Ecademy raises the social networking bar with announcement of BT partnership

Earlier this week, Ecademy and BT announced the launch of Broadband Central, – a new online broadband community aimed at bringing broadband users together to share why and how they are using broadband. While this may not seem particularly exciting to those of us who’ve been running on cable modems for 5 years already, residential and small business broadband is relatively new in the UK, where Ecademy and BT are based.

Built on Ecademy’s “Trusted Network” architecture, Broadband Central is particularly intriguing in that it is not an entirely self-contained, but integrated with the main Ecademy site. It has its own distinctive branding, and has its own discussion forums and content areas, so that it is not cluttered with content not relevant to the community. At the same time, Broadband Central content is visible to the Ecademy community at large, encouraging members of the broader community to join and participate in Broadband Central.

Between invitations to Ecademy’s current 23,000 members, BT’s 100,000 employees, and 200,000 BT Broadband customers, Broadband Central is expected to have over 200,000 users within a few months.

What’s most remarkable about this, though, is what it means for the online social networking industry. BT is a huge (#130 on the BusinessWeek Global 1000) company with ample resources to purchase whatever software they want, or even to develop their own. The selection of the Ecademy platform is a testament not only to the strength of Ecademy’s platform, but also to the power of their business networking efforts (several BT executives are active members of Ecademy).

This kind of corporate sponsorship of branded communities is a significant sign of a maturing industry, as it demonstrates the potential for high-end revenue streams, as opposed to inexpensive monthly membership fees. To date, Meetup is the only other social networking site I know of that has done anything like this. Meetup provides enhanced services to several political campaigns, Investor’s Business Daily, Fox news personality Bill O’Reilly, and others, for a monthly fee of several thousand dollars.

While the financial arrangements of the deal have not been disclosed, it’s undoubtedly a major coups for Ecademy.

Read the press release