Any advice would be much appreciated.
You will need at least some grasp on the technologies you want to use otherwise how would you know what technologies to use and how they differ with functionality?
That said the quickest way to get up and running with something like this would be a Content Management System (CMS).
There is no short, quick way to do this. You should realise that even if you use some form of software to do the job for you that you will need to invest time into learning how to use that software. It's a catch 22.
I can't answer which is best. But there are a number of social networking scripts out there for you to look at such as PHPFox. There is plenty more out there. I don't keep tabs on social networking software.
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