Social media is all the rage these days. There are now sites for a wide range of tastes, and of all varieties. For a specialist focus group these sites can enhance the community spirit, and there are still some opportunities for innovative companies to make a profit. The majority are focused around a specific community – for example IT Toolbox for the information technology community.
There are many ‘engines’ that can be used to build sites – for example with the Ning on-line service it is possible to have a site up and running in five minutes – although in reality customisation takes more effort. Do you want a web address like “x.ning.com” though? There are other options, that allow a large degree of customisation for the entrepreneur wanting to use their “x.com” web address. These options can take time to implement, but the result can be so much more elegant and professional.
Other social media open source engines do exist: like ELGG and Community Engine. The process here is to have the software installed on your server. That said it is not essential to go out and buy a new server. The availability of public storage available today does mean that setup and support can all be remotely managed via services like Amazon Web Services.
Let us be clear – setting up a social media site is NOT for every business. If you are seeking to leverage social media as a marketing channel for your business then setting up your own service is not necessary – such a business is best advised to work with existing and upcoming social media channels. Where creating a specialist social media community may be appropriate:
◊ Trade Associations
◊ Professional groups
◊ Education groups & alumni
◊ Community groups
◊ Sports Associations
So in setting up a new social media site there are some decisions that have to be made. The major one being having a viable business plan, especially if it is being managed by a commercial concern.
On the business front you do have to have some idea of your prospective audience, which may affect scalability of your solution. If your audience is likely to grow to a significant then an engine based on Ruby-on-rails may not be appropriate appropriate solution. A PHP based solution may be more appropriate.
Foodbuzz.com has an interesting idea in aggregating posts from other food Blog sites.. So they have built partnerships with other sites. You will also need to consider advertising and sponsorship as a possible source of income. The skilled trades social media site Blueholler.com has negotiated sponsorship in its launch plans.
Tags: Communities, Development, Social Media