If you share a common hobby or interest with other people on the Internet, or you need to collaborate with a large group of researchers or colleagues from different locations, you may want to create your own social networking website.
How to Create Your Own Social Networking Website
A social networking website is essentially a common place where people can visit, on the Internet, to collaborate and communicate with others. Most social networks are created around specific niche interests, but many generic social networks exist, such as Facebook or MySpace, that allow you to create a user profile and connect with anyone else on the network regardless of interest. You could always join these networks, create a profile, and search for other people who share your interests, but you would lack the ability to modify how the site looks, to fully moderate discussions, or to have complete control over other profiles. If you want to learn how to create your own social networking website that you have complete control over, it’s best to consider the following aspects of creating such a website:
- Decide on the subject or purpose of your social network
- Determine whether you want to build it from scratch or use a social network platform
- Determine a niche that will make your network unique and interesting
- Decide what tools and features you want to make available to your membership
- Keep the website updated constantly with new and interesting content
The Purpose of Your Social Network
Before you begin working on your new website, you’ll want to consider what specific purpose your network will have. Are you looking to create a place where people interested in cooking can go to trade recipes and discuss their latest culinary creations? Are you thinking about starting a network for stay-at-home moms to discuss the trials and tribulations of family life? These would make fantastic social networks, but in order to make it unique and interesting, search the internet for all other social networks within the niche you’d like to fill and determine what resources already exist. Make note of the features and tools that are provided by the current websites. This will help you determine what you can add to your own website so that you can offer a services or resources that Internet visitors won’t be able to find anywhere else.
Starting from Scratch
It is possible to simply register a domain, start a web hosting account, and build a social networking website from the ground up. Initially, you’ll need to build a website. It can be as simple as a front page with updates and news based on the specific topic that you would like your website to focus on. On this main page, you would link to the various social networking features that you want to offer to your membership. Some of the most common website applications that you may consider are chat rooms, forums, photo and file sharing, and blogs. Most web hosts provide the ability for you to install each tool on your web hosting account. They usually include membership management as well. You can then configure the tools with the look and feel that you like, and link them from your main page so that it essentially becomes another part of your social network website. Another option is to make use of external applications like those available at sites like KickApps, which lets you link to your own social networking tools from your website. You may also consider installing a login feature so that membership can log into your network when they first arrive at your website.
Using Social Network Platforms
Another very popular approach is to make use of social networking platforms. These are websites where the basic web page for your network is already created for you. You generally start with a basic template, and then you can customize your site by adding features, configuring colors and formatting, inviting friends to your network and adding content.
Some of the top social networking platforms include:
- Pligg: Pligg is an open-source site that markets itself as “perfected content management.” Pligg is based on PHP and MySQL technology that makes customization extremely easy for anyone.
- SocialEngine: SE is one of the most popular content management platforms on the Internet.
- Drupal: Drupal is one of the most popular content management platforms on the Internet today. What makes it so useful when creating a social network are the tools that it provides, including blogs and community discussion forums.
- Dolphin: Dolphin is open source software that is well-known throughout the web design community as one of the most powerful social network applications. With Dolphin, you can build a large online community with the most control and customization of any platform out there. Keep in mind that installation does require some advanced web host knowledge.
- Ning: Ning is one of those up-and-coming social network platforms that’s taking the Internet by storm. Its advantage is the ease with which you can start a social network. On the main page, you simply choose a name and web address, and you have access to an extremely simple user interface to add components to your network. Within minutes, your site is live.
Creating your own social network doesn’t have to be complicated. Starting from scratch with your own website certainly requires some web design knowledge. But even people who’ve never developed a single webpage can make use of the latest social network platforms to start their own community website.
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