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  • Branded Social Networks: Does the name matter?

    Some people will tell you that “content is king” when it comes to social media. Post/blog/share good information that your audience wants to hear, and you will develop a following. But what about the medium for your sharing? Which network will you choose? How much does a platform contribute to or hinder your success?

    If you are trying to find the perfect social site for your business, organization, or personal interest, do you choose the best platform for your purposes, or the popular one with the most familiar name?

    Names Matter

    Perhaps there is something in a name after all. 500 million people feel comfortable with Facebook, perhaps that is why so many brands have decided to focus on building their presence on that particular network. It’s not a perfect platform by any means, especially for marketing, since FB tries to protect users from spam and un-paid advertising. Even the paid advertising is kept to a minimum. There is no way for Page admins to message their fans, or post to their profiles. The complaints and “known bugs” on Facebook seem to be endless! There must be a better network for building online communities, but this one if by far the most popular.

    I have worked with some Clients who use Ning for their social networking, and as a platform it can be very accommodating. Ning offers many features, and until recently was free. Even with their new pricing plans, it is still a great deal. You can host a forum, blog, create private groups, message your members, chat and more, all from the same site. The downfall? Members must register with Ning. It’s a whole separate site, not connected to their email or Facebook page. This can be a roadblock to some people, who prefer to stay within their familiar “hub” of online activity (email, blog reader, Twitter client, Facebook).

    Setting Expectations

    And then there is the name. I have had people ask me, “What does Ning mean?” and I have to explain that it is just a platform for creating a personalized social network. One client of mine always refers to their Ning community as such, rather than calling it by their own customized title, or “Our social network.” It makes sense, because we as Internet users have come to understand various sites as having specific functions and formats. Facebook works a certain way, Twitter is unique with its 140 character limit, and blogs can be expected to look and feel a certain way.

    So what does “social network” mean to users? It’s too general of a term, with no agreed-upon format or features. Calling the site “Our Ning Community” refers to a brand, and implies certain known characteristics.

    Familiar Icons

    This is why icons have become so important to social networkers and marketers. If your company or client is building a presence on Facebook, you brand it with these icons:

    People feel comfortable with this logo, and know what to expect when they click through to your Facebook Page. Links like these are important to have, because each network has its own special and unique features that users know and trust:

    But what about a button like this? “Our Social Network” does not tell me anything about the site you want me to visit. Will I need to sign up? Is this a private network?

    So, this particular client has decided to change this button to include the brand of their social network. Soon it will say, “Join our Ning Community” instead.

    Do you think this will affect people’s willingness to click through, or change their expectations of the site?

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