Facebook 126 : 10 NING. Lessons learnt

On: November 1, 2011
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About Mzia Kupunia
Print and radio journalist - before starting my studies at the UvA I was working as a politics and conflicts reporter at Georgia's only English-language newspaper The Messenger, anchoring a talk-show at Tbilisi-based radio station GIPA. At the same time I was working as a news department editor at the Tabula Magazine and did a freelance reporting and writing for the New York Times. I like traveling, cooking and reading.

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http://www.mziakupunia.org    

When creating an online community on NING platform for newcomers in Amsterdam as part of our Masters of Media project, me and my colleagues had very ambitious plans about attracting vast amount of users to join Yoursterdam community. However not everything played out as planned. It turned out to be extremely difficult to tempt people to join the community located on one of less known platforms. Tempting included calling on our friends on Facebook or elsewhere to join it so that we could at least test the limits and benefits of NING. But even friendship seemed to be not enough to make someone join a new social networking site.

As soon as we realised that getting users was more problematic than we had imagined, we decided to create a fan page for Yoursterdam on Facebook and a Twitter account as well. Our plan was to publicise Yoursterdam NING community on a more widely used social networking sites. Facebook fan page idea turned out to be a good one, because as soon as we started generating content on Yoursterdam and posting links on Facebook page, we started getting some users… but not on actual NING Yoursterdam community, but on Facebook fan page. Meanwhile, our attempt to make Yoursterdam community popular through Twitter failed – Yoursterdam Twitter account currently has just 9 followers.

Back to Facebook. As I mentioned, creating a fan page there proved to be successful (at least compared to two other social networking sites we used). Currently Yoursterdam’s fan page on Facebook has 127 users and the number is slowly but anyway increasing. So the lesson learnt from the Yoursterdam project, apart testing the capacities of NING, is that hoping for a flood of subscribers to a less well known social networking website is too optimistic to be true. People do not want to spend their time signing up for a new platform no matter how short the procedure of joining a certain network is. They are used to being able to join a community with just a click on a like button.

So the lesson learnt is that developing a good strategy for attracting users is essential when creating a new community on a not well known social networking site. This strategy is sometimes as essential as the content of the website itself. It is very hard ( and sometimes even almost impossible) to compete with Facebook. But it is always worth trying.

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