Social networks are not always a means to communicate with friends and share photos. Many companies use these platforms to popularize their brand, find business partners, and build business connections. When Reid Hoffman noticed this 17 years ago, he had a brilliant idea: “What if you create a social network for business?”
Thus, the idea of the social network LinkedIn was born, which for 16 years has grown to 600 million registered users (250 million active), more than 1.5 million groups, 13,000 employees and 2 billion dollars in revenue per year. From our guide, you will learn how the brainchild of Reed Hoffman became so popular and how to create a site similar to LinkedIn yourself.
Building blocks of a successful professional networkExperts identify three key functions that each successful social platform should have:
- Magnet. The social network should encourage participants to communicate and interact. And this should be active and regular participation (communication), and not exhibiting likes and repost.
- Bridges. The social network should provide an opportunity to share values and create an ecosystem where users can collaborate directly with each other.
- Matchmaking. The social network should bring together the consumer and the manufacturer in a certain way. For example, using filters or recommendation system.
Magnet. Encouraging users to actively and regularly interact depends on the needs of the participants and the professionalism of the developers. So, on LinkedIn, everyone can meet their needs:
- Companies can promote themselves, build professional connections with other companies or employees and find the best specialists.
- Job seekers can browse vacancies, communicate directly with employers and find good job opportunities.
- Employed employees can promote themselves as professionals, establish business connections and monitor the market.
Bridges (toolbar). To simplify the interaction between employers and applicants, the platform should provide a set of tools and rules for building bridges between them. LinkedIn builds such bridges with the following tools:
- Recruiters can use search filters, save search results, contact applicants or their previous employers using InMail, follow updates to the list of top candidates and do much more.
- Job seekers can search for jobs by job title, publication date, location, industry, company-specific, and other filters to narrow the results.
- In addition to these tools, LinkedIn has several extensions that help network members, for example, Linked Helper, Dux-Soup, Discoverly, Open Network, and others.
- Based on the participant’s personal data and search queries. This is a simple function that almost all sites have implemented, where there is a recommendation service.
- Based on in-depth neural networks. This feature is implemented, for example, by YouTube when recommending videos to users.
How to create a social network like LinkedInCreating a professional network is easy. Just select a name, connect hosting and download the appropriate WordPress theme. However, with this approach, your site is unlikely to become popular. Success will come only if you take the development seriously and will be ready to spend a lot of time and money. To simplify your path, we have highlighted some things that are crucial when starting LinkedIn-like sites.
The main value of the social networkThis may seem strange, but the development of the architecture and design of a successful platform should not begin with the tools or functionality. At the forefront should always be the core value of the platform. And before you start developing, you need to decide on this value.
In the case of social networks, such a value is a repeated interaction of the participants. For example, in the case of the Kickstarter site, this is financing various projects. Musicians, producers, moviemakers, bloggers or potato salad lovers can use this platform to search for money to realize their ideas.
To determine the core value of the project, you need to explore the target audience for which you are creating a site. And best of all, if it is not just employers and job seekers, but people and companies that for some reason do not use LinkedIn. Such people can be identified by examining successful LinkedIn competitors.
As you can see, each of the sites reviewed is focused on a specific target audience, which is more segmented than the LinkedIn audience. Kickstarter is focused on contacts between investors and investment projects (sometimes quite strange), Xing - on citizens of one country, AngelList - startups and their investors, Dribbble - designers.
Before creating a site like LinkedIn, consider what target audience you can rely on and what value your site can provide to these users.
The main functions and capabilities of the site
After you decide on the target audience and the main value of the site, focus on the functions and capabilities that ideally meet the needs of users. To do this, you need to highlight the problems of the target audience that your site has to solve, and also determine which functions and tools can do this.
Such functions can be divided into basic and specific. Basic should be present on all professional social networks and we will consider them on the example of the Afrine-oriented platform focused on Africa. This is not the best and not the worst platform, but simply an example, chosen at random.
User profiles in professional networks, such as LinkedIn, are crucial to help build and maintain relationships between members who share similar goals.
Profile must include:
- username, company;
- contacts and links to accounts on social networks;
- field to enter information about the account owner;
- image and other account personalization tools.
In Afrinection and LinkedIn, user profiles also contain biographical information and information about people’s education and experience, which helps employers to select the best candidate.
If you want to create a LinkedIn-like site, you also need to enable the creation of business profiles. These profiles will help employers present their companies, highlighting key information and highlighting its uniqueness, submit specific proposals and much more.
The platform for building business relationships should offer an advanced search, through which users can find the right person by entering a name, specialization, position or keyword. You can also specify the location and industry in the search engine.
Live chatNetwork members should be able to communicate with each other in real time. This will help companies interact with employees, customers and like-minded companies. At the same time, it is desirable to protect such communication so that third parties do not have access to confidential correspondence. This is especially important when using mobile applications, traffic from which can be quite easily intercepted.
News feedTo increase user engagement, social platforms use a news feed. This field (section), where there is a constant stream of content: news, videos, photos and articles. In LinkedIn, the feed offers popular and recommended (by previous actions and likes) news that meets the needs of a particular user: open vacancies or resumes of job seekers.
Interactive channelUsers should be able to create, upload and share various types of content, including texts, images, videos and articles. And they should have the opportunity to comment, like and repost this content, because this interaction creates an ecosystem that increases people's interest. The professional platform should also allow you to publish status updates. This will help recruiters to understand whether the applicant is free, and vice versa, whether the position is vacant.
Choose the right technology stackWhen you have an understanding of the core value, target audience and functionality of the platform, you should choose a technology stack. Social network can be created using a framework or content management system (CMS).
What is CMS?A content management system is software that allows you to create and manage websites without any programming or web design skills. In essence, this is a designer for managing and limited configuration of site templates, which are also called themes. With the help of CMS, you can also manage publications and indexing. To create social networks, Wordpress, Joomla, Magento, Drupal, Vbulletin and several other CMS are usually used.
What is a framework?It is a tool that facilitates the development of software solutions in comparison with coding directly in programming languages. The frameworks differ from CMS in that they allow you to create more unique solutions, but technical skills are required to manage these platforms. Examples of popular frameworks include Django, Bootstrap, Ruby on Rails, Express.js, and Backbone.js.
Which tool is better?The choice depends on your goals, objectives and opportunities. So, if you want to create a LinkedIn-like site, which will be focused on the informative functionality, you should consider the option of developing with the help of CMS. If you need a platform with a deeper study, a large number of functions and communication capabilities, then the choice should be made in favor of frameworks.
Business model of professional social networksSocial networks usually make money from advertising and selling statistics. You can also use these methods of earning, but the main focus should be on assistance in the selection of personnel. LinkedIn calls this service "talent solutions." This is a premium service that gives access to advanced search filters, smart suggestions (system recommendations) and tools for personnel priority. This service is available only to companies. Also LinkedIn earns on:
- Advertising and sponsored content that allows companies to present their services in professional news feeds.
- Premium membership, which allows participants to attend courses to improve their skills, connect with other members of the network through InMail and see who has studied their profiles.
How much is creating a site like LinkedIn costsThe cost of developing and deploying a professional social network varies depending on a number of factors, including type, functionality, design, and complexity. Thus, the development of a medium complexity platform can take up to 1600 hours:
- Documentation - 25 hours.
- Frameworks - up to 60 hours.
- UI / UX design - up to 120 hours.
- Interface development - up to 180 hours.
- Basic development - up to 960 hours.
- Testing - up to 250 hours.