Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Is Your Child's Social Life Taking Over Your Life? Help Is On The Way!

There's another new social networking site that's launched, and while the thought of another social site in beta may seem more like clutter on your horizon than exciting news, this one sounds more like a time saver than a time waster.

SocialToddler.com is a social networking site helping parents organize their children's social networks by offering a safe virtual meeting place to plan & schedule events as well as, if you're willing, meet other families in your area.

I gave the social network for parents a quick look-see and was impressed.

At Social Toddler you can organize regular playgroups and individual playdates as well as birthday parties and even grown-up only events. (Me likey that last one a lot because my kids, while too big for parental organized playdates, run me ragged with the plans they make themselves).

SocialToddler.com would also be great for families moving to new locations who want to plug-in to activities in their new communities. Divorced parents living outside of their child's neighborhood &/or who have placement time away from their child's usual neighborhood could use Social Toddler to stay in touch with their children's primary playgroups as well as find new playgroups for visitation times.

There are a lot of positive possibilities with SocialToddler.com, so I decided to ask founder (and father) Rich Rotzang some questions to address concerns parents of young children might have.

There a many mom &/or parenting social network sites, what need(s) did you see that weren't yet being met that SocialToddler.com addresses?

Social Toddler focuses very specifically on playgroups and other small groups comprised of parents who know each other. We know that these are small groups of moms (or dads), that meet regularly, have very active children, and share information constantly. In practical terms, we offer our members tools and resources to support their real world parenting needs - planning events, managing their schedules (and their kids’), and sharing information in a private setting.

In terms of social networking, we went into this with a fundamental belief that for parents, the true value of a "social network" is not in the size of that network, but the quality of the information that is derived from it. That’s why unlike other parenting social networks, we focus on relationships that are true in the real world.

I see that members have options regarding how much information about themselves and themselves they share, with whom they share it, and even not to share any information about their child(ren) at all. What about concerns of people posing as parents just to get access to real world groups and their meetings... Any plans to address this?

This is a valid concern and something that we take very seriously. One of the elements we've built into the site is a set of security features that minimizes this risk.

Groups have the option of setting their privacy level as public or private. If a group is private, a person can only join if they are invited by another member of the group, or ask to join and are accepted. Until then, they have no access to any of the discussions, photos, events or members of that group. In public groups, however, information is made available to encourage parents to meet one another, plan playdates, etc. We realize that our members may have concerns about such issues so we have brought on a safety expert to help educate our users on how to protect themselves and their children on the internet, and also to offer suggestions on how we can make our site safer.

Is membership free? Will it remain free? What plans do you have to monetize the site, aside from the Google Ads I see, in order to keep it open for members? I ask this for two reasons: One, Ning's recent announcement has put many in a tizzy -- and it's not just the community owners/moderators who are frustrated, but members losing their connections, contacts, etc. Two, people would prefer to know of future plans to place ads etc. rather than feel like they are sprung on them (or fear that it's a sign of funding problems, threatening their "home").

Yes membership is free, and we have no plans of charging for membership in the future. Besides advertising, we intend to monetize the site in a number of ways. I can't get into the details at the moment because our monetization plan is closely tied to our product roadmap.

I notice in your FAQ you address the issue of dads and state that "we will be adding features for dads too". What exactly are "features for dads"?

To clarify, what we mean by this is that we will be adding features that dads will also find useful. What we've found so far is that the majority of our members are women, and almost all playgroups are for women. But we also know that there are a lot of active dads out there and we want to give them a reason to visit our site. We will be introducing a number of features that appeal to both parents and will be useful, and targeted, to both moms and dads.

Since the network is in beta, what do you advise in cases where members will join and not find any other folks in their local, "real world," communities?

If members join and don't find a group in their area, we suggest they start one. It's super easy, 5 minutes or less. There's no better way to meet parents in your community than to start a group, invite a few friends and go from there. By listing their group on our site, it will also help other parents looking for local connections. Also, by users surfing the site, they will see the other kinds of public groups that are popular, and this will inspire them to create their own.

Are there, or do you have plans for, apps etc to sync the website to phones or other gadgets?

Absolutely. We are already integrated with Facebook, so users can log in with their Facebook credentials. We'll also be adding some really cool mobile apps in the future.

Anything you'd like to add?

Although right now the site seems like just another social network, we are actively working on launching many more very useful and unique features that will be available in the next few months. These features will contribute to creating what we hope will be the most useful, user friendly and resourceful site for parents online. We’re very excited about the future!

Thanks, Rich!

If you're a parent struggling to organize your child's playgroups and meetings -- if you're feeling like managing those events and details is nearly as exhausting as herding the small children at them -- you'll probably want to give Social Toddler a try.

SocialToddler.com would also be great for families moving to new locations who want to plug-in to activities in their new communities. Divorced parents living outside of their child's neighborhood &/or who have placement time away from their child's usual neighborhood could use Social Toddler to stay in touch with their children's primary playgroups as well as find new playgroups for visitation times.
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