I have been working a lot recently on social media and network optimisation. So here is my “2 cents.” Many women’s networks, provide a great format and vision for the future. A common issue that many established face to face networks face is the need to connect their members online. The communities are more physically dispersed and in need of connecting for sharing and maximum effectiveness. It is for precisely this reason that social media sites like Connected-Women come about and are very much needed.
When building any organisation, whether it is a new entrepreneurial endeavor or an established business, it is important to focus on the vision. Building Technology platforms is an entirely different business than face to face networks. If advertising revenue is not part of your business model for the network, you do not need to drive traffic to your site. What networks do need to do is get information to their members. This can be done with a clean and easy to use Internet site, that is well connected to other complementary sites. What they need to learn is how to optimise where their members are already rather than creating yet another place and time consumer for members.
As I mentioned, this is a growing problem for established face to face networks with geographically dispersed communities. My best advice is do NOT build another LinkedIn or Connected-Women for your members. Create a space there (the sites which your members use) for members to interact with other members. They should have a way to identify each other as part of the same network within those sites. Of course, a membership directory is useful. But once they find the members they need, let them link to them elsewhere that they are already active. Non-profit networks have too many other great things to do with the limited resources they have. Don’t waste resources on trying to keep up with building a new technology platform (that by the way will be out of date in a year so will need updating constantly in order to keep interesting for members).
This is adapted from my entry on a thread question on Connected-women.com about what we want from FCEM (World Association of Women Entrepreneurs). To see the complete thread click here