Ning LogoThere are a plethora of quality choices that allow a brand or resort to create their own social network and until this past weekend, I’ve considered Ning to be one of the best of these. In particular, I’ve been impressed by the community that Steamboat Resort has built there that they call My Steamboat (or perhaps ‘Your Vacation Planning Community’, I’m a bit confused on its title). There are nearly 2,000 members and the site appears to have a good level of engagement between the resort and those members.My Steamboat screen capture

Here’s the thing, this past Friday, Ning announced that they will be eliminating their free platform to concentrate solely on paid products. Hopefully Steamboat is already a “paying Ning Creator” so they won’t have to wait for pricing to be announced for their social site that they’ve worked quite hard to establish. In any case, this is a clear example of how dependence upon a third party for services like social networks is an exercise in trust and something that can change at any time.

This all said, I have to say that I really like what Ning provides as a social platform. We’ve done a number of experiments with closed Ning communities (primarily online focus groups) at the resort and they’ve all been exceedingly successful. The setup is very simple and the administration tools are easy to work with and it’s quite easy to build in corporate branding as well.

I hope that Ning doesn’t get pushed down by the glut of  publicity that their business model shift is getting as I think that it is a great service, just one that the end users need to be able to know that it will exist in the future and not be priced too high or have services reduce unnecessarily.