Don’t let talk of complexity and expense distract you. It may be easier than you think to create your own Social Networking site – even if you have limited funds. If yours is a smaller enterprise that should be music to your ears.
I blogged my take to B.L. Ochman’s article “Debunking Six Social Media Myths.” I called mine
While B.L. focuses on Social Media not being free (and in fact costing considerable sums of money) I only agreed to a point. Because I think it’s entirely possible to build a Social Media campaign on without a $50-100K price tag or anywhere near that number. Note: This article’s focus is on social networking sites (the essence of social media interactions after all) rather than a “campaign” per se, however a community is a large part of any successful social media campaign. And creating a social networking site may be just what’s required.
Large companies with oodles of money for marketing can learn something here too, (bigger isn’t always better) however this is really for smaller companies who don’t have the luxury of $$$$ in marketing resources.
Say you’re a consultant, a small business owner, a hobbyist, or anyone wanting to create their own social networking site. You have no big company support or venture capital funding. You may even just want to create a community around your passion or favourite activity. It could be for profit or not for non-financial reward. Like-minded people would connect with each other, share tips, shop for their favourite items, learn and contribute new things…
OK, that’s the dream. But can you really create your own social networking site without it costing you an arm and a leg?
The good news – yes, you can
It’s actually pretty easy to create your own social networking site, brand it and provide many features such as profiles, photo and video sharing, podcasts, groups, discussion forums and more. There are many options available – almost too many.
The bad news is that it takes time to learn what’s available, even after you’ve weeded out what’s more suited to large companies. What you are looking for is a DIY (Do It Yourself) solution.
Ning, and CollectiveX are two options that don’t require a lot of technical skill. With Ning you don’t need any programming knowledge, and you can brand your network and add a wide range of features. There’s no charge either – although if you want to make advanced customizations you can upgrade to the premium option for a fee. CollectiveX has similar features and if you explore open source software you’ll find the options are even greater.
You need to know what fits your goals and what’s possible. And that means doing your research.
3 Tips for creating your own social networking site
1. Do your research
Be aware of what’s possible. Do you want a solution hosted on another company’s servers or do you want to self host? Hosting on another company’s servers may limit you. Hosting on your own servers may require you to have some technical skills. Explore what’s possible by doing a search. The easiest way is to type “creating your own social network” into your search engine of choice.
2. Understand the cost of free solutions
You get what you pay for is as true in things Social Media as it is anywhere else. Creating a social networking site on a shoestring budget means you’ll have to make some concessions. For example:
- You may have to live with the company ads on your site (they get the revenue, no sharing),
- you may lack a domain name – which can hurt your organic search engine traffic,
- you could have limited branding options,
- you may be limited as to what you can put on your site (such as certain scripts or even products)
“Free” can become a bind and rather less attractive if you don’t have all the features you want, so you do need to bear this in mind from the beginning.
3.Assess your level of technical skill
Do you know the difference between your .php and your .asp? Or do the words “add this html to your template header between the opening and closing tags” bring you out in a sweat? Then either choose a system which is completely DIY (and which may be limited) or budget money to hire someone who has the technical skills you need. Don’t underestimate the need for technical skills down the line, even if you don’t need them at first.You will need them as your site grows and you may find you have no desire to spend time on technical tinkering at all. Factor this in from the beginning (there are many skilled people who can help and they don’t cost the earth) and it will save you headaches later on.
4. Be Crystal clear about the business model you want to pursue
Different business models require different approaches – and different tools.
- Do you plan on creating a site that generates profit from advertising revenue, sales of your own products, or affiliate sales?
- Will your network be a fee based membership site providing content for your members?
- Do you want to generate publicity, buzz and awareness for your business or a cause?
There may be no profit motive at all. Whatever your answer, take the time to assess your strategic goals, your options and your skills before jumping in and setting up your social networking site. Also, look at what others have done, especially when researching your software options. Contact them and ask them what their experience has been.
Setting up a social networking site (and the needed social media applications) doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars. Start by being strategic about your goals – understanding what’s possible and available to you and investing the time to do the necessary skills assessment.