Creating a social network for your members

Now more than ever, association professionals must continuously define ways to deliver a valuable experience for members. Nurturing relationships, facilitating connections, sharing knowledge and ideas – all of these things are great in theory, but how do you really make them work?

Here are a few strategies:

  1. Keep it simple and easy to use – don’t over-complicate things
  2. Keep valuable content and learning experiences front-and-center
  3. Be engaged. Lead conversations, hold online events, package content and tools that really matter.
  4. Delegate a few very engaged, early-adopters to lead conversations and to have input in the direction of the online community
  5. Form online working groups to solve problems

For years, I have been creating a members-only social networks (formerly known as online communities). The good news is that not only have the tools improved significantly, they are much more attainable — even for organizations with the smallest of budgets.

My new favorite is Ning, a social networking platform that lets you build your own network in as little as 20 minutes. It’s a great environment for meeting people, collaborating and learning.

Ning’s popularity is growing rapidly – and was recently featured on cnet for reaching 1 million social networks.

Some examples of associations using Ning for member social networks:

eMarketing Association network group
2300+ members

National Association of Female Professionals
1500+ members

Association for Information and Image Management
3000+ members

The bottom line if you are thinking of starting a social network for your organization – don’t overcomplicate things. Give a try.