A few issues ago I wrote about the Missoula Museum of the Arts using Facebook and MySpace to promote their mission and attract visitors and artists.
But what if you’ve investigated Facebook for your organization and want more functions than “friending” and more capable ways of holding online discussions? One way – without actually setting up your own Web site with those capabilities – is to use one of the many services that let you build your own social network around your own interests and organization.
A service called Ning, started just a few years ago provides a general purpose way to build your own complete social and discussion network for an organization. And as a result, a few months ago Ning reached the milestone of hosting over one million social networks.
Ning has a learning curve, but I’ve tried it, and I know it’s got an easy interface, and I think the average user can can start up a full social networking site for their organization in a few hours of playing around.
An example of a Ning user in Montana is the Montana Musicians’ Network, which has hundreds of members. And Humanities Montana has recently jumped into Ning, too, and many in the state know about this important organization, which is dedicated to bringing the humanities, their insights and values, to the people of Montana. Their companion Ning site hopes to further that mission, according to Ken Egan, the Executive Director.
I asked about Ning in the Humanities Montana forum thread Egan started titled “How Can Humanities Montana best serve Montana?”
Egan said “We see the Ning site as one of several ways for Montana citizens to participate in Humanities Montana’s programs. We appreciate the ability to customize the site to our needs…. we can feature upcoming events, post blogs, and facilitate discussion, all without the distraction of paid advertising.”
Egan allows that it is too early to know the impact of Ning; six months more will reveal much. But Egan said that “we would like to create an online experience that matches our motto: Learn and Reflect Together.”
Egan is also working with Facebook, in order to leverage that large network, and with Flickr, to present photos of Humanities events around the state, and feels all services will work together.
I could say more, but it’s a better idea to check it out Humanities Montana’s Ning network yourself and join in the discussion and see what Humanities Montana has scheduled for your community. You can search for other networks in Montana or start up your own at http://ning.com.