A social network is a map of relationships between individuals. Add a laptop, internet connection and some great user experience, and you have an online network where people can interact and connect to one another in meaningful ways using standard, modern features like instant messaging, video chatting, tweeting, commenting, and of course, photo sharing. So how does one make a social network?
Today, it’s easier than ever to make social networks that change how we are able to share information. The internet is full of amazing tools to help you, and if you’re willing to get your hands dirty, you can build just about anything with hardly any technical knowledge. However, the biggest hurdle remains the time necessary to develop, nurture and grow an engaging user base. “If you build it, they will come,” does not hold water. Without happy, involved people engaging one another, your gorgeous social networking site will be as empty as MySpace. For more information about building a community from scratch, see our earlier post, Building an Online Community.
Your social networking goals need to focus on building a thriving, vibrant community. The community platform itself is simply the framework in which conversations take place. Starting from scratch has its benefits. By sharing what you’re planning to build, you’re opening yourself up to a never-ending supply of valuable insights directly from your community members. Constant customer feedback is invaluable, and when you iterate with this information, your members feel included and empowered, and your community stands out from the competition. When you have satisfied community members, you have an army of people who are willing to tell your brand story for you.
So the platform’s built. Now what? Well, network value depends on community growth and engagement, so first spend your time getting your network in front of key prospective members before worrying about which features to add to your budding social network.
How To Make A Social Network
I can’t stress how important it is to have a great group of members who feel empowered. But for them to have an impact, communication needs to be as frictionless and as uncomplicated as possible. Communicating online should be as intuitive as it is in the real world. No one wants a user manual; people want to jump in immediately and start participating.
Focus Your Content
The next step is to convey a clear purpose. As the community leader, explain why you built the site and why prospective members will enjoy using it. There are countless topics and niches on which you can focus, so first determine your own bottom line (what you want your community to be), and what your prospective members are passionate about. Then marry the two. Here are some basic examples:
- Create a community around a favorite celebrity or TV Show and build a network for its fans.
- Music. The music industry is inherently social, and listeners make it all possible. Harness this passion into a powerful online network.
- Volunteer Organizations. Not-For-Profit organizations are completely built around people spending their time, money and/or effort for a cause. Raise awareness to the public at large about what it is you (and your valuable members or volunteers) are doing.
- Events. Suppose you’re running a conference. Adding an online networking component to your plans will allow attendees to meet one another before the event kicks off, and makes for a more enjoyable time once the attendees actually arrive.
- Fashion. Connect aspiring models with up-and-coming designers, or share insights on the latest trends.
- Sports. Bring together players, coaches, and fans for a lively debate about your favorite teams.
These are a few generic samples of ideas you could build your social network around. All you have to do is find out what resonates with a lot of people, and you’re on your way.
One of the best examples of being consistent is Path, a successful mobile community, built not by opening its social network up to the masses, but by limiting the amount of friends a member can have to 150. On paper, this looks downright foolish. Why limit yourself to a finite amount of connections? Answer: quality content, not quantity. What makes Path unique is the content. It involves small groups of friends sharing their most valuable experiences (i.e. where they traveled, the first day at their new job, etc.) and not what they ate, a Call Me Maybe meme, or an article about the Real Housewives of Some Horrible City. The content stays consistently more personal and unique because your group is limited.
Once your friends and influencers are active on your social network, it’s time to branch out a bit and meet new people. Members in a compelling community environment will naturally want to bring their friends into the fold. Make sure it’s simple for new members to join, enable sharing, and watch your community grow organically.
Consider all of the above when you make a social network. The most important priority for anyone aspiring to build a social network is taking the time to develop a user base that has a reason to be engaged.