Are you ready to dive into the exciting world of running your very own self-hosted social network for your business? It’s no secret that social media has taken over our, world and running one is extremely profitable. However, there are many challenges when it comes to running your very own.
Today, I will examine the pros and cons of using a self-hosted social media network for business.
You Need To Stand Out
The first thing you need to consider when building a social network is how it will be different from the existing ones. Let’s be honest, we have a lot of social networks on the internet, and that is not going to make it easy.
Wanna connect families and friends together? Facebook does this in spades.
Interested in building a video streaming website for visitors to share their creations? YouTube, Twitch, and even Facebook do this.
Want to create a platform to connect businesses with employees? LinkedIn has this covered well.
The list goes on and on. You need to come up with a way that differentiates your brand from the existing ones.
So the first question you need to ask is how is my social network different from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Reddit, etc. If you can’t answer this, you need to focus on doing so.
Pros of Using a Self-Hosted Social Media Network
There are many advantages to running your own social media network, and many of them are quite obvious. But, I’m sure there are a few that will surprise you.
1. Earning Potential
Social networks attract large user bases that interact and visit the site daily. And as a result, businesses want to advertise on those platforms. Thus, they are highly profitable.
In fact, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, is a great example of this. He is the fifth richest person in the world with a net worth of $72.9 billion. Now let’s have a reality check, not everyone will achieve this much success.
With that said though, the earning potential of a social network is still quite high. However, like most areas of the web, it is highly dependent on the amount of traffic your website receives.
2. Build Connections
Social networks are all about connecting people and businesses together. And as the platform doing this, it is only natural to form strong connections with other businesses.
As a new network, your best bet is to start small and try to make your website appeal locally (that’s what Facebook did). In fact, you might find a niche by building a platform to help small businesses connect with customers in their areas.
These ties will be extremely important as you grow, and you may even find investors amongst your connections.
3. Target an Audience and Build a Community
When starting out, you need to have a target audience and quickly move in the direction of what is working.
For example, Twitch is well-known for live streaming video games today, but it didn’t start out that way. Instead, it actually launched with several content categories. However, gaming was by far the most popular search. Thus the platform rebranded itself and focused almost entirely on gaming.
This is a prime example of zoning in on a specific niche and building the platform for this audience. Which has made Twitch a very successful entity and has built a community that many gamers visit every single day.
Your social network should follow a similar approach.
4. Create Sale Leads
Running a social network is a great way to create sales leads. People chat with each other, tell each other about the products they bought or heard about, and much more.
While your main focus is attracting other businesses to advertise to your user base, it is worth pointing out that you can advertise your own services and products. For example, let’s say you own a t-shirt business that allows customers to make their own unique clothing.
You could advertise this on your own social network, and unlike on other sites, you could reap the benefits of advertising on social media without having to pay for it. You do own it after all.
5. Users Create the Content
While there is certainly a lot more work that goes into a social network than meets the eye, one thing you don’t have to worry about is creating content. The users do that for you.
Also known as user-generated content, these are the posts, videos, photos and just about anything else your users create. This is interactable content that visitors will come to the site for, and you don’t need to do a single thing to create it.
Although, it will be your job to build a platform that allows this and attract the visitors that create the content.
6. You Could Get Bought Out
This may be a strange pro for some people, but let me make this case. If you create a really good idea and could sell it for a lot of money, would you?
In many cases, the answer is yes, as long as the price is right. And a perfect real-world example of this is Instagram. In 2012, Facebook purchased Instagram for a modest 1 billion dollars.
It was a bold new idea that had a tremendous amount of potential, and instead of facing it as competition, Facebook simply bought it. And this type of buyout is very likely to continue, as it happened again with Amazon and Twitch.
So your idea may appeal to the right company, which could be a major payday.
7. Your Platform, Your Rules
Many people have begun to feel that social media platforms have become overly strict on what can and cannot be posted.
For example, it’s quite common to lose your entire Twitter account without even being given a reason. As a user or business, you have no option but to comply.
However, now you can set the rules. In fact, you might just find a niche by allowing more thought-provoking posts onto your platform. Just remember advertisers may not be too keen to purchase ad space if it goes against their company values.
Cons of Using a Self-Hosted Social Media Network
With the good, comes the bad. And as such, there are plenty of disadvantages associated with running your own self-hosted social network.
1. Hard To Compete
Let’s be perfectly honest, the social media market is very competitive. And companies like Facebook and Twitter have billions of dollars at their disposal to compete with each other.
On top of this, and probably even more important, social media users have made these platforms a part of their daily lives. In just the United States, 79% of the population used a social network in 2019. And in many cases, they are a daily visitor to their platform of choice.
Thus, there is very little room for a new social network to fit into the mix. Especially without a lot of resources.
2. Established Brands
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms are household names and have most of the market in their pockets.
For example, Facebook is the king of social media with 2.5 billion monthly users. It helps connect families, friends, and businesses together and most people, especially in the 18-34 age group, already have an account.
Thus, if you want to connect with a friend, you are going to use Facebook instead of an unknown site. And this is true for every other social media hub, which is problematic for any new social network.
3. In Charge of Personal Information
Social networks collect a lot of information on their users, and this is sought after by many people around the world. This is a huge responsibility, and to handle it, you will need top-level security.
And no, this really isn’t as simple as just turning on a security plugin and calling it a day. While those are effective on a small to medium scale website, a social network is very different. Even Facebook struggles with keeping information safe from hackers, and that’s with billions of dollars behind them.
You’re going to need knowledge and resources to properly secure your user’s information. Or at the very least, hire someone to do it for you.
4. It’s Expensive
Let’s just say you beat the odds and find a lot of early success with your website. Well, the more traffic your website receives, the more resources your web server will need. Thus, your hosting plan price is going to soar.
Security is not cheap either, not to mention all of the other things you are going to need to be on the lookout for like advertising your new network. Word has to get out somehow, and it won’t be free.
Now I know what your thinking, “but you said in the pros this is extremely profitable.” Let me assure you, it is, but it is only so profitable because these companies have the resources and supplies already. Setting up is very different than just operating.
5. It’s Going to Take Time
Many people mistake years of planning and preparation as overnight successes. For example, Facebook is often thought of as one of these events, and it is easy to mistake why. It did grow really fast after all.
However, that is not the truth of the matter. In reality, it took founders of Facebook 6 years to properly develop the platform. And this was when there was barely any competition (RIP Myspace).
In a post-Facebook world, the idea that a new self-hosted social network can come along and see instant success is ridiculous. Expect the process to take years if you are serious about it.
It may even take months to just reach a break-even point.
6. Prepare to Moderate
While you can say a lot of things and share a lot of photos and videos on social networks, there are rules. And as a platform trying to attract companies for advertisement, you need to make sure your network is “clean.”
And if you are unaware that this happens, Facebook actually has a small army of 7,500 moderators who look at posts and decide if they are appropriate.
Let’s be perfectly honest, people post and say things on social media that simply shouldn’t be. And let’s be even more honest, if a company is advertising on a page where a lot of profanity or nudity is present, get ready to lose that company as an advertiser.
Make sure your platform is safe for both users and businesses.
7. You Need to Actually Build A Platform
While there are many CMS that allow you to build a social network, the only way to be successful is to actually build a unique platform.
This requires a lot of work. For example, look no further than Facebook. If you have some coding experience, take a moment and think about how many lines of code goes into the operation of Facebook.
61 million lines of code that all need to work in conjunction with each other.
That is not something that can be done easily and certainly not quickly. But if you want your platform to stand out, following a cookie-cutter template is not an option.
It Is A Lot of Work
On a surface level, building a social network seems pretty simple. Build a platform that allows visitors to interact with each other through text, videos, and photos and allow companies to advertise on your site.
However, this is way simpler than it sounds. Just building a platform is difficult in and of itself, not to mention expensive. On top of that, you need to protect all of that precious user information you will be collecting.
Again, it’s not easy. And it’s certainly not cheap.
The hardest part is something any website owner understands; you have to attract visitors. Yes, believe it or not, these social media sites invest billions every year to attract and retain audiences. Starting a social network is anything but simple, however, it is extremely rewarding.
What steps have you taken, or plan to take, to build a social network? Are you planning on using a CMS to build a platform on or to create your very own?