Three tips to build a start-up social network


Given Facebook, Twitter and now Snap’s billion dollar initial valuations, it may seem like easy money to build a social network from scratch. But there’s nothing simple about it.

Once the poster child of internet innovation, the social media industry is now a crowded space. And it’s difficult to stand out when there’s social networks for almost everything.

Culture, religion, dating, you name it; there’s a social network for it. And if the consumer-based social networks aren’t enough, there’s even companies out there that help enterprises build their own internal social networking tools.

The average Australian has around five active social media accounts, with the latest data from the Sensis social media report adding that Australians spend in excess of 30 minutes a day updating all of them. Many would argue we’ve hit the social peak.

But as the rise of SnapChat and Instagram shows, there’s always room for more social networks and consumers are happy to adopt them as long as they see a clear use case for the new product.

From our experiences building a social platform, here’s three tips for founders considering starting their own network.

1. Have a niche and a purpose

Before you even start building a network, think about what purpose it would serve. There’s no room on the internet for a Facebook or Twitter clone.

The smartest idea here would be to look at future technology trends and build a platform that leverages or encompasses one of them.

It’s also worth remembering that you don’t have to re-invent the wheel here. Some of the most successful social networks take the most traditional ways of communications and tweak them for effect. Twitter limited the number of characters per message. SnapChat allows users to communicate via photos with filters.

In the social media space, usability and user experience is crucial. If your idea is too complex, then it will translate into a platform that will be arcane to the average internet user.

2. Target influencers and be global from the get-go

So, you have an idea, and an initial platform. So, how do you get others to take notice of you?

If you look back at the growth of social media, it’s traditionally revolved around influencers. One of the real perks of these tools is that it enables users to learn more about the people they admire.

So, when building your network, consider an influencer strategy from the get-go. It won’t win over all of your users, but it should help leverage some early adopters that — if your platform is easy to use and unique and edgy enough — will act as brand advocate and encourage their friends to join your site.

Also, while you should focus your site on one region at a time, you shouldn’t limit it by geography. Part of the perks of a social networking business is that it’s only held back by a few factors including language. Other than that, it can grow both organically, and globally.

3. Don’t be afraid to leverage other social networks

Another simple and useful method to further promote your platform is to leverage the huge number of users on other networks.

Ensure that posts or communications on your social network can be ported across to Facebook or one of the other major platforms. If given the option, your users will naturally promote their content to the widest audience possible — and in turn promote your platform.

One of the ways users manage several platforms at once is cross-posting from one platform to another. For example, posting Instagram photos on Facebook. Enabling this functionality should help you grow your network exponentially and put it in front of as many eyeballs as possible.


About the author

Issy Livian is the co-founder of HearMeOut, an audio-based social network platform. Founded in 2014, the Israeli-based company was listed on the ASX at the end of 2016 and launched in the US in March, this year.