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Zeedna introduces business to social networking

Platform is designed to create communities within corporate websites

Mahmoud Abu-Wardeh, co-founder of Zeedna says that their website platform allows for the sensitivities of the Middle East market and allows website owners to have control over what people post in their online communities.
Mahmoud Abu-Wardeh, co-founder of Zeedna says that their website platform allows for the sensitivities of the Middle East market and allows website owners to have control over what people post in their online communities.

A new Software-as-a-Service platform, developed in the Middle East, is offering businesses a quick and easy way to set up business websites integrated with social networking. Zeedna is a web-based social publishing platform, running Software-as-a-Service, consisting of different corporate and community modules that can be used to build a website.

Zeedna can be used by both large corporates and small entrepreneurial businesses to create online communities and help businesses gain a higher social profile.

With it, users can publish online, create online communities and customise social networks, as well as connect those networks to Facebook and Twitter. Users can also use Zeedna as a viral marketing tool to push information out to other social networking communities.

"We identified that there was a gap in the market for a product like this. We had been working in technology and technology consulting and helping some of our clients build their online presence and we noticed that there was not really a platform, which was built out of the region that offered all the capabilities that we had. A platform going beyond building just walled communities, but actually building communities that are connected with other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and that also allow for the kind of sensitivities you have in the region, in terms of being able to give clients more control over what gets published and by whom," said Mahmoud Abu Wardeh, co-founder of Zeedna.

The company has worked on building a lot of fine-grained permissions into the system to ease clients into the social networking media world, according to Abu Wardeh.

"Some of them were obviously quite hesitant to actually go in and start experimenting with something so new to them, so we built Zeedna in a way that they could dip their toes into the water [of social networking] and then easily scale up without having to change platforms, using our platform," he said.

Abu Wardeh said that one of the positive things that came out of companies using the Zeedna platform, is that many realised that their inhibitions about using social media were misplaced.

"For some of them we did actually start off by making sure we were putting in some restrictions in terms of who can post content and how they can do it, but they realised that most of the time that generally people online are generally very well behaved. Our clients have been pleasantly surprised by that," added Abu Wardeh.

Zeedna is not just about social networking, like Facebook and Twitter, but also about online content collaboration, rather like on Wikipedia.

"Wikipedia is an example, where you may have a very small percentage of users who try and misbehave on the system, but by and large the majority of users behave and stick to the theme that the community is about and post relevant content and people who come and try and misuse the platform either by spamming or posting irrelevant content, they are identified and removed very quickly. We found our clients started opening up a lot more quickly once they were given that reassurance and real experience rather than feel that it was an all or nothing thing and totally open to user-generated content and I think giving them that gradual choice helped them understand their stakeholder community online much more and be able to offer the right kind of level of access to them," Abu Wardeh said.

When Zeedna first began, the company targeted mostly small and medium businesses who do not have their own IT staff and do not want to go to the hassle of downloading and installing software, but as the company has grown and its name has become known,  large corporations have been showing interest in its services.

"Even though we are Software-as-a-Service, the range of features we have are unique and even a [large corporation's] IT department would not be able to give them what we can give them in terms of features," said Abu Wardeh.

Overall Zeedna consists of a selection of different modules that allow users to publish different content types relevant to their business.

There are official content modules such as articles, news articles and press releases and e-commerce. A site based on Zeedna would be put together based on these different modules.

There are also social media content modules such as blogs and modules allowing users to publish videos online, create video galleries and  publish photos online in photo galleries, as well as modules through which users can connect to each other and create connections, just like on other social medias sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

"We also allow users to connect their accounts on sites built on Zeedna with their own Facebook and Twitter accounts. This allows for the ability for site owners to make use of viral marketing," said Abu Wardeh.

Content can also be published directly to the company's official Facebook and Twitter accounts without necessarily having direct access to those accounts. The sites content becomes part of a bigger social media world connectivity, plugging a company's network into the global social networking sphere.

"The obvious areas where social media is very powerful for businesses is in the marketing and the viral marketing. You are much more likely to be interested in something that your friends on Facebook and Twitter are interested in. So being able to have that viral marketing element where you can use tools like Zeedna, where you can get people to really push your message and your brand out there to their followers it creates a much stronger affinity with the brands," said Abu Wardeh.

The company has a varying pricing structure with a basic website with few modules costing from $1,000 to set up, there is also a monthly fee per module.

"Each module has its own pricing structure, so it tends to work out quite cheap, for someone who wants it just to publish their own blog and events for example and use it for their own corporate site for their own user generated content and community it can be as little as $50-60 a month, but if you are taking on all of the other modules, it can add up to quite a bit more," said Abu Wardeh.

The company also has different packages targeted at small business start-ups through to large corporate websites.