Options for creating organizational social networks
I've heard it a number of times: "Our organization wants our own Facebook." After you've gone through the strategic planning, and made sure that, indeed, building your own social network is exactly what you want to do (instead of building on networks already there, which, I think is what should be done 80% of the time), how do you go about doing it? I've been working on this for a while, and here's what I've found.
You have several options:
You have several options:
- Ning. This is, in fact, the option I'd almost never choose, unless this is a very short-term, or throw-away, project. Ning is a Web 2.0 startup in search of a sustainable business plan, and who knows when it will fold, or what will happen to it. The community and data is not your own, and there is some evidence that they might be using that data in social networks on their platform in ways that they shouldn't be.
- Elgg. Elgg is an open source social networking platform that had a previous life as an e-learning platform. It's meant for developers - although it does provide an out-of-the-box social network, it takes a fair bit of work to get it looking and working like you'd want it to. And, it's a young project, so that adding custom functionality is going to be harder than with established projects like Drupal or Joomla. I've installed and played with it a fair bit, and there is a lot to like about it, but the lack of a solid developer ecosystem, and the dearth of add-on modules and themes makes it a hard choice.
- Drupal. Drupal has a module called Organic Groups, which is incredbily popular, and there are lots of other modules that add functionality to it. Building a social network on Drupal will take more work, but since you are starting from a really solid grounding of Drupal, and can extend this site in all sorts of ways, this might be the best option. It's the option I've chosen for two ongoing projects that are creating social networks.
- Joomla. Joomla has a number of components that provide social networking functionality, including Community Builder and Group Jive. I haven't had a chance to play with these yet, but they are worth a look, and there are some great Joomla web shops out there that can help with this.
- Proprietary platforms. There are quite a number of proprietary platforms that can also provide a social network site for your organization. In general, these are going to be fairly pricey, and not as customizable as the open source platforms are.