A few newsletters back, I briefly covered how social networking sites can be a powerful boost to you business.
But when I wrote the article, it was from the viewpoint of joining one or some of the array of social networks and leveraging their user base to get links to your website and more traffic, recognition and a 'buzz'. Networks like Facebook or MySpace.
But not all networks have to be huge and cross-board. Some can be specialised.
Develop your own, specialsed and niche Social Network...
And think about this - how 'cool' would it be if you had you OWN social network site either directly on your website somewhere or on another domain that you manage?
Of course, you'll have different challenges such as getting people to join your network, but think of the benefits!
Skyrocketed Company Perception.
Huge Collaboration & Joint Venturing opportunities
Viral marketing opportunities.
Leveraged inbound links.
Boosted Search Engine Ranking.
Increased Cashflow(Using Google Adsense payments etc)
Raised corporate branding.
In short - there are loads of benefits of crating and maintaining your own social networking site.
The biggest one I can think of that I've not listed above is the fact that you can dynamically respond to market demand. i.e. by staying on top of what is the latest 'buzz' you can create products or services to meet a new niche or demand. (Or at least write benefits about how your existing products or services can be used)
Of course, there are issues that it raises as well...
Should you charge for membership?
Who can join your network?
Who is responsible for maintaining quality and content issues?
Who updates the social networking software?
Where is it hosted?
How much does it cost?
My suggestion is that as always, you start small and grow it organically. It's unlikely that your website will develop into the next Facebook but there's no reason why you can dominate an industry niche.
As usual, most people won't bother - meaning you should!
Most people people that I mention this to won't bother to take action because they're too confused or worried about how to set it all up. Which means they won't get the benefits of it.
A couple of weeks ago, I setup mklink.org which is a complete shambles really but at least I've started it and have got a plan to work on it on a regular basis and add more content, members, features etc. It's simply a matter of time. I'm not expecting to take over the world with it, just have somewhere that I can add value and build a community.
So my suggestion is that you start small and think of a niche to dominate. You might not be aware but there are people that let you run your own social network site for free. Take http://www.webjam.com/ for example.
Now admittedly, it's a hosted service so the social network won't be on your own website but so what?
You'll have non of the headache of software developments etc. There are also scripts available for you to download onto your server as well if you want to manage it all yourself, which I do.
(But that's why I don't make as much money as I should - because I'm always playing with code and things like that and taking my eye of the 'marketing' ball!)
Checkout download.com or tucows.com or hotcripts.com for example.
Anyway, it's just a suggestion that you can add a lot of value to your website for little or no cost.