Well, if you would consider Facebook as a Walmart-like superstore of a social network, then you may also envision niche social networks in the likeness of Radio Shack or PetSmart – to keep with the analogy. Don’t get us wrong, Facebook is successful for very good reasons. But a one-size shoe does not fit all feet.
There are many essential applications for private niche social networks.
- Reason #1: Engagement
Instead of sending your members and visitors to Facebook, have them on your private site. You’ll be able to engage with your members and visitors, learn their preferences and pick up their feedback.
- Reason #2: Focus
Facebook is noisy. News streams are blocked by irrelevant content that just gets in the way. Your niche private social network will focus on one topic that genuinely interests your visitors.
- Reason #3: Profits
Instead of clicking on Facebook’s ads, your site’s members and visitors will click on your ads, buy your products and share your content. Your network, your profits!
- Reason #4: Privacy
Your private social network will keep all your users’ data on your site and under your control. You can set the privacy levels the way you want, giving your members and visitors peace of mind.
Your High School has probably an online social network for alumni on it’s site. You might ask “what are my class mates doing after all these years?” How about your church? Wouldn’t it be nice to look up members of the congregation once in a while: where do they live, what do they want? People are members of professional associations and regularly network with colleagues regarding better jobs. It would be awkward to try to do that on Facebook. Some dating sites have gotten really huge with well over 20 million members paying some hefty $35 per month. You’ll get totally lost in there.
Dating sites are a still evolving breed of social networks. Some now run as apps on smartphones. Courtship seems to be a thing of the past. You’ll get totally lost in there if it weren’t for the dating sites and apps to suggest phony matches for you to keep you on. People cannot make up their minds on these dating sites and apps because a “better” soulmate might just be around the next “swipe.”
A private niche social network can be much like an online boutique. Did you buy that scarf on Amazon? Perhaps not. We crafted a niche dating site last year at truelovesingles.com. It’s focus is on courtship and it is growing fast.
The WordPress platform and the WP Symposium Pro plugins make crafting hosted niche social networks a breeze. If you are part of or even managing a group of as little as some 40 people related via a specialized interest, you may want to consider an online social network to help build a lively community.
There is one drawback,though. Any advanced WordPress plugin and/or a whole lot of regular ones will consume a bit of server resources. So, if you just plan on having a blogging site, you may be good with a $7 per month hosting plan at BlueHost or DreamHost. However, a social network site benefits from being hosted on an account optimized for WordPress at some $20 per month. If your social network site should really take off (implying that it makes a bucket of money for you), it’s better to have it hosted on a dedicated server at around $230 per month.At hobbyjoy, we have come to be proficient at utilizing WP Symposium Pro as our WordPress plugin of choice to craft online social networks. There are other plugins for social networks as well, with BuddyPress the most popular one. We once just settled on WP Symposium Pro because it promised better documentation.
WP Symposium Pro is very compatible with themes and other plugins, configurable, yet easy to run. With profiles, activity (wall), groups, searchable directory, unlimited forums, friends, email alerts and so much more, it’s perfect for clubs, schools, interest groups, engaging with customers, support sites, gaming sites, dating sites, and limited only by one’s imagination!
So, your group’s members operate on Facebook? They also text and email each other? And they try to get other people to join or support the group? You may be surprised by how much more utility they could get from an online social network branded and tailored according to their group’s identity.
One caveat, though. Online social networks do not really run be themselves. True, the actual users are the ones who provide the benefits to other users, the peer-to-peer idea in action. But it’s not going to be well without the involvement of an administrator and/or several moderators.
Think about it as if cooking. Unless you use a crockpot, you cannot just put some food into the frying pan, turn on the burner, and walk away for 20 minutes. The food has to be strirred every few minutes.