion (though ideal if members do business with each other)
- well-featured (full set of possible options)
- Sanctum for TRUST AND YOU (sanctum.trustandyou.com)
- Trends shaping social media: going private in public (JWT Intelligence, Feb 2013)
- 2022: businesses with private social networks (Tibbr, Jun 2012)
- 2013 trend: social media will get bigger (and trigger a backlash) (Inc, Dec 2012)
- Unfriending and private profiles are the new trends in social networks (VentureBeat, Feb 2012)
- Docs flock to private social networks (Gigaom, Jan 2013)
- Event planning showdown: Meetup, Eventbrite or proprietary
- How the Twitter/LinkedIn split helps you
- Go beyond LinkedIn: my sad case study
- image courtesy of L Shat