While you probaly have large goals, your community will likely start out small.

In this regard, the technology platform you use should comfortably support the needs of your small community and at the same time should also be scalable enough and grow with your community pace in terms of both functionality and technological infrastructure.

Very important - you have to solicit requirements for you social network from different points of view and from various stakeholders:

We see five distinct stakeholder groups who have reasons to become involved with the community, look to get something out of their participation, and have a stake in its success. They are your customers, community moderators, community administrators, subject-matter experts, and business sponsors. Each of these groups has its own needs, desires, and goals. You firstly have to put their requirements on paper and try to analyze them.

For example if you as a business owner want to encourage community members to generate buzz about your products and services, then your platform should provide tools to engage community members and will be able to provide integration Tools such as Polls, Surveys and Email notifications.

The main stakeholders groups are

1. YOUR members or customers. These are the people who make up the community and who become its members. They’ll have different reasons for joining and participating, but on the whole they come because they have questions to ask and problems to solve, because they want to connect with others who have similar interests and problems, because they want to make a contribution and be recognized for it, because they want to express their ideas and opinions.

2. COMMUNITY MODERATORS. Moderators are helpers, facilitators, and guides. They can be your employees, freelance contractors, or be experienced responsible customers and members of the community themselves. In all cases, they want to help everyone achieve their individual goals, and ensure that members have a positive experience in a comfortable environment.

3. COMMUNITY ADMINISTRATORS. Administrators have the most technical role and need to know the most about the way the platform works. They want to create and maintain an easy-to-use environment that functions well, and they want to support all stakeholders.

4. SUBJECT MATTER-EXPERTS. These experts usually, but not always, work at your company. They are extremely knowledgeable in areas important to your customers, and want to share that knowledge, as appropriate, with the community. But they want to learn from members as well, particularly from the most innovative ones. And, for the most part, they want to be recognized for their contributions.

5. BUSINESS SPONSORS. Business sponsors are the ones who set the business goals and provide the resources to make the community happen. They may be entrepreneurs, executives involved with marketing and market research, sales, product development, technical support, customer service. They want to know what’s on the minds of members or customers in general, and what they think about specific products, services. Mostly they just want to make their Online community to be profitable using various monetization models like sponsorship or advertisement that we explain in other lessons and articles.

Or they want that their online community served to improve the company's brand, develop stronger long-term relationships with customers and encourage community members to act as spokespeople for the company’s products and services.

The main Evaluation Criteria to choose the right community platform for you would be:

• Evaluate the platform’s robustness in the area of Communication channels.

An online community platform should support a variety of communication channels between and among members and your company. It should make it easy for your customers to find whatever they’re looking for. And it should provide a rating mechanism for members to encourage the contribution.

• Community Participation. Participating in an online community should be easy and fun. An online community platform, therefore, should make it easy to connect to the community. It should provide tools for customizing the experience, and for managing one’s personal information and profile. And it should make it easy for members to create content of their own in multimedia format – such as blogs, videos, audio, pictures

• Moderation and Administration. It comprises very broad range of requirements such “ease of use”.A good platform will provide a wide range of easy-to-use, well-designed management tools and incorporate shortcuts for handling commonly-performed tasks, tools, reports and analytics.

• Architecture and technical aspects. Think about hosting environment, the technologies on which it is built and from which it can best be accessed, the ability of the system to be integrated within an existing Web framework, its ability to function well when under peak usage, and its security.

• Product Viability. Here you can check the following criteria: Installed Base, Target Markets, Pricing, Product Plans, Competition

• Company Viability. Here you have to check the following three criteria: Company Background, Customer Base and Financials.

Starting by identifying requirements for the five key groups of your community stakeholders— community members, moderators, administrators, subject-matter experts, and business sponsors—we’ve laid out our framework for evaluating online community platforms that can help you turn those scenarios into reality.

Not every stakeholder carries the same weight in every organization, or in every community, so the importance of each platform capability and evaluation criterion will vary. As with any product evaluation, pay the most attention to what’s important to you and your business.

We prepared an impressive range of platforms on which you can concentrate before making your final choice.

SocialGo - No software, hosting or coding required just pick your features, monetization options, support package and GO

Dzoic Handshakes professional is a powerful and commercially available fully customizable social network script to run your own social networking portal. It has very good social plugins, very powerful admin console.

World Dating Partners - the best platform for creating dating networking sites

PHPFOX - is a powerful full featured professional social networking software for different web communities and friends. Features include video-plug in, flash chat and instant messenger.

We also recommend you to check out these great complimentary resources:

For your online networking success and until next time.

B2BPioneers Program