HOW TO CREATE THE NEXT SOCIAL NETWORK
Have you ever thought that you had a great idea for the next social network? Have you been stumped on where to even begin on creating a new social network? This site was created to help you get your feet wet on starting your own social networking site. My primary goal is to educate you on what it takes to create a social networking site, and believe it or not; there is not a huge cost to turn your idea into reality. For example, your costs can be cut significantly if you plan to code your own site, but you can always hire out the development work if you are not a coder. Think of this site as your 101 guides to creating a social networking site. I have listed the steps below to get you started.
STEP 1. SECURING THE DOMAIN NAME FOR YOUR SOCIAL NETWORK SITE
The most important step in creating your Social Networking Site is to secure a domain name(aka buy a URL).
You are probably asking, “what is a domain name?”. Well, simply put, without going into gory detail, it is the URL (i.e., myspace.com, facebook.com, twitter.com are all domain names). I would highly advise you to secure (aka register) the domain name for your site immediately. There are a couple of reasons for this: 1) the domain is yours and only yours, so there is no need to worry about anyone squatting on your hard work. 2) Your domain will be readily available for any testing you would like to perform 3) You will not have to worry about it later, and 4) You can include this domain name in the next step of documenting your site. Note, you can spend anywhere from $1 to big bucks on your domain; it just depends on where you get it from. Most domain registrars charge anywhere from $1 to $25 per year, and I wouldn’t recommend spending anymore. If you want a no-nonsense domain registrar, use HostOtter.com. We have been using them for many different sites and could not be happier with their services or prices.
STEP 2. DOCUMENTATION.
Write down the ideas that you currently have for your new site. Keep in mind what you want the site to become. I would advise you to think big and leave ALOT of room for improvement because what you think will work may or may not. Something to consider is creating a framework for your site that can be integrated with the other major social networks. A reason to do so would be that you could always sell the site later on to a giant corporation with a vast interest in your site. For example, in 2005, MySpace.com sold to News Corp for $580 million, not a bad chunk of change. Facebook is currently valued between $600 Billion to $725 Billion, depending on the source.
STEP 3. CODING THE SITE
The next logical step is to code the site. At this step, there are several choices to make. The first is, “Are you going to be the one coding the site?”. If so, you will probably already have the programming language in mind that you will create the site with.
If you are not creating code for your site, then there are still options available. The first option would be to get in touch with college buddies and find out if they are developers and, more importantly, web-based developers. I would recommend creating your site with one of the following languages PHP, Java, or some .NET technology (note, your developer will know exactly what these are). In addition to your web-based language, you will need to choose a database, and there are two main types, MySQL and SQL. Once you found your developer or developers, you could then offer them a proposal of part ownership of the site or hire them as a contract worker. Either option has its pros and cons, so it’s entirely up to you.
Now, let’s say that you have no friends or well developer friends; anyway, there are even more options to choose from. I would highly recommend creating an account with vWorker.com. I have personally used this site for a project, and I could not be happier with the work they did; what is great about this site is the developers bid on the project you submit, and you can pick on choosing which developer you want coding your site, whether you want the cheapest developer or the most experienced. Another plus, too vWorker.com is that you don’t have to be technically savvy; you can create the project requirements and sit back and wait for bids to come in.
STEP 4. HOSTING YOUR SITE
Once you have all the working code for your site or, most likely, before the site is working, you will need to get web hosting. What type of web hosting should you get? Well, that all depends on the code your social networking site was created in. If you decided to go with a .NET technology like C#, ASP, etc., you would need Microsoft Windows hosting. If you choose to go the route of anything other technology (i.e., PHP, HTML, Java, etc.), then your best bet is to choose Linux Hosting, for the simple fact that it runs on an Apache web server, which is the most reliable and widely used to date. I would recommend starting with a simple shared hosting account for your site for the simple fact that just starting, you are not going to have a ton of users. Once you get enough traffic on the site, you will eventually need to upgrade your hosting to either a Virtual Dedicated Server or a Dedicated Server, which are much more powerful than your standard shared hosting account. Note, there is a difference in price between shared hosting, virtual hosting, and dedicated hosting. There is also a difference in performance between the three as well.
A shared hosting account is the least powerful of the three, but many hosting companies will often try to entice you with Unlimited Diskspace and Bandwidth. A typical shared hosting account runs about $8 to $25 per month, depending on the options you choose. I would recommend keeping your shared hosting account until you have around 500 or so active users, then consider upgrading to a Virtual or a Dedicated server.
A virtual server is essentially a dedicated server that is divided up among several users. Each web hosting company usually does not disclose how many users are on a Virtual Server. The advantage of the Virtual Server is the increased performance you gain over shared hosting. When you purchase a virtual server, you are guaranteed a portion of the server’s resources (i.e., disk space, CPU, and RAM). A disadvantage of the virtual server is that the portion of the server you are guaranteed isn’t that much, usually 256 to 512 MB of RAM and anywhere from 10GB to 50GB of disk space. Another important disadvantage to consider is that you are placing it on a server with several other users. If those users do something terrible, they could briefly take the server down, thus causing downtime on your social networking site. I would probably skip the virtual server altogether and upgrade to a dedicated server that is entirely up to your budget. Virtual servers cost anywhere from $15 to over $100 per month, depending on options.
A dedicated server is one of the most powerful options you can choose when hosting your social networking site without going above and beyond with some sort of enterprise-level hosting configuration. You will essentially get an entire PC dedicated just for your social networking site with a dedicated server. The dedicated server is essential for an entire server dedicated to only your use (.i.e, RAM, CPU, Hard drives, etc.). When choosing your dedicated server, you may want to go with multiple hard drives so that you can optimize with a RAID configuration. The RAID configuration will allow you to write faster, which is essential for servers under a heavy traffic load, like a social network. Dedicated servers also come with a Control Panel (CPanel, Virtuozzo, Plesk, etc.) that will allow you to easily configure and maintain your server without having extensive knowledge of running a web server.
You may also consider purchasing a hardware firewall when selecting your dedicated server, as it will be necessary to keep unwanted individuals out of your server. The hardware firewall provides an extra layer of security to prevent malicious traffic from even reaching your server. It is highly recommended by the time your site gets enough users to require a dedicated server.
STEP 5. PROMOTING YOUR SITE
“Don’t worry about people stealing an idea. If it’s original, you will have to ram it down their throats.”
~ Howard Aiken
The above statement cannot be truer when it comes to your social networking site. It would be nice if your website sold itself, but it is not always the case in the beginning. It is often tough for new sites to attract users with all of the competition out there. There are several ways to promote your website, and here are a few:
- Adwords PPC (Pay Per Click) Campaign
- Partner with a site and offer their complimentary service or product
- Advertise locally via newspaper, tv, or radio
These are just a few options you have to promote your social network. Once you get enough users, the site will grow with little to no promotion at all. The largest social network to date (Facebook) does not need to spend a dime on promoting its site. All of Facebook’s new users are being referred by friends and family.