The Sunday Times of Malta
“Private social networks for businesses help you maintain control over content while providing a great experience”, says Theresia Azzopardi.
With Facebook alone controlling nearly 50 per cent of the local market share (Source: Socialbakers 2012), is your company riding on the social networking wave yet? Whether it is Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter, online networks have become a very real meeting place for individuals, companies and customers alike. The main drawback of public social networks is that there might be other companies’ adverts, alerts, images or comments from the visitor’s own contacts that could easily divert the visitors’ attention.
Popular networking sites such as Facebook and Linkedin are ideal to attract visitors to your site and to start building your online presence. However, there are situations where besides being present in public social networks, an organisation might benefit from creating a private social network.
Recently, various organisations have launched their own private social network to maintain control over content while providing a great experience. Some of these are commercial, like Asos and Jinx. Others focus on specific industries, like the Royal College of British Architects, or areas of interest such as the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association. Some organisations, universities and government institutions are also opting to own a private social network.
In the online world of eCommerce and content based websites, content is king. Consequently, organisations are continuously trying to create valuable unique content in a quest for higher SEO ranking and private social networks are ideal for creating relevant content and sharing information.
Two months ago, a community websitewas launched to help meet the objectives of the Malta Business Network (MBN), www.maltabusinessnetwork.com. The Maltese High Commissioner in the UK, Joseph Zammit Tabona, initiated the MBN with the goal of developing business relationships and opportunities between Malta and the UK. MBN acts as a meeting place for professionals and organisations and aims to maximise networking between its members. KPMG Crimsonwing developed the MBN community site based on Elgg, an award-winning social networking engine trusted by multinational and global organisations, like UNESCO and NASA.
The website provides rich social sharing features that allow users to manage their own profile and to make new professional contacts by joining specific industry communities or interest groups. Users can publish and share their own content through inbuilt blog and discussion features. They can also register for events, share and access resources using bookmarks and RSS feeds, and communicate using an inbox specifically designed for registered users.
When creating a private social network, it’s important to understand your target audience in order to provide relevant tools and content. In the case of the site developed for MBN, the ‘Community’ feature acts as a meeting place and as a platform for information exchange among professionals and businesses that have common goals.
Mr Zammit Tabona said: “With the assistance of KPMG Crimsonwing, the MBN membership and those interested in the activities of the MBN now have a community website that is easy to use, and yet remains powerful in its functionality. The network is growing steadily through our contacts, referrals and general awareness created through social media and the website. The feedback has been positive and site analytics reflect this steady growth in registrations.”
Easy to use and navigate, Elgg has features similar to those available on Linkedin and Facebook, as well as rich and flexible privacy settings for all content, which can also be moderated.
Today, there are numerous open source platforms available for social networking, eCommerce or content sites. Choosing the right one involves reviewing the overall purpose, functionality needed, target group and their requirements. This will help build a solid, yet tailored, solution providing all the tools needed to pull the strings on your very own website.
For more questions on private social networks and IT queries, e-mail infoMT@crimsonwing.com.
When should an organisation invest in a private social network?
- When one needs to have full control over the site’s content. On your own private network you might choose not to have other companies’ adverts and thus reduce distractions for your visitors.
- When you want to target a group of visitors with interest in a specific sector or area: a network that provides valuable information and resources on a particular subject may become a meeting place for stakeholders with common interests.
- When you want to increase the average visit duration on your site: a private network that contains valuable and relevant information can help visitors stay focused on the content while encouraging them to interact. The longer they spend on your site, the higher the probability for a purchase, attending an event or contacting the organisation.
- When you want to make membership to a network exclusive.
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