Social media websites have changed the way we interact with friends, family, and businesses. And today, there are a plethora of social media platforms to choose from, with new ones each year. If you have an idea to make a social media website, you can do it in WordPress.
Before starting, it’s important to be aware that building a social network is much harder than any other website. It relies on accounts interacting with one another, and monetization through selling ad space (different than running ads).
Unlike a blog, it’s difficult to build a following organically. You need to spread the word the platform exists, which isn’t easy when the best place to advertise is on other social networks.
Today, I am going to demonstrate how to create a social website from scratch.
What Is Social Media?
Social media is a type of website or application that is designed to allow users to share content with other users in real-time. The content can be in the form of text, images, videos, or something else entirely. It really depends on the website or app.
And while most people will instantly think of Facebook or Twitter, the term social media is extremely vague, which is why new “social” websites and apps appear each year.
For instance, not many people think of dating apps like Tinder as a social media network, but why isn’t it? You can share information about yourself, share images & videos, and you can even check in with friends. It certainly meets the definition of a social network.
And that is what most modern (new) social networks are built upon, helping a specific audience of people connect to discuss a certain topic. It’s very vague, but that opens the door for creativity and diversity between platforms.
Why Is Social Media So Popular?
Something you need to understand before beginning is why social media is so popular in the first place.
Even outside of a global pandemic, it can be hard to stay in touch with friends and family. These platforms serve as a platform for families to stay connected regardless of how far apart they are. And this has evolved to include staying connected with your favorite brands and businesses.
Social media websites have also made it easier to find like-minded individuals with the same interests. For example, if you like Playstation, following their Facebook page or Twitter account will let you interact with other fans in the comments.
Although, sometimes you might also meet the opposite. Yet, that’s also part of the charm.
Coming together to either defend or bash your favorite businesses has become one of the most popular pastimes. And in most cases the saying “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” holds true.
The more your brand gets shared across a platform, the more brand awareness happens.
How to Create Your Social Media Website
1. Research & Create A Website Checklist
The first step of creating a social network is to actually plan how it will operate and differentiate itself from the competition. Many eager beginners may try to immediately start building a website, but this will certainly fail.
Instead, I highly recommend building a checklist that includes the features and concepts you want your website to include.
This includes figuring out the focus of your website (business relations, dating, etc.) and identifying your target audience. You cannot build a website of any kind without this information in mind as it should influence every single aspect of the design process.
This is also the time you should spend coming up with a logo and name. After all, you are going to need to make sure the domain name is available. Other things to consider include:
- How will sharing images and video work
- Are there paid memberships
- How will users add friends and connections
- Did you plan a phone app (you better)
- How will you market your social network
You should not proceed with building a website until you have a strong mental image of it and how it will operate. That said, you will likely need to compromise on some of the design elements. But having them in place will not only get better results but speed up the process.
2. Find A Web Host and Choose A Domain Name
With the initial research completed and a checklist to follow, it’s time to get started. And the first step of building a social network, or any website for that matter, is to choose a web hosting company.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a web hosting company is responsible for renting out web servers, which are used to store your website. Whenever someone accesses your website, they are really connecting to that server.
Thus, it directly influences your social media site’s performance.
While there are many web hosting companies to choose from, the results can vary wildly between companies. That’s why here at GreenGeeks, we are proud of the speeds and high level of support that we offer customers.
And most importantly, we think about our impact on the planet. That’s why every website we host is actually carbon-negative. We accomplish this by calculating how much energy every website uses and purchase 3-times that amount in wind energy.
We also include a free domain name, which is a great segway into choosing a domain name.
The name you choose will be one of the biggest choices you can make. It needs to be catchy and short, but this can be very hard to achieve in today’s expanding online world. After all, there are literally over a billion websites available with unique domain names.
And sadly, some companies even exist for the sole purpose of buying the rights to domain names to sell them back at exorbitant sums. Therefore, don’t be alarmed if the name you want for your social media site is already taken; you are going to have to get creative.
3. Choose A CMS (WordPress)
The next major decision you need to make is choosing a Content Management System (CMS) to create your social network. And luckily, this is the easiest decision on this list. Without a doubt, WordPress is the best CMS you can choose to build a website.
Let’s not beat around the bush, WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world and currently has a market share of 39.5%! Or to put it another way, nearly 40% of all websites are built using WordPress. And this has several advantages.
First, it has a very strong community that is eager to share tips and tricks. And you will find many websites with dedicated WordPress tutorials and resources to take advantage of. As a result of its popularity, it has an enormous amount of API integrations to choose from.
But what makes WordPress so popular in the first place?
It’s really easy to use. You can build an entire social media website without writing a single line of code by taking advantage of the huge library of plugins and themes. In the past, coding has been the limiting factor for many businesses that want a website.
However, that’s all in the past. A plugin is kind of like an app for your smartphone. It adds a specific function or feature to your website. Whereas a theme is like wallpaper, it decides what your website will look like and can be customized extensively.
In fact, today, you can choose from thousands of plugins and themes for WordPress. And you can get started immediately by using the one-click installation method.
Let’s take a closer look at plugins and themes.
4. Select A Theme & Plugins to Use
You are going to be spending a lot of time using plugins and customizing theme’s in WordPress, but it all begins with choosing the right ones to use. And that can be challenging because there are so many of them to choose from.
Many plugins fit into every type of website, but I have taken the time to assemble a few plugins and themes that you will find useful when building a social network.
BuddyPress is modern social networking software built for WordPress. With it, you can add the essential components of a social media platform like account creation, private messages, group chat & interactions, and so much more.
This is a must-have plugin for any social media website built with WordPress.
And to accompany BuddyPress, you are going to need a theme. Be Social is a terrific option that was actually built with BuddyPress integration in mind. The design choices really reflect the social network elements and provide a sleek and modern design.
It offers a variety of features and tools to help build an exciting social network.
Kleo is another excellent choice to consider as your theme. It is once again built with BuddyPress in mind and offers a variety of extensions to existing BuddyPress features. And to help you get started, there are a variety of demo sites you can utilize as a base.
It’s a great way to get an early start and customize it from there.
Back to helpful plugins to consider, Monarch is another top contender. It offers a variety of stylish social sharing options. This can help connect your new fledgling platform with more established brands.
It can be very useful for users that utilize multiple platforms for sharing.
5. Figure Out A Monetization System
In 2018, Mark Zuckerberg told the Senate, “We run Ads.” And that’s still the case.
And it’s not just Facebook either, ad revenue is the main source of income on every major social media website. Your goal is to have a huge audience and sell ad space, so you need to make sure a system is in place to sell that ad space.
There are two ways to go about this.
The first is to use Programmatic Advertising. This is where proprietary software is used to sell ad space on your website. It utilizes advanced algorithms to showcase the most relevant ads to your visitors. The downside is that you lose a cut of the profits.
A great example of this is something like Google Adsense, but you don’t see this on other social networks because Google takes the lion’s share.
The real way major social media networks handle it is with their own algorithms designed for their platform. Realistically, this is not feasible for a new website to start out with unless you have a lot of resources at your disposal. Think of this as the end goal.
At this point, your website should be fully functioning after a lot of designing and setting up plugins and themes. And I can assure you that wasn’t the hard part. No, instead, getting your social network a user base is going to be the challenge.
Hence, marketing is the most important component to building a website and getting a running start.
Let’s not beat around the bush, getting people to leave existing social platforms that they have been using for years is not going to be easy. In fact, it’s probably impossible for many. But it shouldn’t be your goal.
Instead, you need to highlight how your network is different and what it can offer users. Point out a specific niche or feature your platform has and capitalize on it.
Luckily, there are a variety of ways to do this, and many of them you are probably aware of:
- Advertise on existing social networks
- Buy advertisements around the internet (expensive but the results speak for themselves)
- Share your website in forums and on Q&A websites
- Utilize SEO friendly design
- Run giveaways and contests
- Make YouTube videos
These are all common marketing ideas, but they have a history of working, and you’re going to need each one of them to grow. Due to the importance of building a huge audience, you need to have a reasonable budget for your platform.
New Social Media Websites Need A Niche or Focus
This might sound counterintuitive to the idea of a social media platform, after all, your goal is to attract everyone to your platform. However, in 2022, the social media market is saturated. This means you need a niche to get a following.
Seriously, it is very difficult for a new social media platform to pop up unless they have a truly unique idea that separates itself from the competition. It’s also worth noting the number of resources it would take to support such an idea.
Let’s face it, it takes an incredible amount of server power to support millions of users. And that takes a lot of money.
A great example of this is TikTok. Yes, it rose to popularity overnight, but the platform was established in 2016. And they had recently merged with another company before they went global. They had a lot of resources at their disposal.
For this reason, your website needs a specific focus or niche to start with. Trying to directly compete with Facebook as the go-to social network or another established platform is impossible. And unless you have a team of developers on standby to design a unique platform, it’s going to pale in comparison.
Instead, trying to focus on a specific audience and slowly branching out is more likely to succeed.
Is There Any Room for the Little Guy?
After reading the last section, you may be wondering if there is even any point to try and build your own social network.
To be perfectly honest, there’s a much higher chance you will fail than succeed, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. It really comes down to the platform you envision. If it’s just an offshoot of an existing platform, you should probably not try.
Yet, if it’s a unique idea that no one else is doing, that’s definitely something worth pursuing.
As long as you build your social media platform in a scalable environment, you can find a lot of success. But you need to be realistic about it. The odds of your popularity exploding and your platform going viral are ridiculously low.
Be prepared to spend a lot of time perfecting your craft before you find success, but it’s definitely possible. Even if your website doesn’t take off, it’s entirely possible for another platform to buy your idea, which can be incredibly lucrative.
This guide has highlighted how to build a social media website using WordPress. It will certainly be a lot of work, but the demand for more social media networks is there, and if you have a creative twist, you can find success.
That said, starting out can be rough. You are competing with some of the biggest names on the internet. It won’t be easy and it could take years before you find a foothold. Yet, if you have an amazing idea, there’s definitely a chance for success.
Which plugins and themes did you use to build your website?