1. Identify your target audience
Who are you targeting -- specifically? To help answer this question, think about the target age, gender, interest, and geographic location of who you want to u se your new site.
Remember, social networkers are already busy on sites like Facebook, MySpace, Digg, and others, so the average person probably won’t add a “general” social networking site to their agenda. So, choose a niche and identify the relevant audience so you can stand out.
Once you know who you are targeting, figure out how many people are in your target audience and might be interested in your site. To do this, think about keyword searches this audience might do to find sites like yours, and then check out keyword search volume on Google and research data on sites like Measuring digital performance for 15 years and the power of competitive intelligence. You should also visit Stumbleupon, go to groups, and find out how many people subscribe to the group or groups related to your topic.
2. Beta test – thoroughly
Social networkers have choices, and they definitely don’t have the time or willingness to deal with problems. So before you launch, you need a really strong beta site that’s been tested and tested and tested. And tested one more time for good measure. If you have the budget, consider private or third-party testing – not only will they do a thorough job, but they may notice problems that over time you’ve come to ignore. The easiest way to turn off a potential customer is to deliver a sub-par experience.
In addition testing the user experience, be sure to include server and load testing: When sites go down, visitors are turned off and leave, most likely for good.
Remember that social media users as a group tend to be more technically savvy, and as a result, more likely to bail on you if they’re unsatisfied. The bottom line is that you’ll want to have your site in top shape before driving traffic to it.