Narrow Your Idea
If you are interested in starting your own social networking site, then read the steps listed below. As always, it is recommended that you consult with a business attorney before taking on this venture.
Platforms that are solely for the purpose of sharing photos, videos, and updates represent a market that is highly saturated right now. You are more than likely not going to come up with the next Facebook or Instagram, which are two of the top contenders in the social media world right now. Your idea might need to be a bit more niche than that.
The best inventions start with an idea that someone believed in. They can also begin with the acknowledgement of a need. Twitter, for instance, came about when founder Jack Dorsey felt the need to send short text messages to groups of people. In order to narrow down your idea, start by asking yourself if there is something you feel is lacking in people’s lives. Have you ever wished that there could be a website, for instance, that merged two of your interests? A site where people could be social over a shared hobby?
Once you start the brainstorming process, make sure you write down your ideas so you don’t forget them later on. If you are working with a business partner, bounce your ideas back and forth. Use your business partner as a sounding board.
Craft Your Business Plan
It is never recommended that you go into any business without first conducting some research and putting pen to paper. Any successful business must start with a business plan, and within that plan, you’ll outline what is known as a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis is inclusive of four factors and will help you take a good look at the business you’re about to open. They are:
- Strengths. What can your social networking site offer that you feel no one else can? This goes back to the niche that you’ve chosen. Be sure to do your research and examine the trends, industry growth, and people’s patterns and habits.
- Weaknesses. Where can you make improvements within your business model? Are there any resources you don’t have? Once you answer these, you can fill in those gaps to ensure a more successful online experience.
- Opportunities. What are they? Are there any social media trends or fads that you can capitalize upon? What is popular, and where is there a lack? How can you take your research of the social networking industry and turn them into strengths that you implement within your business?
- Threats. Are there threats present, especially in the form of competition? What are experts saying about the growth of your particular industry in the next ten years? Again, answer those questions to safeguard yourself against any business failures. You will want to avoid starting up a social network that is based only in the short-term.
In addition to the SWOT analysis, you will have to come up with an executive summary, a mission statement, a snapshot of finances, and a list of logistical projections to help you stay on track.
Make Your Preparations
First, start preparing for the financial aspect. You will need to secure a domain name, and then you will have to pay the yearly fee to keep the domain. Typically, this is a smaller expense, around $10 to $20 per year at most.
em>Next, you will have to find a server that can handle your presumed amount of users. This might seem tricky, since you can’t fully predict how many users will interact with your site in the future. This website will let you in on some of the best servers which take advantage of the latest cloud hosting technology.
Third, you will need to assess where you want your platform to appear. You can decide to simply have it in website form, but that might be an antiquated way of thinking. Now, a lot of networks are optimized for mobile devices, and not just through their website. They come with an app, too. App development will certainly cost more money since you will have to make sure you hire a developer, but in the end, you should consider how much of a potential reach you will have with the website and mobile app.
Consider Your Design
Since the success of your business depends entirely on what you do online, the design aspect of this business will be 100% dedicated to what your networking site looks like. Building your brand is going to be an important effort.
First, choose a name for your network. Be sure that it’s something creative, easy to remember, and whenever possible, have the name of the network reflect the purpose. Goodreads.com, for example, is a networking site for book lovers. Even without the explanation, it wouldn’t be too hard to guess the purpose of a site that has the word “reads” in it. As always, when choosing a name for your network (which is thus your business), check your state or federal registry if you need to assess whether your name is too similar to another.
Second, start thinking about the aesthetic you want to have for your network. This might go hand in hand with the niche you’ve chosen. It’s okay to do a little research for inspiration, as long as you are ultimately keeping your audience in mind as your end goal. Figure out those finer design elements, such as fonts, colors, and a logo. Building a successful online brand is all about being easily recognized, so keep this in mind when choosing those design elements.
Third, think of what you will offer to your future users and what they can engage in. This is, after all, a social network, so how will you get them to socialize? Some common features on networks include the ability to:
- “Like” or “favorite” content
- Post reactions
- Post comments
- Upload photos or videos
- Tag other people, either in photos, videos, or comments
- Set a geographic location
- Secure privacy settings
- Form groups or interest boards
- Send and receive messages
Launch Your Platform
If you are not skilled in building websites and networks from the ground up, then there is no reason to worry. There are two options for launching a social network: Social Content Management Systems, or CMS, and frameworks.
A CMS is a ready-made platform that favors individuals who do not want or know how to build their network from scratch. This website will show you five of the more popular CMS that you can use. A few downsides to using a CMS is that there is poor scalability and modifying or adding new features can sometimes be cumbersome.
A framework is for those individuals who can make something out of nothing and build a network from the ground up. Frameworks are, within the social networking world at least, more preferable and seen as more reliable because of what they can handle in terms of traffic and scalability.
If you are working with a team of people, it is generally a good idea to have someone on the team who is familiar with the options above. However, you can always factor in the costs of hiring someone to do it if you are working alone, or if no one on your team is qualified.
First and foremost, you are going to have to get a number of people to test out your site. Get your website into the hands of people you know, and from there, have them send it out to people they know. Try to garner as much feedback as possible when you put your network through a few rounds of tests with the public. Once you iron out the kinks and go through the feedback, you will be ready to market yourself to the general public.
In order to attract the most amount of people possible (and within a very short period of time from your start date, you will be looking to attract in the tens of thousands!), you might have to invest in advertising. You can purchase ad space on other websites — and yes, social networks, too — to garner attention and get people to your site. If you are successful, then the cost will eventually pay off.
The more people you attract to your network and get to sign up, the more likely you will be able to monetize your network. Eventually, you can have features that people pay for (while still keeping the majority of the network free) and you can also get companies to advertise on your network, too.
Remember that your next, bigger goal will be attracting investors. If you check off all of the steps listed above, then you will be moving in the right direction toward acquiring investments.