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Public vs. Private Online Communities – What’s Best for Your Org?

by | Jun 5, 2009 | Industry News & Trends

CB044104And the debate rages on…or maybe you know nothing about this debate and you’re scratching your head wondering what a private online community is. Facebook makes you log on so is that public or private?

First, let me start by explaining what I mean. Public social networks or online communities are sites like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. which allow everyone and anyone to join. You can tell them you are Hulk Hogan and blog as the Hulkster and no one will know any differently until the real Hulk comes forward and kicks you into next week. On these sites, you are exactly who you say you are. These sites are free.

A private online community can be set up by your school, church, industry, company, association, fraternity/sorority, etc. Members are asked to sign in (like the public) but members are either dues paying, personally invited or screened in some way by the admin of the site. Someone is paying for these sites (usually the host of the community).

When deciding what is best for you it’s easy to go with the free option, and certainly saving money is ultra important to everyone, but make sure you consider the return on your investment (ROI). Even “free” public sites must be managed with the same thoroughness and dedication as a private site. Content creation is still on your shoulders whether you go with public or private.

Private sites have a multitude of advantages such as reporting features (on both your members and activity), administrative control over content and organization, branding capabilities (your site, your look), security (no phishing or scams to take info from members), customer service you can reach, monitoring of your site, online store, career center, potential ad sales revenue (for your site), continual training, dues collection and auto-renewal, member exports, event registration, SEO benefits to having your own site, even input into product development.

No one is saying not to use public sites at all. They’re wildly popular but consider the benefits you’ll gain from something that’s yours. It’s about more than just cost. If someone offered you a car for free your first reaction might be – what’s wrong with it? We’re not suggesting there is anything wrong with free but if you need something that will grow with you and have your needs in mind, free may not be the perfect fit. 

When you are new to technology it is tempting to choose something for less money with few bells and whistles. What do I need that for? I won’t use it. But as your knowledge base grows and your organization’s needs change, you will be left with something that does not meet your basic requirements. You’ll end up trading it in anyway for the pricier model. With’s management software, you don’t have to do that. All of our features are included in our low price. Use them, don’t use them. Use them in June but not in July. Administrative control is up to you and we keep costs down so that you really can have what you want when you want it. is not the least expensive option in membership software but it is the most cost-effective with the most features for your dollars. But don’t take our word for it, look into it, let us know what you find.


Social networking + membership management = the complete online member community


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