I’ve been exploring white label social networking applications for the last couple of months now and while there’s a bunch out there, I am yet to find one that works for me. Jeremiah has an updated list of sites here, it’s a great resource if you are looking for tools. (Though Jeremiah also writes that it’s better to join existing communities versus starting one of your own).
But I did take the time and did quite a bit of shopping and here are my notes.
There are applications that you can host, pricing structures vary from “donations” to licenses, but the functionalities are fairly similar. Blog, wikis, file uploads, profile pages, forums. If you’re comfortable with PHP, Drupal, PHPns and PHPizabi would be great options.
Others aim to make it simple enough for anyone to administer (and the key word there is “aim”).
As previously mentioned here, I spent quite a bit of time creating networks with Ning. When they said you can create your social network in minutes, they really meant it. I personally think social networking site creation can’t get any simpler than Ning. Your network comes with the most basic of tabs — the main page for your network, a profile page for the member, a page where you can see all the network’s members, and a forum page. The admin controls are drag-and-drop simple. If you dragged it there, it’s active. If the module you want is not available, there is a blank module that you can customize with html and well..you can just embed just about anything in those boxes. Ning has a lot of templates to choose from if you don’t want to spend that much time customizing your network, or you can customize your layout with CSS. And if simple just isn’t your thing and you are like a PHP god or something and you just gotta have your hands on that code, Ning makes that available to you as well. It’s as simple or as complex as you make it. As an added bonus, Ning recently released their Facebook app, which makes it much easier to be active on both. Pricing is also fairly simple. You can have a free ad-supported network or you can turn off (or run your own) ads for $19.95. The only other thing I wish Ning has? OpenID support.
Looked like a great option especially if you are aiming to have that corporate feel. They had a free, ad-supported version or for $19.99 you can turn off the ads or run your own. It’s marketed as a white-label social networking site and you can supposedly customize it. Yeah. You can change the number of columns on your page and hey! You can also choose from their five color schemes. You can have a custom tab and a plethora of modules to choose from. But man. The UI is horrible and good luck figuring things out on there. At one point I just wanted to post on the community blog and it took me two hours trying to make it happen. For the sake of my blood pressure I’m not going to recount the experience here. It’s a site that tries to give you all the features you can think of, but because of the horrible UI, you can’t use none of it because it’s a pain figuring it out. Now, there are definitely some nicely designed networks on GoingOn that are out there, so I didn’t say all that to mean that you can’t make it work. Just saying I personally didn’t find it that simple to figure out. Oh. And their pricing structure seemed simple at first and looked similar to Ning’s. From my understanding, $19.95 will get rid of ads. Which it does. However they still have the “featured networks” box that you can’t get rid of, plus “career links” and “GoingOn tags,” which, if you click into, will take you to other networks within GoingOn. Now, it’s really none of my business which networks my members join but I really don’t like other networks being promoted on mine, especially if I am paying to get rid of ads.
If you don’t mind the ads…