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Everything you need to know to create a social network.

create a social network

We have been asked many times about the best ways to create a social network. So, we decided to write a completely comprehensive answer to this question so that we can point everyone in the right direction!

So here goes, everything you need to know on how to create a social network.

times square at night

1. Identify your audience

Before you create a social network, you’ll need to do a bit of market research. The more in-depth research you conduct, the better. Try to understand your audience demographic by asking the following questions:

  • How old are they?
  • Where do they live?
  • Where do they work?
  • What work do they do?
  • What are their common interests and hobbies?
  • Where and how do they normally discuss these interests and hobbies?

To begin your research, search on Google, Facebook and even Quora for groups and societies. You can see what they’re talking about, how they engage with each other and just find out a few things about who they are. This will provide some background information on your target audience, which will be invaluable to you when you start to create a social network.

2. Develop your ideas using your market research

Now you have a better understanding of your target audience, it is time to start building out your concept. Did your market research uncover any problems or challenges that your target audience is facing? How can you position your social network to solve one or more of these problems?

Draw a table with your potential customers’ needs and challenges on one side and solutions that you can provide on the other. Then you can start mapping out your ideas and working out how to offer something of value to your target audience. This will help you achieve a product market fit.

3. Bring on people who can help you

The foundation of any successful business, including social networks, is to bring the right people on board to help you. And the earlier the better. You may be a jack of all trades but there will undoubtedly be aspects of creating a social network that you don’t know about. So find the people who do know and get help from them.

Getting the right people around you early on will help you lay the right foundations to create a social network and grow the right way. You can have processes in place from day one, which will make sure your social network is a safe, fun, positive and thriving environment.

So, think about who you need to bring in first. Maybe it’s a co-founder to help you out with the big decisions. Or perhaps a head of operations to help you make the right business decisions to keep the lights on and the money coming in. Really think about this step, as it’s a crucial one.

4. Structure features and functions

Based on your prior research and your initial concept, map out the key features you’ll need to develop or integrate in order to create a social network. This will determine your tech roadmap and timeline. A good place to start is to map out a simple user journey that you’d expect your social network users to go through when using your future product.

If you’re unsure of how to get started, here are some of the most popular features of a social network:

  • Profile building
  • Sending and receiving friend requests
  • Posting and commenting
  • Liking and sharing
  • Media posting such as photo and video uploader
  • Groups
  • Blogging
  • Article sharing
  • Private chat

Now, it’s easy to think that your social network will need all of these features from day one in order to be a success. But, unfortunately, that amount of development before you launch would be expensive, time-consuming and hard to resource. Luckily for you though, there are companies and social network software providers out there who can do a lot of this for you!

5. Test your Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Still with us? Good!

So, by now, you should have made some decisions for your social network. Either you’re going to build your own social network and you’ve sorted out all the developers, timings and costs. Or you’ve selected a company who can help you create a social network. And hopefully you’ve made some headway on getting your social network built.

That means it’s time to start testing your MVP. A Minimum Viable Product is essentially a first iteration of your social network that you can put out to market and measure people’s reactions. It is by no means your finished, complete product. It is your first iteration, which you can use to learn what’s missing and where you need to focus your attention next.

Remember, you know your social network like the back of your hand. You work with it every day and you’ve built it from the ground up so you know how everything works and where everything is. That’s why you need an MVP. It gives a chance for your real users, who’ve never seen the product before, to give it a go and see what they think. You can then use their feedback to build the product they need, rather than the product you want to build.

Whilst it may be very hard to deliver a clunky, unfinished product to your early users, it will give you invaluable feedback and ideas from the very people you’re creating a social network for. So don’t waste time building the product you want to build. Focus on building something that matches what your users really want.

Super-important reminder time! The most important thing to remember with your MVP is to make sure you record the feedback and collect the data. Otherwise it won’t be any use to you.

6. Analyse the feedback data

Now that your MVP feedback is rolling in, it’s time to put on your glasses and deep dive into all the data you’re getting. You can use the data to start answering really useful questions, like these:

  • How do people use the social network?
  • What are common user actions and behaviours?
  • Which features are used most?
  • Which features don’t get used at all?
  • Are any users not able to do things they want to because the functionality doesn’t exist yet?
  • Which screens do users visit most?
  • How often do users come back to the social network?
  • What devices are people using?
  • Which screens or features have the highest exit rates?
  • Are there any bugs preventing users from completing a particular action?

Your MVP feedback data may not provide answers to all of these questions. And that’s fine! You won’t get answers to every single one of your questions at this point. But, you will start to get an idea of what’s working, what’s not working and what needs to be added. And that’s the whole idea behind a Minimum Viable Product.

7. It’s time for a survey

OK, you’re doing great! Your MVP gave you some really useful answers and information, which you can now use to fix bugs, improve user experiences and start planning development for additional features.

But, your MVP will undoubtedly raise more questions. Questions that are specific to your social network that need to be answered before you continue. So, that’s right, you guessed it, it’s survey time! 🎉

Surveying the people who have used your social network is the best way to find out whether you’re on the right track. You’ll find out really specific answers to the questions you need to be asking when you create a social network. So, here are some things you might want to ask:

  • How disappointed would you be if this product no longer existed tomorrow? (Very disappointed, Somewhat disappointed, Not disappointed) (If 40% of users are going to be very disappointed then it is a good sign. If 25%-40% of users are going to be very disappointed then the product or messaging requires some tweaks. If less than 25% of users are going to be very disappointed either audience is wrong or product needs serious improvements).
  • What would you likely use as an alternative to the product if it were no longer available?
  • Have you recommended the product to anyone?
  • What type of person do you think would benefit most from the product?
  • How can we improve the product to better meet your needs?

These questions will really help you get to grips with your product. What people think about. What’s good about it. What’s not good about it. You might find out some negative things about your product and that might be tough, but it’ll be worth it. Trust us.

Remember to incentivise your survey to make sure people want to dedicate some of their time to answering your questions. The prize doesn’t have to be big. An Amazon voucher or a pair of free tickets to the cinema. That’s all it takes to make sure people spend some time really answering your questions. So it’s totally worth it.

And here’s a top tip! Try using Typeform to build your surveys. They’ll make your life super easy and you’ll also end up with some really easy-to-use and visually engaging surveys.

8. Use all of the information you have to create a social network that people want

By now you should have a deluge of information. Some of it will be really useful to you. Some of it won’t be useful right now but might be in the future. So look after all that data and keep analysing it. It will keep you on track and make sure you’re creating a social network that people really want.

Once you’ve taken all of that information into account and developed all of that good feedback into your platform, it’s time for launch. But, launching doesn’t mean your job’s done. Far from it.

Now that you’ve done all that work to create a social network, it’s time to bring people onto it and turn it into a thriving community.

Once you’ve launched your social network, you can turn your attention to scaling up your advertising and marketing activities. Lucky for you, we’ve thought of that too. So here are some steps you can take to start marketing and promoting your new social network!

passion brings people together

How to promote your social network?

1. Create user personas

User personas can really help you understand your user base and get to know the demographics that are interested in your social network. They’ll help you define the challenges and needs of particular groups of your customers.

Once you understand these things, you’ll have a better understanding of who you need to advertise to. You can then start segmenting data and tailoring your marketing messages to these particular groups. Use your research from the MVP data and your survey to build accurate personas.

2. Focus on digital

To get some quick traffic, AdWords and Facebook advertising are good options. They are really easy to set up and can be measured, optimised and scaled quickly. Start by using your user personas to target specific groups of people on Facebook.

Think carefully about the language and imagery you place on your Facebook advertising banners. Think of the unique value that your social network offers people. Use that to start creating some unique value propositions and then try them out! Just get them out there and see how people respond.

People tend to respond initially to visually engaging images on their news feeds. So get some beautiful creative on your Facebook Ads to grab people’s attention. Then, bring them into your world by talking about some of the best things your social network has to offer. Once you’ve got the right combination of imagery and language, people will be clicking through to your social network in no time.

3. Build up your SEO

Once you’ve got your paid advertising on Facebook and AdWords purring, it’s time to focus your attention on longer time growth strategies, like SEO. It’s difficult to get started with SEO because you probably won’t see any big results for the first 3 – 6 months. But, please trust us on this one, it’s SO worth the wait.

The best thing you can do for sustained, organic growth is to start ranking in search results. SEO can be a hard nut to crack, but once you’ve got the formula down, it will really help you increase traffic and sales. Here’s an excellent post from Moz to help you get started.

In a nutshell, you need to find the keywords and search terms that your company wants to rank for. Once you’ve found that out, you just need to get blogging. Write blog posts that answer the questions your potential customers are searching for. Do some good keyword research to find out what those search terms are. And then write tons of content containing those keywords to make sure you rank numero uno on search engine results pages.

Remember that it will take at least 3 months to see any results from your SEO work. So keep at it.

Here at Disciple, we have built a platform that can create a social network for you, based on your requirements. We take care of the building, hosting and maintenance so that you can focus on making your social network a fun place to be.

Mike Harrower in
8 min read

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Mike Harrower in Community monetization
Mike Harrower in
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