Myspace, tagworld, bebo, and facebook. There are social networks for just about everything these days. But what if you want a simple social network for yourself, one that you can make totally your own?
THE FIND: Well Ning’s new “Your Own Social Network” might just be the answer for those who have been looking for a simple way to create their own social network.
THE TEST: “Your Own Social Network” has finally combined what was once three separate Ning social offerings: groups, photos, and videos, into one basic social networking site creation tool. The simple interface allows you to create a Social Network in a few easy steps.
By dropping and dragging modules you can add blogs, RSS feeds, forums, videos, photos and html. Networks can be made public or private, and there is an easy invite option to help get the community going. A broadcast message option allows for simple group messages, and a private message feature enables community members to communicate among each other.
Each social network is given 5GB of storage and 100GB of bandwidth a month for free. As your site grows, it is possible to buy extra storage and bandwidth for a small monthly fee.
In terms of adding video and photos, community members can upload the files to Ning, email them, send files via their mobile phones, or embed them from other video sharing sites like youTube. Another good feature is a simple sites stats package that enables basic tracking of your Social Network.
For those who are more adventurous it is possible to get under the hood and really modify the design, features and functionality. Ning has established a developers site to encourage people to modify their Social Networks.
An interesting aspect of Ning’s offering is that they are providing a number of ways for creators to monetize their own Social Networks. By allowing domain mapping, users can easily make the social network transparent to their existing site or blog. In addition there is a ad sales option that allows for ad sales across your Social Network with the ad serving service of your choice. The Domain mapping and ad sales options are considered premium features and carry a 4.95 and 19.95 monthly charge.
THE RESULTS: http://workbooksocial.ning.com
THE PROS: I like the ease of use, and Ning has created a rich feature set that will satisfy most users. Building in options to monetize one’s site is also a nice option.
THE CONS: I would like to see some e-commerce integration with things like eBay, amazon or a simple store front feature. I am sure that these features are on the way, and for those who have the time and desire, Ning leaves it open enough that you could build your own.
OVERALL: For those looking to add value to their sites and blogs, Ning offers a simple way to create a community around whatever is interesting to you. I can see this working well for bloggers looking to find ways to build a stronger connection with their audiences and earning some extra revenue in the process. I highly recommend that you give the Ning’s “Your Own Social Network” a try.
RATING: 9.5 out of 10
ONE QUESTION: Co-Founder and CEO of NING Gina Bianchini
How does Ning differ from the other social networking sites and services in the marketplace?
Gina Bianchini: “If you look at today’s social networks they allow some customization but at the end of the day you can not brand your own myspace or youTube. So, really what Ning is about is empowering people and making it super easy for them to create and customize new social networks. We are seeing an evolution in ease of use, and the more that we can simplify the process for people to create and to monetize the better.”