Social Networking Meet Community Networking

Updated: July 01, 2010

For any Community to thrive there needs to be some funding in place to cover the costs of newsletters and meetings. Taking the example of a Classic Car Club part of this funding is by subscription and the rest is through advertising and sponsored events. Most car clubs produce magazines which are sent to members and these carry the usual classified and larger paid adverts to help cover the costs. The clubs will generally have a website that carries the same information with forums to provide some interactive capability. However, the website rarely attracts the same level of advertising as the magazines and it's mot easy to access on the move.

There is therefore an opportunity to improve a Club's web presence, add value to it's members and make some money in advertising revenue. Advertising is key in this type of community, not only for generating revenue but also to promote new products and services. The current situation with on-line advertising appears to be overly complex and I have to say scary. You often hear of cases where businesses are so frightened that their competitors will spend all day clicking on their ad, which will cost money, that they no longer advertise. There has to be a better way therefore to provide a community with targeted ads that means something to community members and is cost effective. This is where social networking comes in.

Ot it would if it got its act together. The current support for groups is somewhat limited and does not provide the level of interaction required that helps make a successful community presence. Advertising is not targeted at all and has a fairly scatter gun approach. Groups are never usually deleted either so a search for Vuvuzels's will bring up several groups which want to ban them and several who want to spread them globally. Obviously in this instance there are two distinct communities and two potential markets. The first is for the Vuvuzela itself and the second could be an opportunity to say, buy any 3 cans of Liquid Refreshment and receive a free pair of ear defenders. The solution therefore is to create intelligent pages which will group all similar communities together at a high level. The individual communities will remain as they are but users can get a single view of all communities and their feeds on a single page. Control is still maintained by the community owners but by allowing the roll-up they could get a share of the advertising revenue created dependent on the reward model used.

The example above was an automated roll-up, but the Classic Car Club could set itself up as the top level community for all things Chevrolet and bring together affiliate's communities. This opens up a couple of possibilities. The first is that there may be a bunch of Toggle Sprocket experts who write articles about their subject matter, which would be of great interest to readers so they could be rewarded in some way for creating articles. The second is that the club increases it's potential buying power with its suppliers by increasing virtual membership so can offer better deals for subscribers on Toggle Sprockets etc.

The concept of roll-ups and I'm not talking Rizla's here, comes in to its own with Towns. Having a single page link to all aspects of a Town will provide users and local businesses with a virtual market place that maps in to the real world. At the moment all aspects of a town are usually wrapped up in individual events, local businesses through check-ins and a town web site. The problem with a town web site is that it's generally out of date and misses out most of what's happening. Most town events then are promoted via individuals on their social network sites or through a town account that someone creates and administers on behalf of that said town. This of course is not ideal as their is no real control of who represents your town and of course there is no revenue stream in it. Why would a town need a revenue stream? The answer is why not, if it's possible to generate additional revenue for a town council through advertising revenue then this could be used to subsidise local initiatives without the need for dipping into the public purse. Providing an additional revenue stream for municipal bodies will become increasingly important as funding is cut. From an advertising viewpoint local businesses can react to events dynamically so if a concert was being held the local taxi companies could advertise their services around this. Take this a bit further and users could interact to share taxis making the most of limited resources and of course be doing their bit for the environment.

A really interesting point about this concept is that it simplifies the way that people interact with each other and businesses and by doing this creates a real community feel that is currently not present. As I said before there could be multiple groups or crowds of people interested in the same thing but they never get joined up or feel that they belong.

Simplicity Means:

  • Top level page can provide the gateway to all the information you need without going to multiple sites and search engines for information.
  • Advertisers can easily identify their markets and it works for all sizes from General Motors to Jen's Motors Taxi Service.
  • Advertising costs are known up front with no surprises End users can roll up specific feeds and control what they see.
  • For a subscription they can eliminate advertising or control the advertising they see.
  • They may not be interested in a new Chevy but are interested in special offers on Taxi services.
  • Quality contributors get rewarded. If I have an article published in a magazine I expect to get paid one way or another. It should be the same here.
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