I’m a big fan of Tripit as a tool to manage my travel. For about the past year, they’ve been trying to build a social networking capability into their offering without, as far as I can tell, much success.
So I was very excited to see the announcement last week that Tripit has launched connections to Facebook.
It comes down to the basic question: do you create your own social network, community, or tool rather than leverage something that already exists? I look at the decision this way:
Create a custom network if:
- The people that a user would want in the network are separate and distinct from those they’d typically have in their core social networks (Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIN, Twitter, etc).
- The sensitivity of the information should make a typical user uncomfortable when placing on a general social network site, even if the group is considered private.
- The target network users would reasonably be expected to invest sufficient time on the site or there are enough network members for the community to be viable.
- You are charging a fee to be part of the network (in certain cases).
- The audience that you would engage for the community is unlikely to be part of another social network (this one is a hard sell at this point, but it’s possible).
Outside of those situations, you should be leveraging your customers’ existing social networks rather than building your own.
In my use of Tripit, I didn’t want to take the time and effort to create and manage another social network. Now that they’re connecting to Facebook, I’ll absolutely connect through that channel.
In a healthcare environment, I see this same situation at play. If I were dealing with cancer and was interested in sharing information with family and friends, I wouldn’t take the time to build a separate network for that. That’s what I use Facebook for. If I was looking for peer support for a psych issue, on the other hand, I’d likely make a different choice.