It is always good to go back and assess the impact changes have had on us. In the case of social networking platforms, the change in business model Ning announced certainly sent shock waves through the nonprofit and education world. Since then, a few things have happened and I thought I’d take a moment to share in this post what I’ve taken away from it:
- In May, Ning announced the details around pricing levels for their new model. As I mentioned to Ning back then, I was glad to learn the details about the new price options. They do cover a broad range of Network Creator needs, including an option running at $2.95/month for networks up to 150 members.
A similar path has been followed by Grou.ps, as Amy pointed out in her post. They had been following the footsteps of Ning to give users tools to create their own social network. The cost of running the service appears to be too much to sustain free networks indefinitely at the expense of networks paying for premium services/features, so the freemium model doesn’t seem to work in cases of large scale/data intensive platforms that help users run entire social networks, as opposed to “simply” hosting photos (Flickr) or managing their social network updates/tweets (HootSuite).
- As self-evident as it may be, it’s worth remembering once more that technology is not free. The change announced by Grou.ps shortly after Ning, eliminating their free service is a testament to this:
“The big lesson for nonprofits and education technologists alike would be to keep in mind that if you want absolute control over the way a certain platform or solution works, the only way that can be accomplished is by housing it yourself,” he said. “Unfortunately that comes at an additional cost, and that cost has to be taken by someone.”
This has not changed: the nonprofit and education sectors continue to be at the expense of changes in business models and will have to remain agile and flexible, ready to adapt on a moments notice (if possible) when/if the company hosting/running the service they offer changes or (even) goes out of business. The alternative is to run and host your own service with the additional IT costs this entails. So, as my friend Luis would say “there’s no free lunch!”
- In July, Ning and WEGO Health announced a partnership through which WEGO started sponsoring qualifying health-centric networks. Seeing up-and-coming Health Networks benefit from a program such as this and Education networks on Ning made possible by Pearson feels great. But there are still far too many sectors that make social good possible that are waiting for their WEGO or their Pearson.
My hope is that we will see more companies and social entrepreneurial spirits step up to the plate and help cover the cost of running these services to make them possible for groups that cannot still afford them.
- Last, one area that I have seen Ning make some strides in is helping Network Creators (nonprofit and for-profit alike) is helping generate revenue through your network. I highly recommend anyone running a network on Ning to check out the detailed resource page they put together on this topic, stemming from collecting donations, to running your merchandise storefront or serving your own ads (leaving Google Ads by the side) within your own network.
From our experience running TuDiabetes and EsTuDiabetes, I can tell you that even running Google Ads (which I am personally not a fan of, I admit) in a network of more than 100 members with a moderate activity level will help you generate enough revenue to easily pay for the lowest level on Ning, most likely helping you get the nearly $20/month plan so you don’t have to be limited by the 150-member ceiling.
So, are we out of the woods yet? Far from it… as Joan Manuel Serrat sings, “Caminante, no hay camino: se hace camino al andar” (Walker, there’s no road: you make your own road when you walk… -or something like that).