Wednesday, July 25, 2007

9 Ways to Build Your Own Social Network

The news may overflow with stories about the social networking giants, such as Facebook and MySpace, but a horde of companies are doing their best to reduce the fundamental features of these websites to mere commodities. These up-and-coming companies provide so-called “white label” social networking platforms that enable their customers to build their own social networks (often from scratch) and to tailor those networks to a range of purposes.

The idea of white labeling a network is to make the platform provider as invisible as possible to the social network’s users and to brand the network with the builder’s identity or intent. While definitions of “social networking” may vary, social networks are primarily defined by member profiles and some sort of user generated content. There are roughly three types of companies that have emerged in the space of white label social networking. The first provides hosted, do-it-yourself solutions with which customers can largely point and click their way to a brand new social network. Companies of this type interact minimally with their customers and rather focus on providing the network-building tools that they demand.

We have taken a sample of nine of these companies - Ning, KickApps, CrowdVine, GoingOn, CollectiveX, Me.com, PeopleAggregator, Haystack, and ONEsite - all of which provide free baseline services, and reviewed them individually below. We have also included the chart on the right summarizing all of these companies’ offerings. Credit for initial research into these companies goes to Jeremiah Owyang who compiled a comprehensive list of white label social networking services.

The second type of company provides social networking software for download and installation onto one’s server. The third type works very closely with clients to build a social network based on their needs. These companies might suite your needs much better than any do-it-yourself social networking service, so you may want to check out companies such as Social Platform (a personalized service) or phpFox (a downloadable solution). We’ll take a deeper look at these services in Part 2 of this post.

Out of the services that we review below, we found that Ning provides the best platform for setting up good-looking, sophisticated social networks with minimal effort. KickApps provides the best platform for integrating social networking components into existing websites. CrowdVine and Haystack are viable options for organizations that are looking for simple social networks to improve personalized communication online. CollectiveX is most suitable for existing groups that want to collaborate online. And GoingOn provides a promising hybrid solution with capabilities shared by both Ning and KickApps. Continue Reading>>
(via techcrunch)