Are you building or launching a new social network and still wondering what can help bring success? Let me try to help a bit...tell me what comes to your mind first when someone says, 'Social Network'. Oh, please be honest, was it not Facebook that you first thought of? So now we know that Facebook is synonymous with social network though it is not the only one available out there. Almost everyone seems to be on Facebook for networking needs. So if you are planning to develop another social network and want it to be equally (if not more) popular than Facebook, then you need to keep a few things in mind while planning it out. Just answer these simple questions and you will know where to head to.
1. What will make people come to your website for the first time?
You must have a service ready to serve their need(s). Say if your website serves a community or a group of people in particular, have it prominently advertised in related popular websites including being featured in some related Facebook groups and causes in the form of advertisements on the right.
2. What will make them want to sign-up with you?
The landing page of your website should be simple. Now that doesn't mean that you just put up a logo and a sign-up button. Apart from these two, the first page should talk what the site is all about in one or two sentences with a supportive graphic.
3. How easy is it for the visitors to sign-up?
Make sure that you do not ask too many questions. Keep it simple, start with the bare minimum you need for a quick registration. Example, name, email and password. Its even better if this information is pulled in from other social networking websites using the APIs they offer. Use Facebook Connect and your members will quickly be able to setup their new profile on your website (including their profile photo) matching the ones that they have on Facebook. Similarly for Myspace etc.
4. Will the member be allowed to leverage his existing networks to build one here?
Most members will have networks already set up at other social websites like Facebook, Myspace, etc. You must allow them to leverage this while building one here. Give them a feature to invite their Facebook, Myspace etc friends to this new website. It would be a bonus to help them pull in their contact lists from emails (Gmail/Hotmail etc) and start inviting friends. An interesting feature to provide will be to let them see who all from their Facebook friend list is already using the website, so that they can readily connect with them here. Wouldn't it be cool to know which of your friends are already here? It most certainly would.
Just ask them to sign into their existing network using your website and then pull their friend list to see who all are already available on this website and the rest they can invite to join.
5. How visible is your website on other networks?
If you are a start-up, its important to increase your visibility on other related networks. Tools such as Facebook 'Like' and Twitter 'Shout-out' are the best way to directly reach the members' friends on other networks. Let your members decide what they would like to push from this website on to their Facebook wall or Twitter posts. This will surely make the website more popular amongst their networks and will also help the website rankings go up from a Search Engine perspective. Anther way of increasing visibility could be by creating Fan/ Brand pages on Facebook or launching a Facebook App. Fan and Brand pages are good options if you can keep them updated on a regular basis.
These few things if taken care of well, will help pulling traffic, getting registrations and network building on your website. Once these are achieved, the other features of your website will immediately come into action as the member is more likely to have an active network to work with.
So to conclude, I will only say don't hesitate in using links or plug-ins from other social networks to make yours popular. These plug-ins if used wisely will not only increase the traffic on your website but will also improve the user experience drastically. Its like being able to take (some of) your old friends to a new friend's party. Isn't that cool!