UPDATE 19 APRIL 2010 – Ning has written that they will be announcing the details of their new plans on the 4 May 2010. They comment that For Ning users of their free service who choose to move to another service, we will offer a migration path and time to make that change and that they will continue to allow free trials and test networks on the Ning Platform.
So are you finding social media marketing a great way to build a community of brand ambassadors for your business and love that in most cases the platforms are free to use?
One of the health warnings I always give at the begining of my workshops is that social media platforms are great ways to connect with potential and current customers, however if you are using a third party platform rather than developing something that you host yourself, especially if is a free version, then you just need to be aware of the potential risks.
What happens if the platform ceases to exist such as happened with the social book marking site Magnolia. Or as I have reported on recently where there is uncertainty about the long term viability of a site such as in the case of Bebo. Even Google have ceased to support the ongoing development of some of it’s services such as my favourite service Google Notebook.
What would you do if the site you were using to build or nurture your social network community for your business were to cease trading or chage their terms of business?
This week a month after Gina Bianchini, co-founder of social networking service Ning, left the company Jason Rosenthal the Ning COO announced that it’s to lose 40 percent of its staff and ceasing its free, ad-supported service.
CNET reported that Ning had raised US$119 million in venture capital, including a US$60 million round in early 2008.
Rosenthal sent an e-mail memo to employees on Thursday (that apparently according to CNET, was forwarded to industry blog TechCrunch) in which he commented that Ning will in the future be focusing on premium (paid) networks.
The email was also posted on the Ning Creators network and includes the comment:
We will phase out our free service. Existing free networks will have the opportunity to either convert to paying for premium services, or transition off of Ning. We will judge ourselves by our ability to enable and power Premium Ning Networks at huge scale. And all of our product development capability will be devoted to making paying Network Creators extremely happy.
What is interesting is that there is no announcement on the Ning press room or the blog so some people may be signing up and creating their own social network at this time without being aware of this fundamental change in the Ning business model. Surely that is a error of judgement?
Thousands of people from non profits to entrepreneurs have created their own communities on Ning. Some will cease to exist after the free version ceases as they don’t want to or perhaps can not afford to move to the paid for version, especially where the network on Ning is not related to a paid service or product. Others may take stock and make a decision to move to a different service such as Yuku.
For me it’s just another reminder that if I am using a free service or a service provided by a third party, do make sure that I do not have all my eggs in one basket? Have I the ability to export my data so that should the unthinkable happen and that service ceases to exist in the way I have been using it, so that I don’t lose essential information and I have peace of mind that I have a plan B that I can transition to.
I am dismayed when I hear some digital marketing or social media ‘experts’ telling small businesses that they don’t need to develop or host their own website and that having a Facebook page for their business is all they need. Facebook pages are terrific – but no I would not recommend that you entrust Facebook with your total online marketing plan.
What are your thoughts about using free third party services in your business to support your marketing and communications plan? How do you make sure that your business is not overly dependent on a service provided by a third party.