HOW TO MAKE A SOCIAL MEDIA APP FOR YOUR COMMUNITY
Apr 05 2021
The industry of mobile app development for social media is continuously growing. For example, Instagram is visited by over 500 million people every day. And it’s never too late to come up to the market with a new exciting idea. Most people are always open to something new – just look at the enormous popularity of TikTok with 1.5 billion installations or Clubhouse that is currently #5 in the “Social Networking” category of Apple’s App Store and will be released on Android soon in 2021. These days, you can build a digital network for entertainment and communication (e.g., to post short videos and find like-minded people), for business (e.g., a real estate social network), for sharing opinions, etc. Do you want to create your own mobile app for social media? This article will provide you with essential information on the industry’s specifics, an app’s features, and development processes.
Table of contents
YOUR RESEARCH ON SOCIAL MEDIA APPS
Before making a plan for how you will make your app, it’s helpful to gather more information on different social media, the prominent trends, and users’ expectations. You should also discover what metrics are useful to assess the popularity and how to make money with an app.
Why Is a Social Media App Worth Creating?
“Social media is not a media. The key is to listen, engage, and build relationship”
Indeed, social media are different from classical newspapers or TV channels. You need to create a community and actually engage with people, which gives you lots of challenges and even more benefits. 1. Interacting with your community directly. Once you create your own platform and a social media app, you establish the rules and communicate quickly and effectively, without any mediators. 2. Advanced user analytics. When you make a social media app, you can better understand your community, use smarter target strategies, and operate all social media marketing tools. 3. Built-in e-commerce options. With a customized social media app, you can easily monetize certain functions or add one-click purchases. 4. Safe spaces for creative and innovative ideas. Post and comment length, content types, functionality, or design conception – there are no limitations if you create and run a social media app by yourself. 5. Maximized reach and no distractions. If you make a bespoke app, you can operate social algorithms to show users more quality content based on their interests. There won’t be any distracting information (ads, news, memes) from widespread media, just you and your community.
Advantages of making an app for social networking
All of these will be the result of bespoke mobile app development for social media. You need to elaborate your business idea and find a team of experienced designers and developers. And first of all, choose the niche to create a social media app.
Read also: How much does it cost to create a streaming service like Netflix, Disney+ or TikTok apps?
What Are the Types of Social Media Apps?
“Social media: forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos)”
Mobile app development has a long history. The very first online social networking websites were launched decades ago, from GeoCities in 1994 to Classmates.com in 1995 and SixDegrees.com in 1997. These days, there are over 200 functioning and dozens of defunct social media websites all over the world. Many have mobile apps, web-based or native. Each of these platforms belongs to a specific niche, fulfills different audiences’ needs, and enables particular ways of social media marketing. Why is it essential for you to find out various types of these apps? This information helps to understand each niche’s specifics and find the big competitors. The more you know about the domain you’re going to enter, the easier it becomes for you to notice all pros and cons in the existing apps. A thorough analysis will help you work out the plan to succeed in mobile app development.
|App’s Type||Why Special||Real Example|
|Social networks or Relationship networks||Connect people on a personal basis. Users share information about themselves and build personal brands.||Twitter
|Business networks||Focused on business-related or job-related interactions between professionals.|
|Media sharing networks||Users produce and share various media files like photos, videos, GIFs, etc.||Youtube
|Content curation networks or Bookmarking networks||Users discover, share, and save different content, from pictures to articles.||Pinterest
|Interest-based networks||Users find people with shared interests, hobbies, or experiences.||Goodreads
|Consumer review networks||People read and write reviews on businesses, products, services, or places.||Yelp
|Anonymous social networks||Aimed at the youth, allow them to interact anonymously by sharing content, asking and answering questions, etc.||Whisper
|Community forums and Discussion boards||Users ask and answer questions, share experiences and ideas.||Quora
|Blogging platforms||Users create blogs and publish content, search for other blogs, read and comment.||Medium
|Social gaming platforms and virtual worlds||Connect people via voice or text chats in a computer-simulated environment with avatars, storylines, and gaming tasks. May work within social networks or use independent platforms.||Happy Farm
|Audio social networks||Enable voice-only communication in real-time||Clubhouse
These are the main types of popular social media. Each has specific functionality and design worth studying closer if you want to create your own social media app.
How Do Social Media Work in 2021?
“The first rule of social media is that everything changes all the time. What won’t change is the community’s desire to network”
It’s true, everything changes, and social media trends of 2019 may not work as effectively in 2021. Why is it vital to watch these tendencies? They show what users are interested in, and that allows you to stay up-to-date with their expectations when you create a social media app.
Let’s look at what becomes a game-changer in 2021: More videos – short like TikToks and Instagram Stories or longer like YouTube content, easy to find and convenient to watch. More face filters – people enjoy this feature, especially during the quarantine. Ephemeral content – used by Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat, this content disappears from users’ feeds after some time (usually up to 24 hours), encouraging people to be more active on social apps. Gen Z – social media generally focuses on youth, and current research says that today’s most influential group are people born after 1998. Maximum interactivity – quizzes, games, AR and VR, 360-degree videos, and other innovative technologies to add more fun. Live streaming – all popular social media, from YouTube to Reddit, have implemented this feature. Voice-only content – people have more interest in it these days as they stay at home and work remotely. What earlier trends are still relevant: Chatbots and artificial intelligence technology – though these trends appeared in 2017, they remain in demand among social media apps users. Brands’ engagement with customers – people more often use social media as quickly working client support, while companies invest in reliable social media presence. Social commerce – Facebook, Instagram, and others offer multiple tools for businesses and allow people to buy goods and services directly via social media. Blogging on social media – people and brands publishing engaging content and share it with as many users as possible.
The most prominent trends for 2020-2021
Once you have chosen a niche for your social media app, it will be easier to select its features and marketing strategies.
How to Promote a Social Media App?
“Why use social media? Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell”
The most engaging part of social media is that they tell stories. It makes them perfect marketing tools for any project, as long as you gathered a vast community. How do you attract lots of people to your app? This question is worth asking before you start mobile app development and even before you decide on a business model and functionality.
|Marketing channels||How to use|
|Your website||Put creative banners on your website encouraging users to check out a native app and install it from a store.|
|Content marketing||Make posts in your blog, infographics, downloadable PDFs, E-books, videos, etc. This content should be interesting for your customers and contain call-to-actions to try an app.|
|Your social media||Promote a new app with your followers or email list. Use creative text content and quality illustrations to encourage potential users.|
|Referral links||Message your app’s active users and encourage them to invite more people in exchange for something exciting.|
|Influencers in your niche||Find some influencers in your niche, contact them and see what kind of partnership you can have so that an influencer promotes your app to their followers.|
|Your PR channels||If you know some journalists or bloggers, reach out to them. Perhaps their audience will be interested in a piece about your app, with a download link.|
|Advertising campaign||Use tools like Google ads or some other social networks to attract targeted audiences to joining your community via an app.|
You can use two or more of these channels to let people know about your app and encourage them to download it.
How Do You Monetize an App?
“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is”
It’s vital to plan not only how to build a social media app but also how to return your investments. There are five major ways to make money with an app. In-app purchases in the form of online courses, E-books, videos, music, podcasts, etc. Users will pay to unlock digital products they’re interested in. Paid subscriptions with different tiers offering additional and more valuable content for your community. For example, you make a real estate social network and allow users to see property owners’ contact information after purchasing a paid subscription. App-based subscribing work effortless with Apple and Google payment systems. Physical merchandises for your community, in the form of clothes or accessories with slogans, printed books, postcards, artworks, etc. It’s worth having a Shopify integration or a fully-fledged online store. Sponsored content to promote other companies within your community. We advise you to be transparent about sponsorship and choose ethical businesses. Events and tickets with an integration to a ticketing platform. You can promote potentially interesting events within your social app’s users and get a percentage from ticket selling.
Here are some recent stats showing that social media is one of the most effective tools for introducing specific audiences to brands, services, and products.
These are the most effective ways to introduce brands and products on social media
- Research products or brands on social media: 43% globally and around 50% of youth
- Discover brands or products through recommendations from influencers: over 25%
- Find new product via social media ads: about 30%
- Likely to purchase a product when seeing a “Buy” button: around 15%
- Likely to buy a product when seeing lots of likes and positive comments: over 25%
Consider these stats before you discuss mobile app development with specialists. It may help you choose the more appropriate design and functionality. Once you created a social media app and gathered a community, there are plenty of money-making opportunities to choose from.
What Metrics Can You Use?
“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends”
Before you create a social media app, it’s useful to think about different ways to measure the impact. Here are some key metrics for a social media app.
This is how you measure your success
- CPI (Cost Per Install) shows how many times your app has been installed during an advertising campaign;
- CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) shows how much was spent to engage a user to download your app;
- User activation shows how many active users your app have in comparison to the total number of those who downloaded it;
- User retention shows the number of people using your app compared to those who have stopped or deleted it;
- User engagement shows in-app statistics on how many actions users take, how much time they spend on your app and how often they open it.
Keeping track of these numbers will help you assess your app’s progress and plan further improvements or extensions.
CHOOSE FEATURES FOR A SOCIAL NETWORKING APP
Now let’s discover more details about mobile app development. Social media apps may have lots of tools and functions, adjustable for your community needs. You can choose some features to make an MVP and test it in the market. Later, you’ll improve your product, adding more opportunities for users.
Basic Features to Make Your App Work
All social media apps are different, though the core functionality remains more or less the same. If you want to create a basic version of your social media app, study the feature set from the table below.
|Basic Feature||What for|
|Sign-in and log-in systems||Users register on your social media app with login and password and then use this information to log in. It’s also possible to integrate social login via popular networks like Google or Instagram.|
|User profile||Users create personal spaces that are often customized. Standart profile information includes name, photo or avatar, location, etc.|
|Friending and unfriending options||Users send friend requests within a social media app, follow others to see their updates, etc. They can also unfriend, mute, or block other users.|
|Groups and subgroups||Users can join specific spaces and discuss narrow topics within your social networking app.|
|Post creation||Users create and publish posts, sharing news and opinions with their friends or your whole community.|
|Feed||Users see this feature as the central part of your social media app because here they check updates from people and groups they’re following. You can add categories like Video, Events, Streams, etc.|
|Comment section||Users can discuss topics started in posts.|
|Post likes and shares||Users mark their favorite content, from photos and videos to comments and posts in the feed. They can resend any content and spread among followers.|
|Search bar||Users find topics, groups, and people via keywords and filters (e.g., by data).|
|Private messaging||Users chat in private mode. They can share posts from feed, media content, links, etc. It’s worth making both personal and group chatting options.|
|Notifications||Users quickly learn about updates, friend requests, being tagged in posts by others, etc. Notifications should be organized by categories (friends, followers, communities, admin, etc.). You can also apply push notifications that users see on their phone screens without logging in to your app.|
|File uploads||Users can upload photos, videos, and other media with a couple of clicks.|
|Geotags||Users add geographical identificators to their uploaded photos and videos or created posts.|
|Hashtags||Users find content by clickable metadata tags with the hash symbol. They can also add them to their own posts.|
What else can mobile app development do? In addition to these user features, it’s worth adding some essential tools for social media app administration.
- Content management system (CMS) to help you manage an app, assign roles to moderators and admins, block certain users, add and remove any content, and perform other functions.
- Moderation tools like editing comments and different types of banning (shadow, temporary, permanent) can help you eliminate trolling or other harmful impacts from unreliable users.
- Analytics provides reports on user activity within your social media app, e.g., popular content, demographics, location, device type, etc.
What is more, think about security when you build a social media app. Your users will share a lot pf personal data, so be prepared to safeguard passwords and logins, payment information, locations, and so on. Protective measures may include:
- Multi-factor authentication;
- Security questions;
- Auto-checking password strength;
- Privacy settings for user accounts, posts, and other content;
- Software to prevent phishing and hacking attacks and other cyber threats;
- Spam detection tools and content moderation;
- Monitoring tools and an early warning system.
There are many ways to protect your users
All these features will help you build a smoothly working app for the social media community.
Read also: How much does it cost to create a streaming service like Netflix, Disney+ or TikTok apps?
Advanced Features to Engage People
There is plenty of uniqueness that you can get from mobile app development. These features may help your product survive in heated competition. What will encourage people to download your app from stores? Apart from a smart marketing campaign, you should offer potential users some valuable experience.
|Advanced Feature||What for|
|Livestreaming||The instant connection between you and your audience or between community’s influencers and their following.|
|In-app calling||Your social media app will be more popular if users can make free audio and video calls with a quality connection.|
|Voice messaging||Attract more users by adding various messaging opportunities.|
|Face filters||Funny faces on users’ photos or during video calls became a desirable feature for many users. Consider adding it to your social media app.|
|Customization||Users feel at home on your social media app if they can add their personalities into profiles by changing colors, cover images, avatars, profile names, social media statuses, sticker and emoji sets, and other elements that create the look.|
|Multi-language support||Half of social media users don’t select English in settings. Include other widespread languages if you want to reach an international audience.|
|Chatbots||Artificial intelligence can answer popular questions, entertain users, and help them get started with your social media app.|
You’ll make your social media app unique if you choose the right niche for it and carefully select a few advanced features.
HOW TO BUILD AN AMAZING SOCIAL MEDIA APP
Let’s find out how to design your app and make it user-friendly. We’ll also look at technologies to build a social media website and application, and talk about its support and post-launch improvements.
UI/UX Design for a Social Networking App
UI (User Experience) and UX (User Interface) are crucial parts of every social media app. You can hire a team of designers or contact a software development company that will do all kinds of work for you, from prototyping and design to coding and testing. We’ve collected some best UI/UX practices according to the latest social media industry trends, market research, and the best designers’ experience. What you should remember about the potential users:
- They expect the functions for communication, but not limited to it. Create some additional features for your social media app and add interesting integrations with other services.
- They want to see something familiar yet fresh and exciting. Of course, you don’t have to copy a User Interface from some popular social media app; you need to create an original product with familiar patterns and habitual functionality.
- They like simpler and clear designs. An average user is not tech-savvy and might not understand or even notice your sophisticated solutions, so keep things simple and avoid constant design updates in the future.
- They hate a long haul figuring out how to use a new app and where’s what. Make the process as fast and easy and possible; build intuitive navigation when creating a social media app.
- They will use both the mobile and web versions of your social media app. Ensure the design is always consistent and recognizable.
A few golden rules for designing social media apps
How do you build a social media app and satisfy the users? Just keep in mind that you should create the most convenient interface for them. Here are some quick and helpful rules for social media app’s design:
- Shades of blue are seen as a neutral and soothing color scheme.
- Round profile pictures is a trend that helps focusing on users faces.
- Infinite scroll is important for engagement.
- Easy signing-in encourages people to try an app.
- Quick and simple search (of content or users) is must-have.
- Consistent navigation bar with a profile icon, notifications, search, and other tools.
- Simplicity in UX/UI design makes users feel like home.
- Adaptive design for iOS, Android, and Web should provide an equally good user experience and smooth switch between versions.
We recommend you first design a basic version of your social media app. Think globally, consider all possible user interactions and create well-thought architecture. A development team needs to see a bigger picture even if you’re just making an MVP (minimum viable product). You and your specialists will decide which features will be implemented now and which are to leave for later versions of the custom social media app.
Web and App Development for Social Media
As long as you selected the core features and prepared UI/UI design for your social media app, it’s time for developers to start their work. We advise you to decide early on the platforms – iOS, Android, or both. This choice is typically determined by the existing business plan and target audience. For example, it’s well known that users of Apple devices are generally older and more open to purchasing via social media apps. Android and iOS app development for social media will require different technological stacks. Today, there are many programming languages, frameworks, and other technologies at developers’ disposal. The larger your project is, the more diverse tech stacks will be for mobile app development. Let’s look at some examples:
- iOS/Android App Development for Social Media – Swift, React Native, Kotlin, Java
- Backend and APIs – Node.js, Redis
- Databases – MySQL, PostgreSQL
- Admin panel – React, Material UI, Angular, jQuery
These tech stacks developers use to build a social media app
You also might want to reach further with your social networking app and create a website with the same functionality. Even if you choose to make a native app, it will need a web-based administration panel.
Many popular social media apps, such as Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, and freelance hiring platform Fiverr are built with MEAN stack, which includes MongoDB, Express.js, Angular.js, and Node.js technologies. If you want to learn more about it, feel free to read our guide on how to hire MEAN stack developers.
Alongside designers and developers, you’ll need a project manager to guide the whole workflow and deadlines, resolve issues, and enable smooth communication between you and the team. Mobile app development companies will also provide QA (quality assurance) services to check up the first version of a custom product. There is also lots of testing during the development process when specialists find bugs and eliminate them.
Support and Maintenance for a Social Media App
Simultaneously with mobile and web development, think about the ways to support and maintain your end-product. In the future, when redesigning your app or releasing new features, you need to make sure that the current version works stably. Support and maintenance usually include the following services:
- Additional quality assurance;
- Server performance control;
- Application stability control;
- Building more features;
- Updates in OS, security, server, etc.
Once you create a social media app, be prepared for continuous work on its stability and improvement.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO MAKE A SOCIAL MEDIA APP?
Now you know how to create a social media app. The last question is about the budget you need to plan. The main cost component of mobile app development is the team’s hourly rates. Here you have three classical options.
|Freelance developers||In-house team||Outsourced team|
|Price||from $10/hour||from $80/hour||from $30/hour|
|Pros & Cons||The cheapest price is a major benefit. However, a freelance developer may be unreliable or lack the needed expertise.||A development team within your company is convenient in many ways but rather expensive.||Outsourced staff is experienced and reliable. It’s more expensive than freelancers, yet still costs less than an in-house team.|
Backend and frontend development for a custom social media app often takes lots of time. However, you can launch an MVP within 3-4 months and then continue further development and improvements.
How do we work here at Exceed Team? Let’s look at the rough price estimates for a typical content-sharing app like Instagram.
|Custom app development (per one platform)||from $35 000|
|UI/UX design||from $8 000|
|QA testing||from $7 000|
|Project management||from $5 000|
|Total cost||from $55 000 (per one platform)|
These estimates will give you a general understanding of your project’s budget. If you have a special and unique idea about a social media app, it’s best to contact professionals to learn more about the development specificities and calculate the costs.
“Social networks aren’t about websites. They’re about experiences”
People crave exciting experiences in a digital world, especially now, during quarantines and lockdowns in many countries. New social media apps can give users more opportunities to keep in touch with friends and make business connections remotely. If you think your idea has the potential to entertain many people and even make their lives better, go for it! Do some research, create an app’s prototype, hire developers, and release an MVP to see how people react to this first version. Exceed Team can help you with that.
Most popular questions
What types of social media apps are there?
As of today, there are ten types:
- Social networks
- Business networks
- Media sharing networks
- Interest-based networks
- Consumer review networks
- Anonymous social networks
- Community forums
- Blogging platforms
- Social gaming platforms
- Audio social networks
What technologies do developers use to build a social media app?
The scope and complexity of the project will define the tech stack for it. For example, big social media apps like Youtube or Instagram are built with MEAN stack (MongoDB, Express.js, Angular.js, and Node.js), while sufficient databases to store likes and other social media data will be MySQL or PostgreSQL.
How much does it cost to make a social media app?
It will depend on the world region where you hire developers and designers. In Eastern Europe and Russia, for example, custom web development costs about $35 000 per one platform, and UI/UX design is about $8 000. The app development also requires quality testing and project management. The total cost will be from $55 000 for a platform, iOS or Android.
What are the most important metrics to assess if a social media app brings value?
- CPI or Cost Per Install
- CAC or Customer Acquisition Cost
- User activation
- User retention
- User engagement
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