Well, here’s a trend that makes a lot of sense. Apparently, there’s a growing crop of software companies who are creating “white label” social networks for companies that don’t want to go the Facebook or MySpace route.
Players in this space include Sparta Social Networks and Onesite, which position themselves as experts on enterprise social networking, Small World Labs, which offers a platform it dubs a “base foundation” for communities, and HayStack, whose open API and SDK allows companies to integrate its apps into their sites. (Lots of open source solutions can apparently work for this purpose, too, though that may require more developer time.) Forrester Research analyst Jeremiah Owyang, who’s been following this trend for a year or so, says that he’s found some 80 to 100 companies in this space.
I think at least a few of these white-label companies will be very successful. After all, Facebook and MySpace, while full of folks, aren’t flexible enough to serve as sophisticated marketing and communications tools. Worse, neither offer much ability to customize groups, networks or pages. (No matter what you do to a MySpace page, you still have a truck-load of ugly.)
And of course, there’s the critical issue of whether data a marketer can move data he or she collects on the big social networks from one network to another or onto their private server (data portability still being very much up in the air). Using a private solution solves this problem.
Honestly, I doubt companies which have proved clueless in Facebook/MySpace/what have you marketing will suddenly get hip and savvy when they launch their own social media networks. Still, it seems to me that most marketers will be at least somewhat more effective with social media marketing if the networks are better integrated with their corporate Web efforts. Look for this approach to take off in ’08.