Tips for Creating a Social Media / Networking Site
You may not like what you're about to learn about creating a social networking site, but I want to be honest and make sure you understand what you will be up against if you want this type of website.
First of all, if you don't have a trafficked website or a significant web presence, trying to create a website that is similar and competes with the already-popular and well-branded social media giants is a complete waste of time.
How many sites have you seen in the last few years that have come close to doing what Facebook or Twitter has done? There haven't been many, right?
They have such a lionshare of the market that it would be hard to draw people away and get them to use your site unless you are offering something different AND you have the existing audience (users), marketing budget and programmers to help you execute and launch it.
Also, large social media sites look cool on the outside, but they are very labor-intensive sites to maintain with a boatload of security risks.
So Should You Give Up?
No. I'm not exactly in the business of dream crushing so I have an alternative solution. ;-)
Even though I'm not a fan of trying to create "the next Facebook", that doesn't mean you cannot create a smaller social network for a niche audience. In fact, that's the better way to go about it.
Well for starters, it's best to begin your quest for traffic by targeting the search engines because they are free and a great way to drive targeted/interested people to your website.
Sites like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. love content rich websites that are centered around a theme.
Social networking sites don't typically have a lot of content when you launch because there are not enough users to generate the content. Remember, these sites need people and you're going to need a lot of them to make your site active.
Also keep in mind that most people who join won't remain active, which is why these kinds of sites need hundreds or even thousands of people to join in order to give it a chance.
Don't assume that just because you launch a social media site, people are going to flock to it and join up.
Yes, your mom and brother may pay you a few courtesy visits. Heck, they may even create an account and post a few things. However, in order to make a social media site successful you need a following beyond your family and friends.
How to Create a Following
That's why I always recommend starting with a blog or website first. Create a content website on a very focused theme/niche. Build up traffic to that website through continuous, useful updates.
Learn how to market the website, and as your following grows, then you'll have people to promote your social network to.
Here's an example...
Say you want to create a social network for soccer moms to chat and commune. Instead of building up the social site first and relying on the 8 soccer moms you know to get it going, it's better to create a blog with tips targeted toward soccer moms.
Build it up with stories and useful tips other soccer moms need. Use your own experience with the topic to draw in interest. Learn how to build traffic to the site and once it has a decent amount of visitors, THEN you launch your social network.
You may be wondering why I'm so sure about this. Well I've had my experiences with failed social media sites. In fact, it took me 4 tries to launch my forum Website Babble. I had to wait until this site had enough traffic to get the forum active.
Once that happened, I used the audience here to promote the forum.
How to Get Started
The easiest way to create a social network is to use a host that allows you to install the social networking script right from your account. Most hosting companies today provide scripts for their customers that they can install in just a few simple clicks.
So to start your website you'll need two things:
1) A domain (yoursite.com) Register one here.
2) A web host (stores your website and allows you to install the scripts for your site)
For example if you buy hosting at Website Palace, you will automatically get access to the script to create your WordPress site/blog and there are additional scripts you can use to create your network later on (Joomla, Drupal, Elgg, etc.)
(Choose the Deluxe or Ultimate plan to build unlimited sites.)
You can also use a service like Ning, but one thing I don't like about 3rd party sites is you don't really own the content because it's hosted on someone else's server. So if their site shuts down, so does yours.
It's better to host your own content and ensure that you own it.
Whatever you do, always work on building a site that will help you draw traffic to your social networking site FIRST. Don't do it backwards like so many people who end up sitting and scratching their heads wondering why their social network is inactive and vacant.
These sites take a lot of work to get going, and it's best to start by building up your content site that is related to the topic of the social network you plan to build.
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