The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

The Truth about Social Networking Vendors

Posted by Chris Bonney on Wed, Jan 28, 2009


web2iconsWeb 2.0 is the overarching term used to describe the social movement on the Internet. Sites like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn are considered the social networking faction of Web 2.0 while sites like YouTube and Flickr are considered social media. There are also social bookmarking sites, wikis and many other types that fall under the Web 2.0 umbrella.

So, yeah, that’s all good information to know. But if you are considering investing in social networking technology you must also consider the vendor you’re getting the technology from.

How Long Have They Been Doing It?

Keep in mind that social networking has only been around for a few years. So, if you find a vendor that says they’ve been doing social networking for 10 years, you might consider that a red flag. What we’ve seen is that many vendors are attempting to retrofit their Web 1.0 tools like discussion forums into Web 2.0 tools. They change the name from “Forum” to “Community” and expect that to be enough. It’s not.

Are They Strategic?

The key to successfully launching Web 2.0 tools is not simply implementing the technology so that it works and is delivered on time. This is not a build-it-and-they-will-come proposition. If your social networking vendor is not offering some strategic package with their software offering, then let’s call that red flag number two.

Do They Know Associations?

We might be showing a bias here, but we think it’s vital for any technology vendor in our industry to really know our industry. The nuances of volunteer-driven organizations and the delineation between staff and board are just two of the many intricacies that your vendor should understand so that they can recommend tools that are relevant and appropriate for your organization.

Ask how many associations they work with regularly. Ask them how they roll out social networking differently for their non-profit and commercial accounts. That will be telling.

Can They Integrate?

Will your new Web 2.0 tools be seamlessly integrated into your website or will your members get a jolt as they navigate from your main site to an obvious third-party tool? Users are savvier than ever. Make sure you’re not losing members to the competition because you didn’t find a vendor that could integrate.

Yes, we feel there should be sense of urgency at your organization about getting on board with social networking, but we also recommend proceeding with extreme caution. Your technology is too important and your investment too great to trust it to just anyone.

Do you have any other tips for organizations moving into social networking?

Photo credit: Tobias Eigen

Topics: web strategy, twitter, web 2.0, facebook, social media, Vendor Relations, LinkedIn, associations

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