With global feelings of isolation triggered by national lockdowns and social distancing, social media sites in 2021 have never been so prevalent – with 43% of internet users spending more time than usual on social media.
These platforms are occasionally criticized for attracting too much of our attention. Still, they have plenty of connectivity to offer, allowing us to share our passions, interests, and connect with friends, relatives, and colleagues. Now more than ever, it’s essential to lean on our social support systems and to find a sense of community.
Social media has even greater uses for businesses selling, advertising, and boosting brand awareness.
But have you considered taking it one step further?
Suppose you’re a business owner looking to establish a community around your products and services. You could create your own social media site. Of course, you’re not looking to replace Facebook! Rather, by offering social media functionality on your website, you’ll engage more closely with your own niche audience.
Unlike in Mark Zuckerberg’s day, you don’t have to work on a complicated web development system in your university dorm room anymore. Instead, WordPress.com makes it possible for anyone to establish a social media network from scratch.
Curious? In this article, we’ll discuss how to create a social media website in 2021.
How to Create a Social Media Website: Consider Your Target Audience
Before diving into any technicalities, let’s look at existing types of social networks and the functions they fulfill. Hopefully, this will provide some much-needed inspiration and get you thinking about the kind of functionalities that would appeal to your target demographic:
Twitter is well-known as the go-to “micro-blogging” platform for discussions and ongoing conversations. Anyone can join in the trending dialogue, Tweet their content, and make their opinions public in real-time. It’s an excellent network for anyone looking to advocate their ideas or engage in witty conversations.
LinkedIn is a social site specifically designed for professionals wanting to network with other professionals. You can advertise job postings (or apply for them), share and read the latest industry news, and expand your professional network.
User profiles focus on professional achievements, like their employment and education history, and unsurprisingly, LinkedIn is incredibly functional, with a conservative color scheme.
Institutional Social Network Sites
Many large institutions and university campuses have their own social networks and restrict who can access the system, keeping the number of users low. These kinds of internal networks are often explicitly created so that users can discuss topics relevant to their shared experience. As such, these platforms are usually very purposeful in their front-end design, focusing on sharing information, keeping everyone up-to-date, and creating a place where feedback can be given and acted upon.
Although IMDb isn’t your standard social network, it still enables its users to find people and learn about their achievements. It focuses less on active discussion or meeting people and more on empowering users to explore a shared passion together: movies! Here, users can create watchlists and share their favorite films and shows.
Whether or not you’re a fan of dating apps like Tinder, you can’t deny that they have connected people over the years. These kinds of social media apps usually encourage you to create a profile about yourself and what you’re looking for in a partner so that other users can get to know you. From there, you can get in touch with suitable candidates to see if there’s a spark.
Other social networks are all about showing off various forms of media. There’s SoundCloud for audio, Artstation for professional artists in the entertainment industry, and of course, Instagram. Instagram allows you to present your photos with appealing filters and share them with the world. It comes with a scrollable layout. It’s easy to follow your friends and influencers. Within seconds, you can find images and videos that interest you by using hashtags.
Aim for a Niche
Now we’ve reviewed some of the most popular social media niches. It’s time to think about your own social media network’s target audience.
Who’s your social media platform for? How will it benefit your audience?
If any of your intentions match the networks listed above, you can take inspiration from their design. Look for similar social networking platforms in your niche and think about what works for them, and more importantly…what doesn’t. What could you do better? And, of course, consider how much competition already exists in your chosen niche.
Pro Tip: To begin with, aim small. Don’t try to reach the entirety of the internet when there’s little common ground for them to use your social media. Sites like Facebook have a monopoly where the world’s general social media needs are concerned. So, focus on your niche and your small slice of the social media pie.
As you continue to lay the foundations of your social networking website, be sure to consider how:
- Your target demographic engages with social media content
- Your target demographic prefers engaging with one another online
With these considerations at the forefront of your mind, you’re more likely to keep your platform and its content niche-specific, which works wonders for better engaging and appealing to users.
Pro Tip: As your network evolves, so will your audience, which will involve responding to user feedback, performing A/B testing, and being open to change as new requirements or pain points present themselves.
How to Create a Social Media Website – Functionality
Once you’ve decided on a niche and worked out who your target audience is, you’ll need to consider what your social networking website will do for them. Eventually, this will accumulate into your social site’s functionality, which may include aspects like:
- User profiles
- News feeds and/or activity streams
- Search bars
- File sharing
- Live video streaming
Primarily, will your site be defined by its user base? Or is there one “killer feature” that encompasses the majority of your platform? Once you’ve picked a core functionality, it’s easier to identify the necessary features to complement your setup.
For example, think about how Twitch has built a whole social site around live streaming and video. Or how Facebook brings together communities through features like groups and pages. What unique feature will you offer users to entice them into signing up?
How to Create a Social Media Website – The Development Process
Now that we’ve laid the majority of the groundwork, one significant matter remains: developing a functional social network.
But, before you can create anything, having a clear idea of your needs is imperative. To help you hone in on that, consider the following:
- How much will you spend on this project? What about scalability? Can you predict whether you’ll invest in more functionality later down the line?
- How will active users access your social platform? Will your network be web-based, or do you also require a mobile app (Android and iOS)?
- What will your traffic and hosting costs be? The more activity you anticipate, the more you should expect to spend on secure and high-performing web hosting.
- Will you be handling sensitive user data? The privacy of your users is an essential consideration and a legal requirement in many jurisdictions. How will you ensure your site is GDPR compliant? How will you protect email addresses and passwords?
- How will you provide customer service? Are you working alone? Or, will you have a team ready to respond to customer support tickets?
Once you’ve answered the questions above, the most important thing that remains is choosing the right platform for building your social network website. If you have a considerable budget, you could hire a development team to work with you. That said, the more affordable and easier route to creating a social media website is to use WordPress.
This is where WordPress.com comes into its own. This solution is a highly popular and customizable website builder and content management system. You don’t need any coding skills or knowledge of programming languages to set up your own social media network.
Plus, WordPress.com takes care of web hosting and security for you. All you need to do is sign up and choose a plan that best suits your requirements.
Pro Tip: If you’re serious about creating a social media site, you’ll need to opt for WordPress.com’s plugin-enabled plan. These packages enable you to start installing plugins that provide social media functionality.
So, let’s look at the plugins available with WordPress.com that will take you closer to the social media website finish line.
P2 makes it easy to set up a collaboration platform with its basic social networking features, including mentions, file sharing, decision-making tools, and much more.
BuddyPress is a free, open-source software package that you can integrate with WordPress.com to create your dream social media network site. Its functionality is impressive, enabling you to build a solid base for any social media platform.
BuddyPress enables you and your users to:
- Create and update user profiles
- Send messages to each other.
- Add and remove friends.
- Form and join groups
- Create blogs
- Participate in forum discussions
Similar to BuddyPress, BuddyBoss also lets you create a social network website using WordPress.com. Where it differs is that BuddyBoss is a closed-source, standalone plugin. If you don’t have lots of technical know-how, BuddyBoss is a more straightforward solution for you. It’s ready to use out of the box, so you don’t have to start from scratch.
If your social media needs are more straightforward, bbPress might be the right choice. It’s an open-source forum software designed to integrate with WordPress.com. bbPress is reasonably simple to use and was created to be as light and fast as possible, so rest assured, it won’t affect your site’s performance. What’s more, the tool comes with customizable templates and plenty of extensibility.
How to Create a Social Media Website – Templates and Design
Once you’ve set up your social media website’s basic functionality, the next concern is how you’ll design it. Visual appeal is significant when it comes to the success of any social network. So how can you create a sleek-looking site without compromising on useability or UX?
First off, you’ll need to consider all the elements of your social media site that need designing, for instance:
- Use profile features
- Chat buttons and windows
- News feeds and activity streams. What options should there be for viewing and filtering content? Popular? Last 24 hours? Last week? Etc.
- Engagement buttons (Share, like, reactions, etc.)
- Comments sections
The level of design flexibility you enjoy regarding many of the above hinges on your chosen plugins.
However, when it comes to the general design of your WordPress.com site, you can brand and make it your own using the intuitive drag and drop editor. Picking a color palette and the fonts for your site is a breeze.
Pro Tip: Ensure your visual identity is consistent across your site and represents the feel and function of the type of social media network you’re going for!
LinkedIn is a good example. They famously use conservative blues and greys for most of their website, giving the network a credible and trustworthy fee. Instagram, on the other hand, brands itself with vibrant, nearly rainbow-like colors.
How to Create a Social Media Website – Marketing
Even the greatest social media site would go unnoticed without successful marketing.
Yes, established social networks have the most influence, and competing with them can be difficult. But suppose you’re targeting a very specific niche. In that case, it’s easy to optimize your marketing strategy to appeal to and engage with your particular demographic.
Your SEO Strategy
Search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial to any website’s success. Not only will this strengthen your inbound marketing, but it also makes it easier for new audience members to find your site organically.
There are many ways you can aim to rank higher in search engine results. But, the most effective way is to optimize your web pages for keywords relevant to your niche. Ideally, these keywords will boast lots of monthly searches without too much competition. On top of that, be sure to use internal links throughout your website content to create a credible net – this is another thing search engine algorithms like to see.
Pro Tip: Google provides a Starter Guide on creating an SEO strategy that’s certainly worth checking out.
Email Marketing and Lead Generation
Email is predicted to remain one of the most effective marketing methods in 2021…and with some ROI’s coming in at nearly 4,000%, it’s no wonder.
Typically, email marketing is associated with lead generation. First, you need to drive traffic to an attractive-looking landing page where there’s a sign-up form. Here, visitors can opt into your mailing list. To encourage people to subscribe, why not give away a freebie like an eBook to entice prospects to sign up?
Then, once you’ve got an email list, you can send valuable information, updates, and promotions. This works wonders for slowly building their interest in your brand and, hopefully, converting them into long-term users.
Promote on Other Social Networks
If you already have a social media following, why not create and execute a social media marketing campaign? You could post about your new social media site’s progress, spotlight new and unique features, and provide incentives like competitions and giveaways to encourage potential users to visit and sign up.
Create an Invite System
Make it easy for existing users to invite their friends to join in the fun. A simple invite system enables your audience to grow organically. You just need a shareable invite link that guides new users through the sign-up process.
Last but not least, paid ads still have a place in marketing strategies. While inbound marketing is great, it usually takes a long time for it to bear fruit. In contrast, paid ads can be a great way of garnering immediate interest.
How to Create a Social Media Website – Monetization
First and foremost, social media networks are all about community. But there are also ways to generate revenue:
You could display banner ads on your site, so that when your website visitors view and click these ads, you get paid. Installing ads isn’t tricky, either, when you use systems like AdSense. Alternatively, you could use WordPress.com’s own advertising platform, WordAds, a program that features ads from networks like Google, Facebook, AOL, and more, etc.
Selling Products or Services
If you’re not selling products or services yet, your own social media network might be a great way to kickstart your first online sales. Not only will you already have an audience to market to, but WordPress.com provides a user-friendly way of integrating with online checkouts and eCommerce platforms like WooCommerce.
You might want to consider a more direct form of engagement by getting your audience together online or in ‘real life’ – perhaps with a seminar, a simple networking opportunity, or a large-scale conference. Either way, you can charge an entry price to make a little profit after your setup costs.
Suppose your users love your social media site and have found an active community there. In that case, you might be surprised by how willing they are to support you financially. Accepting donations is an excellent way of making a little money on the side of your social network. WordPress.com even has a ‘donations‘ content block that you can easily insert into your content to start accepting donations. You just drag the block and drop it wherever you want it to appear on your web page.
Charging for Access to More Advanced Features
This is a common strategy utilized by all kinds of social media sites and apps, such as LinkedIn. When you upgrade to LinkedIn Premium, you unlock access to extra features like seeing who’s viewed your profile and LinkedIn’s learning courses. Using WordPress.com’s premium content blocks or other third-party plugins, you could charge a subscription fee where users gain access to more sophisticated features or extra content on your site.
Are You Ready to Create Your Own Social Media Site?
Building a social media website doesn’t have to be complicated. Using a flexible and intuitive platform like WordPress.com, you can utilize out-of-the-box plugins that enable you to easily add social media functionality to your website. Whether you’re a blogger looking to establish a community around a niche or a startup hoping to better engage its customers, offering social media features will pay dividends.
Remember, there are many well-established social networks out there that already cater to mass audiences. Find what’s unique to your niche audience, and give them a chance to engage in a small, dedicated community. This is the secret to creating a successful social media network.
We hope we’ve answered all your questions about how to create a social media website in 2021. Try out WordPress.com today by signing up for a free account!