Trade-off: Facebook vs. Ning

I am advising a client who is interested in reaching out to a huge existing community of folks who they, historically and today, can count as their natural constituency.The problem is, they don’t have their names or email addresses and want to connect to them, and them to each other. The question is, how to do that.

I explored three options with them: create a Facebook ‘Group’ and/or Application, create a Ning social network, or create a new and beautifully designed new web site to serve as the hub of the effort.

Here are some of my tentative conclusions.

  • Outreach: No matter what approach is taken, a big part of the effort will be outreach, via email or google ads or something along those lines, to get the attention of these people, and motivate/incent them to register. The message, tone, language and incentive have to be carefully designed and monitored and tweaked to make it work.
  • Design and Look: Facebook will allow the least customization of the look, followed by Ning, and of course creating a new site will give you any design you want. But don’t get all caught up in how important having a unique look is. There is something to be said for the familiarity and trust that a Facebook-looking group elicits.
  • Cost: There is a similar trade-off in cost: A Facebook group will be the cheapest, a Ning site a little more, and a custom web site will almost certainly cost much more than you expect.
  • Facebook has captured a lot of the ‘social graph’: This one is the hardest to explain because my point is subtle. [I await comments from someone saying that this point isn’t subtle at all] Facebook’s magic is that it has already recorded many relationships, who is who’s friend etc. They are trying to ‘capture the social graph’ So, it is much easier to encourage John to tell his friend Jane to also join this group because neither John or Jane have to ‘sign up’ – create a profile. So this is one unique advantage of using Facebook, assuming that there is reasonable overlap between Facebook users and the people we are trying to find.

Those are some of my insights in assessing the trade-offs. Please tell me all the things I am missing!

0 thoughts on “Trade-off: Facebook vs. Ning

  1. Depending on the goals, timeframe, budget, etc. it would make sense to try to do both FB and Ning. As I see it, with FB you are wading into that existing userbase and trying to fish out your FB-app users from within the total pool of FB users. With Ning, you’re basically starting from scratch with the basic infrastructure required for an SNS but with so much more freedom. With both, the demerit is that FB/Ning own the platform and the users essentially. Rolling your own SNS with your own server and your own software would be the highest cost and longest timeframe but you get the most control and your users are your own, so to speak.Social Graph is interesting but it’s not really prime-time and so I would never recommend it to anyone for any kind of production SNS.


  2. An additional benefit of Facebook and Ning is that they have search and connection capabilities to help people find groups and join them (with an edge to Facebook – because of the viral social graph aspect). With a website you can rely on the things you mentioned (adwords, email blasts, etc.) plus some SEO work to get people to find you. This costs money and effortI’ve seen several companies create presences in several different sites which has pro’s that you can reach a larger audience that way but has the con of having duplicated efforts in multiple places – it’s effort for the leader/moderator and it’s confusing for the community.


  3. @gen kanai: I wasn’t referring to “Social Graph” – I assume you mean the Google API which I didn’t even realize was called Social Graph (now I do: I was speaking conceptually: the Social Graph in the Real World exists as represented by who knows who in meatspace. FB’s ‘mission’ as I heard it explained is to try to capture that Social Graph or as much of it as they can, in a database, represented as FB ‘friends’. Anyway, I clarified my post a little to avoid confusing readers.


  4. I am registered in Facebook and a friend of mine created a social network using Ning. I use both, but, to be honest, there’s no much movement on the Ning group. I have to admit that i look far more often my Facebook page than my “generaciongeek” page. And i’m not the only one. The registration barrier is still too high; the bright side is that the Ning ID is useful for any other Ning-based network, as if i wanna use another Social Network…I’m tempted to write that everybody should use Facebook and don’t try to make other networks that ask for registration, but i don’t like monopolies of any kind.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s