Larry BraunerIn case you haven’t heard, “Friend Connect will be retired March 1, 2012,” says Google. This is not pleasant news for those websites that have sizable Google Friend Connect communities and whose community members have opted to receive newsletters from the site.

Google recommends that you join Google+ and invite your community to join with you in order to keep in touch. Compared to Google Friend Connect, Google+ is a rather lame tool for staying in touch. Google Friend Connect newsletters permitted direct community contact.

Google Ploy

Google+Google+ got off to a great start but seems to have lost much of its original momentum and engagement. Google probably hopes to give Google+ a shot in the arm by terminating Google Friend Connect and redirecting members.

If you have a community and wish to stay in touch, here are two approaches for creating email lists, are better than merely joining Google+ as Google advises.

If you have a small budget for an email contact list, I can use Aweber or Green Wave Email Marketing. I’m using both of them. Once you’re set up, ask your community to subscribe to your newsletter.

For a free email list, you can create your own group on a Ning social networking site, such as my Small Business Network. You will be able to email group members and to network with each other.

Invitation

I invite you to subscribe to this Online Social Networking blog and to join Small Business Network, so that we can stay in touch with each other. I’m also on Google+, Facebook , LinkedIn and Twitter.

I love to network, and I’m very accessible. :-)

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Larry BraunerCan social aggregation and syndication websites make life online easier?

I wrote in Hubze is a New Business Site for Personal Branding and Social Media Aggregation that “the aggregation of social websites will be a major focus of 2010, as enabling technologies like semantic web come to the forefront.”

Social Networking SitesSocial media enthusiasts who regularly cross post on multiple social platforms use aggregation and syndication sites and tools to simplify simultaneous cross posting across those platforms.

For example, I often want to share a link, an idea or content on all of the most popular social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Ning sites, such as inSocialMedia).

Since I don’t want to work through a complicated or tedious process each time I do that, I rely on syndication sites such as Amplify, Ping.fm and Posterous to help, depending upon the type of information I’m sharing.

Posterous vs. Amplify vs. Ping.fm

I prefer syndication sites over desktop tools, since I can access those sites from any computer wherever I happen to be, and they also help build my web presence. These are my current favorites:

  • Amplify - A social bookmarking site . You add links (along with article snippets if you like) using a browser bookmarklet, and your entries are posted to all the social networks you’ve specified. Amplify also has a strong social element and is a useful online social networking resource.
  • Ping.fm - A micro blogging site (a little like Twitter). Your posts can have pics attached, and can be distributed to a large variety of pre-specified social websites. You can conveniently submit your posts to Ping.fm by email.
  • Posterous - A blogging community to which you can post pics, video and text. Your Posterous posts are shared on a variety of pre-specified social websites. Posterous, like Amplify, has a strong social element. As with Ping.fm, you can submit your posts to Posterous by email, and as with Amplify you can create posts using a browser bookmarklet.

Hubze, now in testing, may be another important aggregation and syndication site in the future.

However, there are many syndication sites and tools that are already being used successfully. Which social aggregation and syndication websites and tools do you like to use — and why?

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Larry Brauner

When Twitter, Ning and Facebook Compete

Major social networking sites are constantly competing for new users and for a greater share of each user’s networking time.

When Twitter, Facebook and Ning social networks compete, you and I win. Social networking sites are forced to keep improving in order to keep us as members.

Competing Isn’t Easy

However, competing isn’t easy. Simply adding more features will not always produce better results. Added features might make a site slower, harder to comprehend or more difficult to navigate.

There are very many factors that social networking site owners need to consider and to balance when making site improvements. For example:

  1. Competitive Environment - What is the competition doing and not doing? How well is it working for them? Who are they targeting? How are they positioning and marketing themselves? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How can we neutralize their strengths and exploit their weaknesses?
  2. Functionality - What capabilities does our target market want? What can we offer? How will product enhancements be perceived?
  3. Design Consistency - How can we add capabilities while preserving our site’s overall look, feel and philosophy? What synergies can we achieve between new and existing functionality?
  4. Cost vs. Benefit - Social network owners must consider the trade off between benefit and cost of each potential site modification?
  5. Timing - How long will it take to roll out site modifications? Faster is generally better than slower when facing competition. Windows of opportunity can sometimes be very small.
  6. Monetization Strategies - How will changes affect the income social network owners derive from the site?
  7. Anticipating the Future - What is needed down the road? How will changes made now interact will future ones?
  8. Legal Issues - Any patents, trademarks, compliance, disclosures or other legal constraints to reckon with?
  9. Site Responsiveness - Are site response times acceptable? Can responsiveness be improved? How will social networking site modification affect responsiveness?
  10. Simplicity - Social networking sites and their features must be easy for members and prospective members to understand.
  11. Ease of Use - Sites must be easy and intuitive to navigate. Members need simple ways to achieve their online social networking objectives.
  12. Visual Appeal - Social networking sites need to look and feel right to members.
  13. Buzz - Social networking sites grow virally when members invite their friends to join. They need compelling reasons to reach out to their friends and easy-to-use mechanisms that automate the inviting process.
  14. Fun Factor - Members will not hang out at a site if it isn’t enjoyable. A positive user experience is critical to online social network success.

Twitter, Ning and Facebook are continually evolving. However, recent changes to Facebook seem to have been the most far reaching.

Recent Facebook Developments

Facebook changed the look and feel of the pages used by businesses, organizations and celebrities to make them more similar to personal profiles. As a result, overall Facebook design is simpler and perhaps a bit more intimate.

Furthermore, the way businesses and individuals can now both use the Facebook News Feed seems to more closely follow the Twitter model. This is especially good news for businesses, organizations and celebrities trying to communicate with their “fans” and acquire new ones.

My main Facebook complaints are: its persistent sluggishness, the deluge of quaint applications and requests, and the steep learning curve.

Recent Ning Developments

The way I see it, Ning takes the Web 2.0 concept a step farther than any of their competitors. That’s what makes Ning unique.

Not only do users create site content, they even create the individual Ning social networks themselves.

Ning encourages people to become members of multiple social networks. What has been sorely needed is a way to manage participation across these multiple networks from a central control panel. Ning has recently filled this need by creating a new super meta network at Ning.com that’s conceptually a network of networks.

I applaud Ning’s latest effort, but noticed couple of problems with the new meta social networking site:

  • There isn’t yet a capability to manage outstanding friend requests across networks.
  • The recent friends list isn’t correctly sorted.

Like Facebook, Ning social networks tend to be slow and quirky.

Recent Twitter Developments

The main thing I see at Twitter is a cleaner web interface with fewer rough edges.

Twitter like Facebook and Ning is doing its share to combat spam. Spam in social media is an ongoing problem.

Twitter is much faster than Facebook or Ning. I would however like to see better performance of the Twitter API as it affects the consistency of Twitter tools running on top of it. I can run Twitter Karma many times and get as many different results!

For me and others site performance can be an overriding issue. When a site is too slow, it can be emotionally too painful to endure. For that reason I spend most of my networking time on Twitter, even though conceptually I like Ning and Facebook about as much.

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Larry BraunerWhen Marc Andreessen and Gina Bianchini started their work on the Ning social network back in 2004, online social networking was still pretty much a teen thing. True there were marketers like yours truly making a home on Ryze and other business networking sites, but we were the exception rather than the rule.

Ning once completed would allow people to create and manage their own miniature MySpace-like social networking sites.

Ning’s founders probably envisioned a platform on which families and circles of friends would stay in close contact through their very own private social networking site. However, since launching 18 months ago, Ning has found its way into the business world as well as many other sectors of society.

You can start your own plain vanilla Ning social network for free, or for a fee you can exercise greater control over your site and add lots of bells and whistles.

Examples of Ning Social Networking Sites

In Web lifeline for the troops, the Naperville Sun writes that two local men, Ed Domain and Josh Lowe, launched Troop Space, a Ning-based networking site for the brave men and women of the United States Military. Troop Space “is geared toward US troops, their families and anyone who wants to become more personally connected to the military”.

Jim at medXcentral started his Ning community to network “the medical and health care universe” and to “stimulate great achievements and forward motion towards resolving many issues faced by the medical industry today”.

Diane Hochman built the online headquarters for My Private Classroom on the Ning foundation. I joined My Private Classroom several months ago to learn more about social media and to introduce free and low-cost marketing methods to network and direct marketers.

You can now participate in Diane’s social marketing training program for free. Read My Private Classroom Opens to Public for details.

I created the Ning social network Critical Thinking Outside the Box as a companion to this blog, and you are welcome to join me there.

What I Like About Ning Sites

From a user’s point of view here are some of my favorite Ning features:

  1. When you make a friend at one Ning site and you each belong to another Ning site, you’re connected at the other site too.
  2. You can browse friends and friends-of-friends and so forth to see what other Ning networks people belong to. In this way you can discover new and relevant places to network. While many Ning sites are private, there seem to be just as many sites that are open to the public. You can also browse Ning’s list of popular social networks.
  3. You can broadcast a message to all of your friends at any given Ning site. Be careful not to abuse this privelege. Spamming is not effective, and network administrators will typically not tolerate it. This broadcasting feature has allowed me to attract readers to my blog and gain new subscribers.
  4. In some Ning social networks you can also broadcast messages to fellow members of groups you join. This feature encourages spam and is therefore disabled on many Ning sites.
  5. You can customize your page’s theme and embed videos and widgets just as you might on MySpace and many other social networking sites.
  6. Much of your profile content can be taken from an existing site and easily reused when joining a new site.

And What I Don’t Like

Here are some of my least favorite Ning features:

  1. Most Ning sites have very small memberships that are just a little too cozy for marketers like me building their lists.
  2. A very high percentage of profiles are abandoned, so you can end up with lots of unaccepted friend requests. At some point you may need to delete some friend requests in order to remain eligible to make new requests.
  3. Very many Ning sites are not much more than recruiting pipelines and sales funnels for the sites’ owners. I find this aspect of Ning annoying, but I tolerate it. For this reason I’m slow to invite friends and business connections to join me on new Ning sites. I want to wait and see if the site is a safe enough place to bring them.

Show and Tell Opportuinity

You can find some of the many social networking sites to which I belong featured on my blog’s sidebar.

Do you have favorite Ning social networking sites? Have you started your own Ning social network? Do you have an interesting story to tell?

Feel free to comment and share with us.

Keep in mind that I’m responsible for the quality of my blog and legally responsible for its content. I therefore reserve the right to edit any comment as I see fit.

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Larry Brauner

I strive to write upbeat online social networking posts. However, sometimes I have to publish a bad report.

I told you that I had found the social networking site Wowzza Disappointing. I decided to withdraw during Wowzza’s 10-day grace period, and I expected to receive a refund.

When my refund wasn’t issued after more than a week, I contacted Jim Vigilante, the site’s founder, who said that he would look into it for me.

Last week I wrote him again. This time I did not receive a reply.

If I eventually receive my refund, I’ll post a comment to this article to let you know. As of now both social networking sites, Wowzza and Zion 5, are suspect.

If you already belong to either of them, enjoy! No need to quit.

But if you haven’t joined them, you should consider taking your online social networking business elsewhere.

Don’t miss any posts. Register, it’s easy, or subscribe to my RSS feed!

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What is Wowzza?

From my perspective Wowzza is thousands of networkers running around like chickens with their heads cut off — quite a messy sight — or should I say site?

The situation became so messy that site founder Jim Vigilante felt compelled to axe the site’s top feature, sending direct messages to all contacts in one fell swoop. Members were bombarded by spam in their in-boxes and the latest greatest pre-launches. Something had to be done. Now members are limited to 50 bulk mail messages per day.

Incidentally Wowzza is extremely slow, but I’m sure that this problem will eventually be addressed and corrected.

Let me remind you of my earlier post, Online Social Networking Entering New Phase, in which I said, “Use social networking sites to network, to make new friends, to make new business contacts, and to make deals. Do not use them only to get paid by them. If you want to make money, doing business through these sites has much more potential than creating income streams from the sites themselves.”

I also said, “Join, use and refer people to sites that you enjoy, that offer the services you want, and that attract the types of people you wish to network with.

“Do not join sites because you are impressed by their hyped-up revenue sharing plan. Avoid paid membership sites unless they are the only ones that provide the services you require and attract the clientele you seek.”

Since I believe that there’s nothing particularly unique about Wowzza, I’m not going to pay $32.95 for the privilege of getting other people to do the same, just to make a buck.

In case you’re not already receiving enough spam or you’re desperate to get information on the pre-launch du jour, Wowzza may be just the social networking site for you.

Don’t miss any posts. Register, it’s easy, or subscribe to my RSS feed!

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