A Complete Guide on How to Build a Social Media App

At first glance, building a social media app may seem like a waste of time. Indeed, the market is already inundated with existing social media serving several different audiences. We have Facebook for general connection and communication, LinkedIn for professional relations, YouTube for video sharing, Instagram for photos, and TripAdvisor for travel experiences. Why would you need one more?

In fact, the universe of people’s interests, occupations, and hobbies is much wider and more sophisticated. There will always be room for another platform to unite people that have a common devotion. How about building an application for car lovers, like CarDomain? Or a space for mothers, like Social.mom? We like knowing that there are others who share the same interests as we do and that there is a special place where we can meet people with the same views.

Thus, building a social media app can be a good idea. In this article, we outline the main things you should pay attention to when planning your social media app development. We hope our experience will help you build a welcoming place that people will love coming to.

How to create a social media app?

social-media-app-development-guide

As with any project, developing a social media app has some basic steps that you should take to deliver a quality product your users are going to love.

Make a strategy

Having an idea is not enough to begin development. Building a complete strategy includes a full market analysis, the definition of your target audience, and research of the competition. While developing the strategy, you may try using similar social media apps offered by your competitors to see their strong features and the things they lack.

A good practice may be interviewing your potential users to find out what they would like to see in a social app and how they would like it to work. Such interviews can also help to identify the things people like and dislike in similar apps and then put together a “perfect” product.

At the planning stage, think also of the most optimal lead generation and user retention strategies. Single out the strongest feature that makes your app different from others and build your marketing campaign around it. At the same time, plan the monetization techniques that you can use.

Build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

Starting with a minimum viable product is a good strategy for most user-facing applications. An MVP showcasing the most significant features of your product will help you validate your app idea and estimate the demand. Besides, an MVP also works as a great lead generation tool. By including a simple subscription form you will collect data from the users interested in your solution.

Buffer, a leading social scheduling app, started with an MVP that presented only one feature – tweet scheduling. The analytics obtained from it showed that people were not only excited about the app but also willing to get the paid version. Now, Buffer has grown into a comprehensive social media management application where you can handle, schedule, and analyze various content from several social platforms.

social-media-app-development-buffer-application

Image credit: Buffer

Design and develop the app

Once you have user feedback and the MVP results, you can proceed with developing the full product. Of course, the purpose and business value of your app may require some specific features; however, for most social apps, the basic set of features is more or less the same.

Mobile version

People like mobile apps. Today, a big chunk of our lives happens in our smartphones – we use them to set the alarm, to plan our day, to make payments, to choose vacations, and to exercise. Thus, a user-oriented product must have a mobile version. Look at the most popular social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Foursquare, and YouTube – all of them have mobile versions. In fact, you will be hard-pressed trying to find a social platform with no mobile application.

Another hint – aim for both major mobile platforms. “iOS or Android” is in the same category as “tea or coffee”, so make sure you cater to both groups. There are development tools specifically intended to develop apps for iOS or Android; however, we recommend cross-platform solutions. If you choose, for example, React Native as the development environment, you will get a product running both on iOS and Android at less cost.

Social login

Signing up to the application for the first time is the first experience the user gets. To make it easier and more user-friendly, enable signing up with accounts on other social networks. Users are going to love it.

We assume that most people have a Facebook or Google account, thus it would be logical to offer the option of signing up using one of these accounts. Most social media apps use the social login feature for a more straightforward sign-up procedure. Of course, the standard sign-up procedure via email should also be made available.

For example, Meetup, an application for organizing various meetings and events, uses Facebook and Google as the sign-up options.

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Image credit: Meetup

Profiles

Believe it or not, there are anonymous social media apps, such as Anomo. You can use it without a profile or other identity attributes. However, the majority of social applications use profiles to identify their users.

Creating a striking profile may be important for users of social media apps. Therefore, provide multiple personalizations and customization options – the ability to add a photo, choose a nickname, set a theme, and include a short bio. Users also appreciate the option to include links to their accounts on other networks or resources, especially if we are talking about a professional social app.

However, the number of mandatory fields should be as low as possible to make it easy for those who wish to provide just the bare minimum of their personal details.

For example, when completing your Instagram profile, you can enter quite a lot of your personal info, such as your birthday, biography, and website.

social-media-app-development-instagram-profile-edit

Connections

Since you are building a social media application, you should provide your users with the ability to connect with others. In a social app, people like to see what others have posted and want their posts to be noticed by others. Thus, people should be able to make friends.

However, making friends is not enough to create the experience users want from a social media app. They should also be able to comment on each other’s posts and like each other’s content. In some applications, it may be feasible to add the subscription or following features for users who would like to see the content posted by others without adding them to their list of friends.

Another way of connecting users is the option to create groups, communities, or forums. Their users are not necessarily friends of each other but share the same hobby, activity, or opinion. When you enable groups in your application, don't forget the invitation feature.

Depending on the goals of your app, you can also use connections as a means of following a certain group of people. This is what Twitter lists are for – you can make a list and include the users you wish to follow. Their posts will be displayed in the list.

social-media-app-development-twitter-list-feature

Image credit: Post Planner

Feed

In the majority of cases, social media apps are organized as a feed of content generated by other users or the application itself. Usually, a feed consists of friends’ posts, comments, photos, videos, or music – whatever is the focus of your app. When opening the app, the user wants to know what's new there – this is what the feed is for.

The feed can become a monetization means, too. You can include sponsored content or ads between users’ posts. Of course, this requires some analytical research to achieve proper targeting. This strategy is widely used by Facebook where you see quite a lot of sponsored content.

social-media-app-development-facebook-newsfeed

Messaging

In some apps, messaging is the major function. WhatsApp and Telegram are intended as messaging platforms with other functions playing secondary roles. At the same time, you can implement messaging in other apps, as well. With the messaging option, users will have the possibility of chatting with each other directly and, what’s especially important, privately.

Reddit, a social content aggregator and discussion forum, has an option for allowing any user to message members privately. While the purpose of the app is not messaging but sharing various content, the ability to send a private message enhances the experience that users get.

social-media-app-development-reddit-posts

Search

By implementing a convenient search function, you will certainly earn the users’ appreciation. They should be able to search for other users, posts, and comments.

To enhance the search options, think of using a powerful search engine with the auto completion function and advanced search options.

In Flickr, a photo hosting social app, you can search in photos, people, or groups by multiple criteria. Setting as many search criteria as possible allows finding the image or user easier and quicker.

social-media-app-development-flickr-photo-platform

Push notifications

You will definitely need to include push notifications to inform users of the important events in the application. Users love to know when somebody liked their post or when the person or group they are following posted new content.

Of course, do not forget to include the option of turning the notifications off, as some users will definitely prefer not to be disturbed.

Push notifications help to retain users, as they remind them of your app and heighten their interest in it.

Other features

The functionality of a social media app is not limited to the features we listed. Depending on the type of app, you can also implement photo filters, live streaming, geolocation, chatbots, augmented reality, or offline work options. These features can serve both to enhance the user experience and to provide additional monetization channels.

How much does it cost to make an own social media app?

The most obvious answer to this question is “it depends”. Indeed, the cost does depend on the scope of functionality to be implemented, as it directly influences the time needed to deliver the application. Anyway, let’s try to work out an approximate calculation to find the range of application development costs.

On average, the time required to develop a social media application may be broken down as follows:

 
Front-end
Back-end
Project initialization & common settings
10-20 hours16-32 hours
Login, including social login
20-50 hours6-10 hours
User profiles
60-90 hours4-8 hours
Connections
40-90 hours4-8 hours
Photo and video uploading
40-90 hours8-16 hours
Feed
16-24 hours10-16 hours
Messaging
40-80 hours40-120 hours
Commenting
16-40 hours16-32 hours
Search
8-24 hours16-32 hours
Push notifications
8-40 hours8-40 hours

In total, developing and testing a social media application may take from 550 to 1,300 hours depending on its complexity. If you decide to include additional features, it will increase the total time and cost. Particularly, if you want to use high-end technology, such as augmented reality, the total cost may be rather high. At the same time, using such advanced features will make your app stand out and attract more users.

The cost of development is calculated on the basis of the hourly rates, which are very different depending on the geographical region. For example, in the US the hourly rate varies from $50 to $200, while in Eastern Europe it varies from $20 to $100.

Building a social application is a very promising idea, as today you will hardly find a person without an account in at least one of the networks. All people are different; however, they are trying to find others who share the same views and occupations. By creating a place where people can comfortably talk, share knowledge, find friends, show achievements, and find support, you will quickly become known. People tend to share their experience, both positive and negative, thus news of an extremely user-friendly social app is going to spread quickly. Contact us, and we can help you make it happen.

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