While conventional social media marketing is facing scrutiny for its questionable effectiveness, there’s still plenty we can learn from the success stories of enormous platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. Facebook, for example, started life as little more than a hobby when founder Mark Zuckerberg decided to build a platform to collaborate with his fellow Harvard students. When the network opened to the rest of the world, networking effects drew in well in excess of two-billion regular users. Although the scope and reach of Facebook are undeniably huge, you too can create your own social network to share your ideas and engage your customers.
#1. Start with a goal
Facebook began as an educational network, which eventually expanded to other Ivy League schools in the US before stepping into the global scene. Originally envisaged to provide a way for students to keep in touch with one another for both curricular and extra-curricular activities, the network has lost its original purpose to become something for everyone. One of the most important reasons to create your own social network is to unite members under a common goal, a sense of purpose that the mainstream networks have long since lost. With a stronger sense of purpose, members will be more engaged and relationships stronger.
#2. Select your features
People who leave mainstream social media do so for a variety of reasons, but one of the most common is that they don’t provide any real value. Yet most of us have also grown accustomed to the functions and features they provide, hence the need to offer an instantly familiar user experience when creating your own social network. To select the right features, you need to establish the optimal blend of familiar user experiences and empowering members to achieve the desired actions. Every feature you implement in your social network should help members do what they came there to do, whether that’s to seek support or share ideas.
#3. Put mobile users first
Had the mainstream social networks not developed mobile apps for their members, they would have undoubtedly gone the same way as the now largely forgotten Myspace. Social media apps consume a large portion of the time spent on the small screen, hence apps like Facebook being among the most popular in the mobile app stores. In fact, a rapidly increasing subset of internet users are now mobile only, but very few people only ever use a desktop. Especially in the case of consumer-facing businesses, a mobile-first approach is crucial when building a social network of your own.
#4. Establish the rules
Every social network needs a set of rules and guidelines that lay the foundations for a healthy community. Aside from the basics, such as your policy concerning trolling or spamming, it’s important to add a human element wherever possible. After all, no one is going to pay much heed to a policy filled with legalese and industry jargon. Rather, your guidelines should capture your core brand values. Your guidelines should also outline the moderation process, as well as the penalties for breaking the rules, depending on their severity. Finally, make sure your rules and guidelines clearly state your obligation to protect members’ privacy.
#5. Promote your network
Once you’re ready to launch your brand social network, you’ll need to promote it. The obvious first step is to inform your existing customers in your next email newsletter and on other social platforms you use. But to maximise adoption rates, you’ll need a clear value proposition, which should naturally align with your goal. For example, if you want to offer peer-to-peer support or product ideation over your network, customers should be instantly aware of this purpose. If successful, your social network will become a product in its own right to the extent you’ll be able to advertise it to prospective customers as a core part of your offer.
#6. Monetise your network
This step is optional, since it depends on your goals. Having your own social network provides an entirely new way to sell your products and services. For example, a service-based business might offer online courses and live streamed seminars over its social network. All the while giving members a space to collaborate with one another as well as with the brand. Another option is to sell your products directly through your social networking app. Since people are far more likely to be in ‘buying’ mode when using a branded social media app, chances are your social platform will open many new streams of revenue.