Should Brands Be Building their Own Social Networks?

I read a great article on Mashable today, so I decided to Press it on my blog, and then share the link on Facebook, Tweet about it, Post it on LinkedIn, and finally share it on my Google+ page. I’d check in to it on FourSqaure too if I could.

This is a fictional article, but my point is that we already have enough absolutely essential social networks to maintain without worrying about connecting with our favourite brands on their own community website.

Or could this be the way forward for big name brands that want to connect with their target audience? ReadWrite seems to think so, as they published this article titled “Why Brands Should Build Their Own Social Communities“. Looking at the platform SocialEngine for their inspiration, they argue that by building your own social network YOU own the data, so no more staring at the unbelievably limited Facebook Insights panel and wondering who your fans really are.

SocialEngine empowers companies to very easily set up a social community, with no messy coding, and no design skills necessary – although you’ll have access to the back end of these things should you decide to customise anything. It’s fully integrated with Facebook and Twitter, so users can easily sign up and join in. It also have a vibrant community of developers working to improve the platform, and already there are 500+ add ons available, ranging from social donations to a question plugin.

Looking at the examples provided by ReadWrite, it’s easy to see how this could mark the future of social networking.

Tech giants Electronic Arts and Apple use SocialEngine to build themed online communities for educators and gamers. NASA used the service to build a site for a middle-school science challenge; MasterCard, for an internal-communication platform; Shell for an entrepreneur-focused business network with more than 200,000 members.

We’ve already seen a trend of users moving towards smaller, closed networks such as Path, amidst the worries of becoming less connected, or of divulging too much private information. But could the lure of the smaller community just be a cop out for the larger companies that lack the scale and flexibility to interact with on established networks?

Obviously, building a social networking empire isn’t for everyone, so how can you replicate the effects on a small business budget?

Facebook groups are an easy way of building a small-scale community (you’ll have a limit of 5000 members). By keeping things within the Facebook ecosystem, you’ll ensure your members visit your regularly. You can make things private, and therefore help your members to feel more secure about their posts.

Do you see a future in big brands creating social media communities?