Case 3: Selecting a social network

Although SHMU opted for a social networking site we found that the popular ones, of which most young people are aware and of which many are members, presented certain problems. Most young people we worked with already use Bebo, Facebook or MySpace, all of which offer lots of functionality.

These sites weren’t flexible enough for our needs. Using one of these sites meant that a project, for example SHMUTRAIN, would create its own profile page, and the project team would ‘reach out’ to the profiles of their target young people. This ‘option to become a friend’ was too easy for young people to ignore. Also, we discovered that once a friendship had been created, allowing team members to view a young person’s profile page, there was a sense that the organisation was interfering or snooping. This was yet another reason for young people to avoid connecting on what they viewed as their platform.

By contrast, creating our very own social network site which young people would join would allow team members almost total control over the activities within the site. We found an application called Ning, which was free at the time we used it, fairly easy to set up, requires virtually no specialist knowledge to run, offers lots of flexibility to adapt for our specific requirements and can be closed to non-members.