Aviva Directory » Computers & Internet » Software » Internet & Intranet » Social Network

The focus of this category is on software designed to operate a social network, like Facebook or MySpace, although not necessarily on so large a level.

Although online forums are social networks, forum scripts are listed in a separate category. Social networks themselves are not listed in this category either, as they would be found in the Social Media category or one of its subcategories.

The resources listed in this category are to software and scripts that can be used to power a social network. Rather than participating in Facebook or one of the existing online communities, some people want to start their own, and that's what this category is about.

The software referenced here is not necessarily intended to produce a social network exactly like Facebook or one of the others, but to serve the same or a similar purpose.

An online community can be large or small, broadly based or centered around a particular cause, issue, activity, or geographical area. Anyone who wants a Facebook account is welcome to join that social network, and some of the software listed here could be used to create an alternative network based on a similar business model, but a social network might also be restricted to members of a local book club, church, or school. A network might also be targeted to members of a particular religion, political party, profession, age bracket, or even to people who share an interest in a sport or activity.

Most people are not going to have what it takes to go head to head with Facebook, in competition for a general audience. Indeed, Facebook itself began as a social network for students of Harvard College, then expanded to other universities, and then to high schools, before opening itself to the general public in 2004.

To attract members and keep them coming back, a social network should have a clear purpose in their lives, and in order for it to survive long-term, it should have a means of support. Before starting a new social network, three questions should be asked: What type of community do I want to build? Why am I building it? Who am I building it for?

The answers to these questions might change as the years go by, and that's a good thing because successful communities should keep pace with the changing needs of their members and owners. Change may be stressful, but it's often a good thing.

These questions should be answered before you even go out looking for software because the answers might help you determine which platform is going to work best for you.

As might be expected, not all social network software is created equal, although common features are those that you would see in Facebook or other social networking sites. Of course, the software will support memberships and user profiles, and most of them will include options for groups, private messages, and the ability to share photos and videos. Although some use different names for it, the idea of having a friends list is common. Many of them support the embedding of video, which does not first have to be uploaded to Youtube, and discussion forums are commonly seen.

Other member features may, or may not, include activity feeds, facilities for inviting friends, notifications, chat, member-defined calendars or activities, user blogs, polls, and quizzes. Some of them allow members to vote or to vouch for other members, which may be used for promotions or rewards, depending on the options chosen by the administrator.

On the administrative end, many of these applications are theme-based or template-based, and administrators are usually able to tweak these themes or otherwise control the look and feel of the social networking site. Various statistics and report functions are likely to be available to the administrators and, optionally, to members as well.

Of course, administrators will have control over various membership options. Membership might be by invitation only or by open registration, with security measures built-in. Most of these applications will give administrators optional control over most aspects of the social networking site, including the ability to remove members' posts or blog entries, approving or revoking memberships, and so on.

Gamification features are included in some of the listed programs, ranging from the inclusion of online games to various ways of encouraging and rewarding activity on the site through the issuance of activity points, e-gifts, privileges, and promotions, which may be tied to participation in site activities or to votes awarded by other members.

Several of the software packages listed here will optionally support multiple languages.

Most of the programs offer support for the monetization of the social network, which may include membership subscriptions, payment for extra privileges or members-only areas of the site, as well as for ad campaigns. If so, then a payment gateway will be included.



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