Sometimes we hear from associations that they use a mainstream social network to fulfill their Online Community benefit for members.

Are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube Online Communities? Mainstream social networks seem like a great way to gain traction with your members, so why would you need a private Online Community?

There are many differences between mainstream social networks and private online communities:

  • Exclusive branding
  • Full control over advertisements and sponsorships
  • The reputation and social irresponsibility of the network
  • The social network’s primary demographic may exclude your members
  • How members will perceive your organization in conjunction with leveraging a free social network (ie why should a member pay to be part of your association when you are not offering something they cannot get for free themselves!)
  • Integration with your AMS/CRM to save staff time
  • Integration with your website SSO (Single Sign On) for security and usability

The primary reason for a private Online Community is the privacy. Many professional or trade organizations have sensitive questions or intellectual property they don’t want being recorded and sold to affiliates. This is a very serious concern and to derive member benefit from a community you need to provide assurances and make your members feel comfortable about their communications.

More than 60% of Americans don’t trust Facebook.

  • 28% of Americans don’t trust Amazon with their data.
  • 37% of Americans don’t trust Google with their data.
  • 35% of Americans don’t trust the federal government with their data.
  • 74% of Americans think that letting social media companies collect and use data about them in return for free services is not a fair trade-off.
  • 55% believe social media does more to spread lies and falsehoods.
  • 31% says social media does more to spread news and information.
  • 61% says social media does more to spread unfair attacks and rumors against public figures and corporations.
  • A staggering 82% of Americans think social media sites waste people’s time.

Private communities that are integrated also ensure members renew each year to receive benefits. Staff have to spend time pruning members from unintegrated social networks. Let’s be honest, pushing a mainstream social network as your community option just seems cheap to your members.

The biggest reason I advocate for a private community option, over all the other reasons listed, is because these mainstream social networks have consistently proven that they cannot be trusted with information. You really don’t know what is happening to the information regardless of what the terms of service state and what data breaches have recently occurred, and that’s a scary thing to admit to your members.

All that said, I fully encourage associations to post information that should be publicly accessible on mainstream social networks. Event photos, tweets, news, etc. are great things to push into public spaces because they are a valuable way to stay in touch with your members between offerings and renewals.

Check out our private online community for associations if you’re interested in a robust, secure, highly integrated, and affordable option for your members.