A private social network? No, it’s not an oxymoron.
When it comes to social networking, Twitter and Facebook are two of the most popular options out there. But if you have privacy concerns, or simply want to create a social network that is accessible only to your work colleagues, your friends or your family, there are some solid alternatives out there for creating your own private social network.
All of the options listed below, at the very least, allow you to create a social network, share updates, and interact with other users. Some of them are far more robust, coming with media sharing options, task management, one-on-one sharing, project collaboration, easy setup, and more. Read on to find out which private social network is best suited for your personal needs.
For Your Business or Organization
Yammer: Yammer offers one of the easiest ways to create a private social network accessibly only to people in your company or organization. The way Yammer limits the social network is by allowing users to sign up only if they have a company email address. Limiting membership by the domain name is an incredibly easy way to ensure that the social network is constantly up to date, and that all employees have access.
We took a brief look at Yammer’s features a few years ago when the service first launched, and it has certainly come a long way since then. Yammer comes with free and paid options. The free version of the service allows you to create a company social network, whereas if you’re willing to pay a few dollars per user you can get additional features such sharing content via SkyDrive Pro and browser-based access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote files.
So what basic features does Yammer offer users? The social network features an activity stream with updates, as well as a private messaging system (although it might be best to stick to email for private messages so that all correspondence is accessible in one place). You can also share files, images and videos with colleagues.
Departments can create groups within the social network, so that messages pertaining to a specific project or line of work are seen only by relevant employees.
Yammer can also be used to create an organizational chart, a member directory, and more, so you can centralize a lot of data about your company in one place.
If you don’t want to limit access to Yammer to the browser, you can also take advantage of desktop (Windows and Mac) and mobile (iOS, Android and Windows Mobile) apps
Yammer is easy to use and doesn’t require advanced skills to set up, but its users are forced to rely on a third party service that could be bought out, or shut down. Security can also be a concern, since while data transfer is encrypted using SSL, data stored on Yammer’s servers is not encrypted. You can read more about Yammer’s security features here. If you are not comfortable with this you can alternatively use Yammer’s software to create your own social network hosted inside the company’s firewall.
Yammer is one of the most popular private social network options available, with 90,000 customer companies, 1 million users, and is used by 80% of the Fortune 500 companies.
Bitrix24: Bitrix24 is another option for creating a private social network which we have looked at extensively. As Joel told you in his review of Bitrix24, the service offers users an activity stream with updates, video calls, Google Drive integration and invoicing. Jackson’s review of Bitrix24 highlights the file sharing, calendar, and task management features.
By incorporating task management features, Bitrix24 is great not only as your company’s social network, but as a means of keeping employees organized, and centralizing project management in one place.
Like Yammer, apps are available for download — with desktop apps available for Mac and Windows users, and mobile apps available for iOS and Android users.
The free version of Bitrix24 limits the number of users to 12, and will therefore be useful only for very small companies. For unlimited users, you can bump up one level, but it will cost your company $99 a month.
If you’re on a budget, Yammer is probably better suited for your needs, whereas if this is something you’re willing to pay a little extra for, you’ll get far more features with Bitrix24, features that could potentially boost productivity in your company.
For Your Friends and Family
WordPress: If you want to create a social network accessibly only to your friends and family, one way to go about this is by using the blogging platform WordPress. As we mentioned in our roundup of 8 unusual and surprising uses for WordPress, with the use of a simple theme (like the P2 theme for example, which we reviewed here) or plugin, you can transform the blogging platform into a social network. This will, however, require you to host your own WordPress site — it won’t work with WordPress.com.
This is a rather rudimentary option, in comparison to others, but it does provide you with complete control of your data since it’s self-hosted. If all you’re looking for is an easy way to post private updates with images, and interact with other users on the social network, this will do the trick.
Everyme: Everyme, which we took a brief look at in the past, is a great option for friends looking for a private social network without the hassle of creating it themselves. Everyme prides itself on its privacy features, but that said, you can share your Everyme updates with users who don’t have the app by emailing or text messaging your updates to them. They don’t have to sign up to view them.
You can use the service in your browser, or via its iOS and Android apps, and it is used primarily to share text updates, images, and links.
Google+: If you don’t want to go through the hassle of trying to get a lot of people on yet another social network, you can always use Google+ in much the same way Everyme is used. A group of friends, colleagues, or family members can create identical circles on Google+ as a means of sharing content with one another privately, without anyone else viewing the updates.
With Google+, this means you can easily share text updates, images, videos, links, and events, as well as chat with other users directly from the Google+ page. It also means that all this correspondence is stored on Google’s servers.
For Your Significant Other
Avocado: If you want to create a social network just for two, Avocado offers iOS and Android users a way of sharing personal updates only with their significant other. You can share photos, updates, and even manage your to-do list together within the app, as well as chat.
We took a brief look at the features Avocado has to offer, and the to-do list is definitely a feature that is unique to the app. Otherwise, it is easier to simply use Google+ in much the same way, as you can share updates privately to just one person using Google+.
Do you have your own private social network? What service do you use? If you don’t, do you think it’s worth creating a new social network just for your friends or colleagues? Let us know in the comments.
Photo Credit: Grant Hutchinson