How to Create a Popular Website Like Facebook

By Shea Laverty

A man is designing his website on a board.
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Social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter earned fame and fortune for their creators, which makes social networking an appealing opportunity for budding entrepreneurs. While there's no guarantee your site will become as popular as Facebook, the right planning and marketing can make your site a hub for social networking.

Identify Your Audience

Start by identifying your audience and determine the kind of social network you're building before you begin. Decide whether its membership will be limited or focused on people in a certain location, organization, profession, hobby or sport. Even if your plan is to build a social hangout for everyone, clearly define what you want from the network.

Develop a Brand

Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn and Google Plus are all social networks with brand recognition. Each site carefully identified and developed its brand so that you instantly recognize it when you see it. Building a brand will benefit your social network. A catchy name that relates to your network's intended audience and a distinct look contribute to your brand.

Obtain a Web Host

Setting up a social network requires some capital and technical know-how. Secure Web hosting and domain services from a reliable provider. While free hosting is available, the sites may lack support for a hosted database or file transfers so that data can be moved from your computer to the host's servers. Free Web hosting may not support the addition of features added by programming languages like PHP -- features that can give your site additional functionality.

Build the Site

After you secure a domain and a Web host, begin building the site. Content management systems like WordPress, Ghost, Drupal, Statamic and Perch are useful tools for building websites and blogs, and they come with numerous add-ons that may be useful for your site. The features you add and the expected building-difficulty level depend entirely on which CMS platform you choose -- each is designed with different user-experience levels and capabilities in mind. Your decision may be limited based on your choice of Web host, as some features may be limited or unavailable.

Promote Your Site

For your website to thrive, you'll need to build a solid membership. If your social network is based on a special interest, reach out to forums and community websites for these interests and promote your site. Add a brief description and a link in forum signatures, comment on blog and article posts advertising your network and look for similar groups on existing networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter where you can recruit. Contact the webmasters for sites whose memberships fit in with your network and establish an association. If you feel the benefits outweigh the costs, take out paid ads on other websites to generate support.

Find Technical Support

Building a solid social networking platform is a daunting task, especially for beginners. Most large-scale social networks and websites have IT departments dedicated to keeping everything running smoothly, but your small startup will likely lack the resources for a full IT staff. Any IT-savvy friends who are experienced in Web development are useful resources for technical difficulties. Look online for additional resources; most of the CMS systems have active communities and online documentation that can be useful for specific problems.