What’s Your Community? April 20, 2009

Written by: Digitally Approved
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My generation is so connected to each other via the internet, mobile web, SMS, and such, it’s nearly impossible to escape. But none of us really want to! I’m a sophomore at the University of Southern California and we like to stay connected. For us, MySpace is dead outside of the music realm. Facebook would be perfect if we no longer had to cut through the clutter of worthless apps, too many embarrassing tagged photos, and worst of all, parents. And personally, I love Twitter (tweet me @stevemanuel), but many college students think it’s just like updating your Facebook status — at least that’s what my girlfriend over at UCLA says.

I’m in a social fraternity at USC and one thing that everyone has problems with is keeping their Facebook groups, pages and events both private from non-USC students and as socially usable as possible. We use Facebook to share event dates, themes for parties, philanthropy details and invitations of all sorts…and so does every other fraternity and sorority across the nation!

So I thought — why not make my own social network that I can customize to meet my local peers’ needs? I could make a place about our Greek row that won’t get clogged with news and information from another college in another state!

…But then I pondered, “How can I make a social network?” I searched online for a few options, thinking at first that I’d have to buy an expensive domain name with a ton a bandwidth and hosting fees attached and find someone to help me with all of the advanced HTML and CSS to make it look good. I was wrong. I found several social network companies like Ning, CrowdVine, SocialGo, Elgg, and WackWall. All of which were capable of providing me with my very own free social network, but Ning gave me more of what I was looking for with a truly user-friendly and recognizable social networking platform.

The beauty of having a micro social network with Ning is they give you a plethora of easy-to-use customization tools that allow you to change your network to be as specific as you’d like. With a little bit of Photoshop skill, I made a logo, a header and some basic icon graphics, which all seamlessly integrated to my network, “The Row”. It’s also easy to keep unwanted users from spamming and abusing your network. I used the network privacy settings to require that new members must be approved (based on their name, email address and any other information you require they include when they sign up) before allowing them access to the site. Like the glory days of Facebook, when only ‘.edu’ email addresses were accepted, this keeps your network exclusive to a demographic, location, etc. that you determine to fit your network best.

To be realistic, I don’t think that my network or any micro-network created on a social networking site will ever grow to the size of Facebook or MySpace, nor do I believe that the majority of them will last as long. But I do think that everyday people can create great social communities for millions of active internet users to enjoy.

-Steve