Switching Social Networking Platforms - The Challenge of Moving Users and Content

What can you do if your group uses one social networking platform and decides it isn't working? One of the challenges in finding a hosted social networking platform that works for your group is that there are many questions that can't be answered until the whole group is using it.  How will it hold up to high traffic?  Does it truly have the features everyone needs?  What happens when the host changes their pricing policy like Ning and others have done?

In these early years of development of social networks, groups are often finding themselves dissatisfied with their current choice and looking for a suitable alternative.  Probably the biggest obstacles to making a change are moving all of the members and content of your site.  Ideally you would be able to complete this process without involving the users.  Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.  In fact, with some rare exceptions, moving users is a multi-step process and moving content may not even be possible.

On most platforms, you do have an option to export and import user information.  The catch is that moving to a new platform usually involves an "export then import" process.  In addition, it requires the extra step of then inviting those users to the new group, just as though you were setting it up for the first time.  Members then have to "join" the new web site and create a new account there, possibly losing profile data. With regards to content, there are very few hosts that provide the ability to export or import content.  This means that all of those discussions, blog posts and events will have to be lost or re-created in some way on the new site.  These challenges often leave people feeling stuck with their current provider.

Pictured is the Plaxo import tool available at several of the platforms reviewed.Plaxo import tool

In this special report, I include information on the export and import capabilities of the various platforms.  Also included is information about invitation capabilities since, in most cases, you have to import and then invite users.  Note in some instances, importing directly from an online address book (like Plaxo, Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, etc.) involves providing your username and password to the host so that the import can happen.  Most pledge that they will only store that information temporarily, but it's important to be aware of the potential security risks to giving out login information.  Note that I didn't not perform tests on these capabilities so I do not include any data regarding the quality of import, export or migration services offered.  If you have experience with this process on any of the platforms, please offer your insights and feedback!

Platforms are listed in alphabetical order.  Unless otherwise noted, importing users requires two steps (import, then invite):


Import - via "QuickAdd" feature (paste a list, import from spreadsheet, import from Yahoo Groups).  Imported users must then activate a BigTent account to access all features.

Export - Can create a report of member information and then export to .CSV file.  Download events via iCal.

Invite - via email address.  Limit of 100 per day.

Drupal Commons

Import - Not Available

Export - Not Available

Invite - via comma separated email addresses.  Limit of 25 per day.

Google Groups

Import - Not Available

Export - available for member information via .CSV

Invite - via email addresses.  Can add people instantly and they will immediately begin receiving messages.  Limit is unknown.


Import - members directly from Ning and YahooGroups or via email addresses store in Outlook, Apple Address Book or .CSV file.
You can add members instantly, but there is a 100 user/day limit.  Note that users will receive group messages even before they register for Grouply.  They note that you can contact them to increase this limit.

Export - Not Available

Invite - from Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail or AOL address books.  Limit 100 per day.


Import - from phpBB or Drupal(downloadable migration script),Yahoo Groups ("synchronizes" with your Group), Directly from Ning and Vox.  Import from your Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmailer accounts through a Plaxo tool, then invite.

Export - Export member data to .CSV

Invite - via Plaxo import or comma delimited email addresses.  Limit 200 Invites and 25 new memberships per day.


Import -  via comma separated list or from Address Book vis Plaxo tool (AOL, Outlook, Yahoo, Gmail, Plaxo, or "other") and then invite. 

Export - Export member list via XML or .CSV

Invite - via Plaxo import or email addresses.  Limit unknown.


Import -  via Plaxo tool (AOL, Outlook, Yahoo, Gmail, Plaxo, or "other"), then invite

Export - export member list to .CSV

Invite - via comma separated or imported addresses.  Limit unknown.


Import - via .csv and then invite.

Export - Export member list to .csv

Invite - via email or mixxt-ID.  Limit of 50 invites per day.


Import - from Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail or AOL address books or import from Outlook or Apple Address Book (1000 contact limit).

Export - export all member data via .CSV.  Also can download the "latest 10,000 content items of each feature...as well as your 100,000 newest members".

Invite - via comma separated email addresses. Limit of 1000 invites per month.



Import - Not available.

Export - Not available.

Invite - via comma separated email addresses.  Limit of 350 (unclear if this is per invite or per day).


Import - Import from your address book (AOL, Outlook, Yahoo, Gmail, Plaxo, or "other").

Export - Not available.

Invite - one at a time via email or via import.  Limit unknown.


Import - Not Available.

Export - Not Available.

Invite -  via comma separated email addresses.  Limit of 10 at a time.

Yahoo Groups

Import - Not available.

Export - member information to .CSV file

Invite - via return separated email addresses or YahooIDs.  Limit of 50 at a time.