What do you do when your B2B company wants to establish a social community but only for a select audience? Well, there are options. Creating a private community environment with the ability to control member enrollment is key, and making sure your community understands that it is a select group of qualified individuals will help keep the environment focused and held in high regard.
Many popular social networking tools don’t provide a logical space for this kind of community organization (like Facebook and Twitter), but there are a handful of options and likely one will fulfill your B2B social media requirements.
1. A Hosted Private Community
Building a private community provides the ability to fully control your community access, while offering a full set of social networking features. There are several solutions that will allow you to quickly and easily establish a social community using third party software and host it on their servers. The most popular options are Ning, KickApps and SocialGo.
The benefits to using these tools include a quick development timeframe (hours, not days) and support is usually readily available from the developer or from other users in forums or message boards. Most technologies are very customizable and the financial commitment is minimal, if not free.
2. A Private Community on your server
If you must retain control of your content for legal or security reasons (you may not want proprietary information on a third party server), you may need to consider developing a community using software you can install on your own webserver. Some of these options are add-ons or modules to a CMS (content management system) package and some are stand-alone applications.
Setup of the software will require some technical assistance, and then you’ll want to customize the look and feel and the functionality to your requirements. However, once established, the community will operate in a very secure environment and you’ll retain full control over the content.
3. LinkedIn Groups
LinkedIn can also be used for private communities. Simply establish a group and send out invitations. The community creator will be able to control who joins. You can also create subgroups to further organize your members.
A private LinkedIn Group can be setup in no time, and you already have a contact list to use for the initial invitations. On top of this, LinkedIn makes it easy to send weekly messages to the group, create discussions and share information.
Managing Your Private Community
No matter which private community you choose to create, once its launched your work has just begun. Make sure you’re ready to manage it properly. To learn more about managing your community you should read Chris Brogan’s Essential Skills of a Community Manager, 3 Tips for Managing a Social Media Community or get a first hand account from Amber Naslund about Being a Director of Community.
Is a private social community in your plans? What options are you considering? Do you already have one? If so, please share your experiences.
This article originally appeared on SocialMediaB2B.com.