Engaging Social Networks

Last week I had a chance to check out a new “B2B Social Network” which has popped on the scene. It’s an interesting concept because it’s all about promoting local connections and building on the “buy local” philosophy. You can check it out at www.alignable.com and my company page is at https://www.alignable.com/Fort-Collins-CO/Small-Fish-Business-Coaching.

This brought up some best practices I’ve learned about how to sign up for new websites.

My first job was to figure out exactly what this service is. Before signing up, I looked at all the information on the site about the value they promise to subscribers. Since I’m looking to work with other businesses myself, and that can be helpful for my clients, Alignable passed the first test.

Next, I checked out what others are saying about it. I Googled “alignable scam” and was pleased to see that nobody is talking about unmet promises and injured feelings. I didn’t find too many people mentioning Alignable at all since it’s so new, but decided to move ahead, cautiously optimistic.

Then I read the terms and conditions in detail, looking for behaviors which have burned me on other sites. I was pleased to see that they don’t require a credit card or intrusive personal details. They were a bit murky on who owns the intellectual content you post on the site, but I understand how complex that gets when you’re allowing users to post publicly.

Before signing up, I also tried to figure out what their business model is. In this case, they don’t position themselves as altruistic good guys, they’re just a company providing what they believe to be a useful service. It appears that they make their money off sponsored posts and other optional services, but it’s possible that they haven’t figured it all out yet. That’s typical. This can be important because I need to feel comfortable knowing who they’re planning to make money from, and why.

At this point, I signed up for the service, and spent some time adding some upcoming events. I was looking for:

  • Is the information useful to readers, logical, and reasonably complete?
  • Is it presented in a way which is professional and easy to navigate?
  • Where and when do they ask me to pay for a premium service?
  • Do people have to subscribe to this service to get value from the information?
  • Is it easy and straightforward for ME to use?

I’ll point out that I have not yet linked this up with my Facebook or Twitter accounts. I actually read the list of permissions they were asking for, and found a couple of surprises. First, they didn’t ask for permission to post to my Facebook page. That tells me that events I put on Alignable will NOT be visible to my Facebook friends – and that’s what I assume they would have created the link for. Second, they wanted access to my list of Facebook friends. This opens up the possibility that they’ll spam them all with offers to join up for this service, which I dislike. So I’ll continue to play with the service, and monitor others’ conversations about it, before opening up more sensitive data.

I don’t know that this will be a useful service for me – right now, there’s only about a dozen businesses in Fort Collins which have signed up. But it’s good to support local relationships, and I like to encourage people who make great business connections.

Go ahead and check out the great new tools which show up constantly – some of them may be useful! But don’t just sign up blindly without thinking through why it makes sense and what traps to watch out for.

Carl Dierschow
Small Fish Business Coaching Fort Collins

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