Social Media Community Building 101 – The Starting Points

(This is part 2 of an on going series of posts on Social Media.  If you didn’t see my first post, in which I define Social Media is, I emplore you to start there  now.  All the posts in this series will be tagged “Social Media 101” so you can find them easily.)

Starting a new community is a fairly daunting task. In this post, I’ll point you to some initial steps that will help you along your way towards building a stable, sustainable and scalable platform that will make growth and success technologically possible.

First off, you have an important technology decision: are you going to roll your own from scratch, assemble pre-packaged systems, or look for a complete system that will fill your needs. Considerations:

  • Roll Your Own (think of custom coded PHP, ASP, Perl, Java, etc. solutions):- You need to be a competent coder.
    – Time to market will be longer.
    – You will have complete control over how your site works.
    – Your feature set at launch will probably be restricted.
    – Less spam issues, as you’re solutions will be one off, hence the packaged spam products will not know how to attack you.
      
  • Assembling Pre-packaged Systems (Think of WordPress/vBulletin integrations):-Again, you’re going to need to know how to code.
    -The possibility for system incompatibility, or problems with integration raises its ugly head.
    -You’ll most likely have a rich feature set when you launch, as you will be using fully developed software packages.
    -You’ll get spammed – even though the systems have anti-spam measures built in, you’re joining the anti-spam nuclear arms race.
     
  • Fully featured solutions (Think Drupal, Ektron, etc.):-Less coding needed, although you can expect that some code level customization will be required.
    -You can expect a standard type install will be fairly routine.
    -You’ll have a good feature set, although you have made some fairly major compromises along the way. No system will meet everyones needs completely.
    -Spam will be an issue just as with pre-packaged systems.

Some other key points to consider:

  • Is your solution scalable – will you be able to easily grow by adding more servers, etc. if your site takes off?
  • Are you going to plan to monetize?
    – If you are, think now about the topics you’ll cover.  Snark may be easy to produce, but it turns off the advertisers.   
    – If you aren’t, then think again…do you really want to pour your heart and soul into something that will never repay you?  
    -Have a plan, even if you aren’t sure when or if you’ll monetize.

Do Your Homework

Is there anyone else out there doing what you want to do?  How’s it going for them?  Get as much info as you can on them, setup Google searchs, watch Social Media sites for tweets, posts, etc. about them.  Then ask yourself this question: do I really want to compete with these guys?  Can I really compete with them? 

Part of your homework here is to do an honest business plan.  Think of it as a very basic roadmap for your business, and yes, your site should be managed as a business.  This will force you to do your analysis properly, and help you to better understand where you are and where you are going.  If you decide to try to get funding somewhere as a part of the process, you’ll be needing this anyways, but even if you don’t ever plan to take that step, do the plan.

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