Many companies and individuals have fell into trap of the rising trends related to developing own social networks. Following dreams of success without proper planning, technical skills and knowing what does it take equals to wasted efforts, money and time. Probably before you try build your own social network, you should start with you first successful web project or even just a blog. You can learn how to be successful online with the following article - Brief Overview of Successful Blogging.
Without going into details related to technical part of developing your own social network, I will try to explain the first steps of taking the challenge and start the project on a “right foot”. Just scratching the surface of critical areas that will build strong foundations of web social network project.
Planning involves a lot of knowledge and team work. A great idea, even unique isn't enough. Social science is extremely complicated and the fact that your unique idea doesn't have any competitors, doesn't automatically mean that project will be successful. Briefly every web project should be looked like any other business, a lot of the basics related to off-line business strategies apply with full power:
Knowing your audience
Purpose of social network
Social network functionality
Strategy for getting new members
All these bullet points should be looked deeply from business point of view as well as from social network members side. It is necessary to know, why members would like to use this website, spend time on it, share it with friends and come back. It is important everything related to planing to be well documented.
Choice of Technology and Web Development Stage
Popularity of niche and local social networks is partially related to strong competition on web development stage. There are several stand-alone CMS that are specially developed for this purpose – PHPFox, SocialEngine, Dolphin, etc. In addition some of the most popular open source CMS like WordPress (you might want to check our BuddyPress review, WP Symposium review or how to Build Your Own Social Network with WordPress), Drupal, Joomla, etc... also offer excellent capabilities to start-up social network project. A good idea is to start with something that works out of the box, but give you an option to expand the functionality.
Custom developed CMS is also a popular choice as literally technology have advanced a lot in the last couple of year. The main downside of custom CMS development is related to higher expenses on maintenance.
No doubt that every web project need reliable web hosting, but for social networks, high performance web hosting is mandatory. Even in a start-up stage a social network need at least mid-class VPS from highly reputable service provider.
For international social network, is even more critical and utilizing use of CDN and cloud computing is mandatory. Free CDN isn't the best choice, but in case you are interested to test the advantages of CDN, you can look at Speed-up Website with Free CDN.
Additional Step During Development Stage
Every complicated web project need to pass series of alpha and beta testing stages. The project need to be error free, rock solid and probably this is the best time to collect opinion related to features and options that beta testers would like to see live. Do not underestimate alpha and beta testing stage, just an example – Google usually keep long alpha and beta testing periods for every new feature/tool that they introduce. So consider this as good practice.
Let's assume that web project will become popular fast and even turn viral in a couple of days. That's why during the development stage need to pay special attention to project scalability, ability to get hosted on multiple servers, to optimize the script to be able to handle large number of users and simultaneous connections worldwide, etc...
Financing and Partnering
Many web projects fail due to lack of financial strategy. With every web project and especially with social networks, have to be prepared for the unwritten rule than 50% of the time, things will go exactly the opposite way.
Social networks are not the biggest financial earners, so having a financial back-up will play important role in future development and maintenance.
Seeking funding at most popular crowd funding and venture capital platforms probably will become one of the main sources of petty cash for further development and expansion. Finding a reliable partners and teaming up with influencers in the field can ease a lot of work load too.
Intentionally I didn't include marketing stage as marketing for niche or local social network might vary a lot, depending on many internal and external factors. . A basic strategy is to use major social networks to spread the word with help from friends, customers, etc...
This is the bare minimum of knowledge that need to be clear for everybody that's want to dive into owning a social network. I've learned that the hard way in the last few years, developing niche and local social networks. Things rarely go the same way as it is planned and often owners are setting unachievable goals and get disappointed fast.
Just a note, even Google Plus used to look like complete failure in the first couple of months, but things changed dramatically, as everything was very well planned by “Big G”.
WebmaisterPro social network for web professionals is around for 3 years. The tips that I am giving are from my personal experience and should not be taken lightly.