Everyone thinks of Mark Zuckerberg when the phrase social network comes up. Although replicating Facebook is no easy task, there are ways to create your own social network for your business or product (without the risk of being sued!).Before you dismiss the idea because it sounds “too difficult,” consider what a social network is. A great definition is provided by Dictionary.com: A social network is simply an online community of people with a common interest who use a website or other technologies to communicate with each other and share information, resources, etc.
Understanding Your Market
Before attempting to establish a social platform, it is highly recommended that you have a clear understanding of your product or business’ position in the market. Without a true understanding of your identity, your marketing efforts will not be effective. There are thousands of ways to analyze your business and gain deeper insight. A recommended strategy is the SWOT/TOWS matrix. Understanding your target audience is just as important. One of the most important questions you should be considering is where your target audience gets their information. Knowing their content consumption habits will help you create a social network that is relevant and useful to your consumer.
Protecting Your Intellectual Property
Determine the reason that you are starting a social network. Maybe you have developed a really unique product that you are trying to market online. Before you do so, be sure that your product is patented. This is crucial to the survival of your product and business. If you are advertising how great this product is without a patent, any other online user may swoop in, patent the product before you, and claim it as their own. Define what your end goal is in creating a social network. Here are a few common considerations:
- Recognition and Brand Exposure: If you have developed a product in a micro-niche, then you are more than likely establishing this platform to bring more recognition to your industry.
- Lead Generation: Social networks can also serve to broaden your niche and bring in more business from other related niches. By bringing in businesses from similar verticals (not direct competitors) you can establish referral business.
- Educational Resource: Your social network can also serve as a tool to educate your audience, as well as serve to establish yourself as an authority in the field.
Developing Your Network
After finishing insight analysis, there should be a clearer understanding of your product, competitors, and audience. Based off this information, you can determine which social platform is best suited to achieve your business goals. Common social platforms exist in these channels:
- Chat Rooms
- Media Sharing
- Bookmarking Sites
Networks can also be divided by category or interest. Here are some examples:
- Social Connections: Facebook, Twitter
- Multimedia Sharing: YouTube, Flickr
- Professional: LinkedIn, Classroom 2.0,
- Educational: The Math Forum, ePALS School Blog
- Informational: HGTV Informational Forum, Do-It-Yourself Community
- Academia: Academia.edu, SagePub
- Hobbies: Pinterest, SportShouting
Although these are all different channels and types of social media, there will be commonalities and overlap among the services. Finding the version of the social network that works best for you will depend on your business needs and goals.