Starting your own social network site can be an amazing and rewarding experience. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for a particular industry, a social site is one of the best ways to express your creativity—and possibly make some money in the process, too.
The best part is, you don’t need hundreds of thousands of dollars to get up and started. After all, chances are you’re not looking to compete against social network giants like Facebook and Twitter. All it takes is a little research, time, and dedication. Here’s how you can get your own social network site up and running within three days:
Set Up the Basics
Before you jump ahead of yourself, you’ve got to take care of the basics. No website can be built without handling a little housekeeping first. The first step is to get your domain and hosting set up. Think of a domain name that fully embodies what your ideal brand, and is easy for potential users to remember.
Then, choose hosting that aligns with your projections. If you’re just starting out, shared hosting might be a better choice because you won’t be expecting too much traffic, and don’t need as many resources. You can always change this as your traffic grows. Then, you can begin to set up WordPress integration.
Using WordPress’ BuddyPress plugin, creating a social network is easier than ever. With BuddyPress, you can set up a community site that has all the bells and whistles of a traditional social network. Despite the fact that it has so many rich capabilities, it’s a complete free plugin to use. Here are just some of the features you can take advantage of:
- Users can create their own social media profiles
- Users can send private messages to other people
- You can take advantage of rich email settings
- Users can create and join different groups
- View activity streams to see what other users are doing
Know Your Audience
Starting a social networking site won’t do you any good if you don’t have a clearly defined mission. For starters, you should be passionate about the site you create. For example, let’s say you have a passion for writing and want to start a social networking site for writers. Create a mission statement for both yourself and your site—what’s the goal you’re trying to achieve? In this case, you might want writing enthusiasts to have a platform where they can share their content, make editorial suggestions, help edit one another’s work, and provide critiques.
Go Where Your Audience Goes
Keep a separate document that lists different resources that could make it easier to promote your site. If you were creating a social network site for writer’s you want to visit the most popular writing blogs to help spread the word. You could also go to writing conferences, attend local writing clubs and meetups on Meetups.com.
Take Advantage of BuddyPress Plugins
Although BuddyPress comes equipped with dozens of its own awesome features, your site capabilities can be extended with a few extra BuddyPress-geared plugins. Here are a few you should consider:
This plugin allows you to customize profile and registration forms, which you wouldn’t be able to do with the core BuddyPress plugin. With these custom fields, you can make your users feel as though they’ve really joined a social network tailor-made to their interests. Using the same writer’s social network example, you might use custom fields to allow users to describe their writing interests or list published work.
With BuddyBoss wall, you can have your social network site looking and behaving just like a traditional Facebook wall. This can be very helpful for your users, who are already familiar with the Facebook setup and will have a more intuitive, pleasurable user experience. They’ll be able to create posts, and like and comment on other people’s posts.
The BuddyPress User blog was designed by the same team that created the BuddyBoss Wall, and when combined together, they can really take your platform to the next level. With the BuddyPress User Blog, you’d be able to allow your members to produce their own contain, and maintain their own on-platform blogs.
Take your messaging capabilities to the next level with BuddyPress Inbox. Once it’s installed, your users can take advantage of WYSIWYG text formatting, auto save options, drafts, labeling, and several other features. They can also attach files, and the recipient will be able to preview the attached file before downloading.