When I first created the AC Writers social network on Ning, I was afraid to invite people. Did you ever spend hours planning for a party, decorating, making just the right foods, and then worry that nobody would come?
That is sort of what happened with me. I spent many hours tweaking the front page, learning as I went. I sacrificed my writing time to try and figure out the different modules and how to work them. I let the network sit for about a week, with more tweaking, before I actually announced its existence.
Slowly, over the past month or so, the social network has more than 80 members. Like all social networks, some members are more active than others. But isn’t that the appeal of a social network? that you can go to it on your terms, when you have the time.
After only a month, I have learned some valuable things about creating and operating a successful social network. I will share them, here, for anyone who is considering creating their own.
- Set the Stage of the Social Network
The initial design and contents of the site are the first things you should set up on your social network. Be diligent, but be flexible. Play around with the platform test the features, and see how well and how quickly they work.
- Send the Invitations Right Away
A social network is not so much about the features on the site, as it is about the people. Without members, the coolest and most well-designed site is nothing. Even if the front page isn’t perfect, or there is something missing, start inviting people. Get the ball rolling. There will be time later on to modify the site. In fact, the site is better when modified base on user needs, so it makes sense to modify as you go.
Invite people you know will be active, and interested, to get the party started.
- Welcome New Members
I don’t think any of my members consciously got my visual joke (in my photo I am wearing a white shirt, a la Tom at MySpace), but that’s okay. Whenever there is a new member, I try to sent a somewhat personalized welcome message, even if it is very short. Another way to successfully manage your social media network is to look for things on how you will be recognized and noticed. You can buy instagram likes so your profile can have its credibility. There are some services online that allow you to have this competitive advantage.
- Update Dated Content
When the social network includes dated material, be sure to update it when needed. Nobody wants to keep reading about something that ended last week.
- Add Fresh Content
Update the social network with fresh content. If the forum seems a little slow, go in an add content to get people involved.
- Include RSS Feeds, Photos and Videos
RSS feeds are your best friend, social network creator. The news feeds included keep fresh content on the site all the time. Photos and videos add a personal element to the social network, and makes members feel involved.
- Be Responsive
In the beginning, it is easy to be responsive to members and their questions. As the social network grows, it may become more difficult. Create a FAQ or place to find technical support.
- Use Broadcast Messages Infrequently
Don’t worry, the members know where and how to find you. Sending weekly or daily greetings of no consequence can be annoying to some. If there issomething that everyone needs to read, post it prominently on the site.
- Be the Moderator
It is your job as the creator of the social network to moderate the activity. At the very least you may want to moderate to keep out spammers. Most social networks members moderate themselves and each other in some way. Sometimes you need to let situations play other. Other times, you need to issue gentle reminders of civility. Don’t be afraid to step in when and if you need to.
- Have Fun
The whole point of a social network is to have fun, learn and socialize with other like-minded folks, right? So in the midst of running the social network, try to have some fun too.