Last week Ning announced its new platform for apps. If you are unfamiliar with Ning, it's a service that allows users to create new social networking sites. And, as the white noise generated by the rapidly growing mass of internet users threatens to overpower the individual voice, this may be just the change that an organization needs to break out of the Facebook Group Box. Where is your target audience, and how can your organization stand out when everything that seems most popular is very formulaic? Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn? Somewhere else? Can you really tell how effective it is, or is your voice getting lost with all the others chattering away on those networks?
As I grow weary of the same-old same-old, I am finding Ning to be very refreshing. It does, however, pose its unique challenges.
The great thing about Ning is that it is customizable, interesting--all the personality of a website with all of the interactivity of a social network! It's like Wordpress, but with members in a community at large. It feels more encouraging, urging members to communicate with one another without as much moderation.
There are downsides, though. A Ning site is one more thing to maintain, and one more place that your audience (fans/followers) has to go. They must be cultivated more actively because the Ning community is not as widespread as that of Facebook. And, if your "people" are hanging out on Twitter or Facebook, do they want to join another community? Will they be less likely to interact because they are already consumed with their activities on the sites that Everyone Else is on?
I am on Ning, and am beginning to delve into the vast array of social networks afforded by my free membership. I find it takes a little more attention and investment than my Facebook time, but I also think that my Ning social networking experience is more varied and engaging. I keep thinking of ways that organizations, artists, could bond together by region on a social network, sharing upcoming events, sharing audiences, and generally cross-pollinating. I'd love to hear about your thoughts and experiences.