How to Create a Social Network Web Site for Free

By Deborah Cohn

Are you a big fan of social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, but find their communities getting a bit unwieldy? Perhaps you have a specific purpose for gathering people together - a club, a fan site, a professional organization. Or maybe your friends and family are scattered around different social networking sites and you'd like to bring them altogether.Good news. You can build your own social networking web site -- for free. There are a number of companies that are offering web space and site-building tools for this exact purpose. The most popular of these services is Ning. This article will tell you about Ning's service and give you the steps you need to start your network.

Step 1

Ning lets site-builders create a basic social networking site in just minutes, with a few simple clicks. And it gives builders a choice of add-on features such as member registration, photos and music, blogs, forums, groups, RSS and rich media. You can use Ning's template and themed layouts, or design your own page. The first step you will take is to head to the Ning homepage and sign up for the service to create your personal network.

Step 2

You'll be asked to name your community. Make sure it reflects the purpose of your group, and that your target audience will be able to find it easily and remember the name.

Step 3

The site itself will take you through all the steps involved in the actual build. Features mentioned above like music and video, community calendars , RSS and more can are added with a simple drag-and-drop function.

Step 4

Once you finish your basic build and choose your features, you'll move on to setting up moderation. As the moderator, you can choose to make the site as private or public as you choose. You can restrict access to the network itself, and even within the network, you can choose which features your members will be allowed to access and modify.

Step 5

If you stop now, you will have a fairly robust social networking site. But if you want to go further in designing your look and feel, or add more functionality to the site, Ning has some more advanced tools for your use. You can customize color and appearance, add CSS (cascading style sheets), add widgets, and more.

Step 6

Once your site is built out and launched, it's time to invite people to join your network, publicize your site, and give a shout-out to the web world that you are open for business. Let the adventure begin!