Private Social Networks Research

Private Social Networks Research

Context: I’ll be using the format of a PRD (product requirements doc) of what a private social media I have in mind would look like.

🌱 Introduction

There is no platform out there focusing on deepening and continuing your closest relationships (family, partner, and close friends). Social networks and social media have diverged from their original goal of keeping loose connections so much that now most social media is anchored on reaching new audiences and growing a following. There needs to be a product that exists that is a closed social network for only you and your closest relationships.

💡 Insights & References

These are three main insights I’ve observed that informed this idea.

  1. The rise of tiny internets: digital spaces on the internet that are fun, unique, creative, vibrant, and/or cozy.
    1. Examples of this phenomenon

      🪟 wall of windows:

      • pictures that directly populate into the website from his camera roll which shows more “real-time” & personal things

      📝 Lists that capture favorite things

      • people want to share & document something that’s meaningful & important to them to others. This has been seen through something like documenting and ranking cafes all around the world

      🌱 A digital “guest book”

      • A way to capture & forever document the people who have “visited” your website.

      📚 Digital Bookshelfs

      • using tumblr templates to create a digital bookshelf in order to document & organize what they’ve consumed

      🎧: embedding playlists/favorite songs into websites

      • You can now really easily embed songs and playlists from spotify into websites & notion pages
    2. This shows that people want ways to further express themselves so much so that they build their own solutions to this on their personal websites.
  2. People want spaces that are more authentic, intimate, and casual
  1. Fragmented Online Identities across various social networks: the various use case of different online ecosystem encourages the fragmentation of people’s online identities. ie. finsta’s, people having a cooking Instagram and a “main” Instagram.
  • The need for an aggregate link in bio websites like Linktree, Beacons, and Jemi (worked here previously) because people have so many different accounts.
  • Many people use these side accounts as personal diaries. They are often private accounts (ie. private finsta’s on Instagram).

✨ Required outcome

To even build just an MVP there needs to be:

  • Closed social network, you can’t publicly share this.
  • Only you and your closest relationships can have access.
  • There needs to be a “medium” which people can use.
    • ie. posts on Instagram, tweets on Twitter, etc

🤖 Implementation Solutions

disclaimer: this is a non-exhaustive list. The goal is to list features that are must-haves in order to have an MVP

  • Medium: posts that are long-form written, video and/or audio content.
    • Users you’ve invited can comment on your posts.
    • Encouraging longer-form content by having no maximum lengths.
    • Long-form content is highlighted because if we think about where deep connections are formed it's 1:1 either on long phone calls, video calls, long messages, or showing people long written pieces or reflections from places like a journal or diary. We hope to encapsulate how relationships can deepen through those mediums on this platform.
  • Editor
    • There needs to be a place (editor) where you can upload and edit the content you publish.
  • To create an intimate & private space
    • Possible solutions:
      • Password protection to access content/accounts
      • Anti-screenshotting (similar to what Raya incorporates)
      • Encryption
      • Viewership transparency: you’re able to see who has viewed your post or account
  • Closed Social Network
    • Only you are able to add/invite people based on a personal identifier like email address, phone number, or user name.
    • Invites could be sent to these personal identifiers in order to invite them onboard.

🚫 Non-goals

  • Should not be used for reaching new audiences
    • Not an open network
  • You can’t “build a following”
    • Lose numerical signifiers like including the number of people someone follows
  • Not a replacement for social media platforms
    • Social media serves its purposes of updating and keeping in touch with surface-level connections. We aren’t trying to replace that.
  • It’s not a replacement for messaging applications
    • The emphasis is on long-form and well-thought-out content. It’s not supposed to be a messaging app. There can be comments people have on these long-form pieces but that doesn’t replace casual conversations

📈 What is success

  • High user retention & high weekly and monthly usage
    • Emphasis on weekly/month because long-form content takes more time to create which is why weekly and monthly retention stats of looking at if people post or come back is more valuable than looking at daily usage stats
  • There is a high number of interactions (ie. comments) on posts
    • This means people are actually reading or viewing the content being posted. Interaction can heavily influence people’s experience using this platform.
    • The number of comments is key here, especially if there is a removal of traditional metrics like using something like likes on Instagram.
  • People add only their closest connections to the app
    • Fewer connections added after onboarding would be ideal because that means people already have in mind the few people they want to share their deepest thoughts with

❓ Risks & Questions

  • Retention/Churn
    • Because of the nature of a product that has such a small network as well as an emphasis on deep connections, people could just stop using it
    • The platform wasn’t created with the same intentions as traditional social media where network effects aim to improve the product. This emphasizes retention as the key metric because in order for people to develop deep relationships they have to stay and actively use the platform.
  • Privacy concerns
    • The contents on this platform could possibly be very sensitive since it fulfills a similar purpose to someone’s personal diary/journal which increases the concern of people imposing on this privacy which delegitimizes this entire platform.


  • Do people actually want to use something that they only post a few times a week? Would they remember to post within these longer time frames (ie. most people journal/write longer pieces only occasionally)
  • Do people actually care to keep in touch with their closest friends?
    • Why wouldn’t they just call, meet up with, or just message these deep connections
  • Do people actually like creating and sharing longer-form content?
  • How do we lower the barriers for people to post their deepest thoughts? How do we create a safe environment?
  • How will content be laid out? Would it be like a traditional combined feed of everyone you follow? Would it be a private feed of one person’s specific content?
  • Do people mostly come to post their own content or view what others are posting?