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How To Make A Social Media App The Right Way

Does the public need another social media app? That’s one of the burning questions on the startup founders’ minds when they bounced the idea of making a social media app.

Apparently, Threads has responded with a resounding yes. The fast-growing app from Meta has garnered 1 million users in one hour, which made it the winner in this competition among other social media apps.

But “Threads case” is different you may say. And I agree. They had the user base from Instagram, so it gave them the advantage other apps don’t have.

So, is it still worth it to make a social media app if you don’t have a Big brother like Instagram behind your back and build everything from scratch? The answer is – definitely yes.

This will be the first thing I’ll touch on in this article, I’ll try to give you a comprehensive answer to why making a social media app is worth your time and resources. You’ll also get to know:

  • How to make a social media app in 7 steps
  • What are the must-have features for any social media app
  • How much does it cost to build a social media app

So let’s dive in!

build social app

Why to Build a Social Media App?

People worldwide spend 2 hours and 31 minutes per day on social media. Speaking about the US specifically, the average daily time spent on social media is 2 hours and 3 minutes. The Philippines beat everyone, and the average time spent on social media per day there is 3 hours 53 minutes.  

Why do we give you all these numbers? Because they best represent reality. People like spending time on social media, and today's market aims for tools that would satisfy this need.

And we can't ignore the fact that the Coronavirus pandemic influenced people's digital behavior for good. Many Internet users started to spend more time on social media after that time.

Putting all things together, building a social media app is a good idea as the market is full of potential users.

How to Make a Social Media App in 7 Key Steps

Building a social media app might seem like a huge task, but it's totally doable if you break it down. Just follow these key 7 steps, and you'll be on your way from the big idea to hitting the "launch" button.

how to make a social media app

1. Identify The Right Product/Market Fit

The idea of a product/market fit points to the scenario where startups deliver the right product that resonates with their target market. Startups should embark on a step-by-step process to identify the right product/market fit for their ideas.

When building a social media app, startups should be flexible with their approach, as the final product that becomes a wild success can be different from the original ideas. Companies like Instagram and Twitter found success by continually adapting until they found the right product/market fit.

Startups can also learn from how WhatsApp changed from a simple tool for setting status to a full-blown messenger only after Apple introduced push notifications. The idea is that a social media app has to evolve continuously based on factors that influence user behaviors.

Finding the right product/market fit during the early stage can be overwhelming. However, startups can rely on a proven strategy, where the app is designed to target a particular group. When the app shows success for a group, the same approach is replicated for another.

app development

2. Gain Competitive Advantage With Market Research

Building a social media app isn’t about coding and deploying the app to end-users. A great part of its success is due to getting market research done right. Before building the app, startups need to size up their competitors, particularly on strategies that take them to the top.

With an in-depth perspective of the market, startups are in a better position to offer a unique product that fills the value gap of existing apps. A new app must have a unique proposition, instead of being ‘just another app’ in the competitive market.

3. Get a Better Perspective With Target Audience Research

Startups must be getting feedback from their target audience for their social networking app. The process allows startups to incorporate features based on the real preferences and behaviors of their audience.

Rather than planning an app on mere assumptions, startups should hold one-on-one user interviews. This allows founders to have a better idea of the problems and work towards a solution. The early interaction with existing users also helps to build a ready base of subscribers for the app.

Interviews can also be complemented with methods like building a persona and a customer journey map. Persona creation is an effective method where the typical characteristics of the users are brainstormed in an ad-hoc approach.

A customer journey map helps startups identify the users’ behavior and collect data for improving the app. An effective customer journey map usually contains the persona, timeline, actions, and expectations.

4. Choose A Profitable Business Model For Your App

Ultimately, a social media app needs to be well-received by the users and has the potential to be profitable. This means that it’s important to choose a business model that encourages long-term growth while keeping revenue in sight. Here are some popular business models commonly used in social media apps.

Option 1 - Freemium Model

The freemium model allows users to sign up for free with many of the basic features available. However, access to premium services is only available for paying members. LinkedIn, a social media platform for professionals, charges a premium fee for access to tools like InMail and job-matching services.

Option 2 - Advertising Model

Many social media rely on advertising for revenue. Apps like Facebook and Instagram are based on this model. The strategy is to rapidly grow the user base and use a data-driven approach to target users with relevant ads.

Social media apps need to collect personal information like age, gender, location, and interests to be attractive for advertisers to be successful. Of course, traffic volume also plays a vital role in how advertisers are willing to pay for advertising on the platform.

TikTok, which boasts over 800 million active users, allows various forms of advertisements, including cleverly inserting sponsored videos on its ‘For You’ feed. By the way, read our article on how to build an app like TikTok.

5. Engage With A User-Friendly And Intuitive Design

This is where startups ought to put all the data from earlier research into good use. User experience will determine the success or failure of new social media apps. Startups must have a good grasp of user expectations and tailor the app accordingly.

Tinder, a relationship app by matching that matches users by photos, used to do so by returning the best matches based on profile. In 2019, Tinder upgraded its algorithm to connect users who are active at the same time. The move is to prevent users from wasting efforts clicking on profiles that are no longer active.

Less is also more as far as social media apps are concerned. Startups should ensure that the app is visually appealing, as well as functional. A cluttered and disorganized layout will only turn off potential subscribers. Instead, startups need to focus on the group that could be using the app and offers value-added features.

The idea is to build a digital ecosystem that pleases every party that engages with the app.

For example, Facebook has nailed it with its social media feed for consumers, but it also provides comprehensive tools for publishers, content creators, and advertisers.

https://www.uptech.team/resources/ux-review-checklist

6. Build An MVP To Quickly Test Ideas

An MVP or minimum viable product is the bare skeleton of the app comprising only the basic features needed to function. It’s a great way to allow startups to test the market in a less complicated environment.

Startups avoid the risk of running into multiple technical issues that come with the inclusion of all the features on the app. Besides, users get to try out an app that is less cluttered.

How do startups decide what features go into the MVP? Start by listing the basic features that are crucial for the app.

If startup founders have difficulty choosing features for the MVP, they can utilize the prioritization matrix. Features that are ‘nice-to-haves’ can be included in the product roadmap to be executed later.

Uptech’s pro tip: Test the established use cases with iterative & incremental development. This allows the app to be tested, and feedback received for the respective parts of the apps.

7. Gather Feedback To Refine Your Social Media App

Launching the social media app is just the first step in creating a successful product. The next step involves gathering user feedback on the MVP. User feedback is a helpful indicator of what’s lacking and what’s working in the app.

Based on the user feedback, startups must continuously improvise to ensure that the next release aligns with users’ behaviors and needs. At this stage, startups will need to rely on analytics to predict trends and behaviors more accurately.

Note that improvisation is a never-ending process as the app has to be tuned to suit the dynamics that drive user behaviors.

build social media app with domain experts

8 Mandatory Features of Any Social Media App

While social media apps generally target overlapping demographics, each appeals with its unique value proposition and use cases. For example, TikTok’s fan-based are keen on fun videos, while Instagram is huge with lifestyle influencers.

Despite the differences, some features are mandatory in any social media app.

social media app features

Sign In & Tutorial

Allows users to sign up with various options, such as email & password, Facebook, or phone registration. Often include an onboarding tutorial once the user has created a new account.

User Profile

True to its social nature, the app should provide users space and tools to create personalized profiles and how they consume the content.

Content Feed

Users are usually directed to the content feed, where they are engaged with personalized content based on their interests.

Search

The search function is handy for users to quickly locate groups, content, people, and other information on the app.

Chat

Chat is indispensable regardless of what’s the focus of the app. Having a chat messenger allows users to connect with text, voice, photos, or videos.  

Content Creator

Content is what drives social media apps. Users must be provided with the tools that allow them to share their experiences in text, photos, or videos.

Push Notifications

With social media being part of daily life, push notifications are useful to alert users of events like messages, reactions, and new content that they may be interested in.

3rd Party Social Network Integrations

Chances are, the user will be active in 2-3 social media apps. It helps the app connect to a 3rd party social media network to facilitate content sharing and growth.

Best Tech Stack to Make a Social Media App

While we can describe the process of how to build a social app in detail, some things are less defined. We’re talking about the tech stack for the social media app project.

The list of technologies and tools depends on several factors:

  • Specifications of the project;
  • Your budget;
  • The platforms you want to release it on.

However, we tried to make a universal list of solutions that you can use while building a new social media app.

  • Programming language: Swift, Kotlin, Node.js
  • Networking: Alamofire
  • Framework: Express 4
  • Database: MySQL, PostgreSQL
  • Chat: Twilio, PubNub, Socket.io
  • API: Swagger
  • Push notifications: FCM
  • Geolocation: Google Maps
  • Storage: Amazon S3
  • Search: Elasticsearch

How Much Does It Cost To Build A Social Media App?

The cost to develop a social media app differs according to the market rate of specific regions. However, it usually involves the same amount of work done on creating the back end and front end of the app.

Feature Backend development, hours iOS/Android, hours
Sign in & Tutorials 22 60
User Profile 40 80
Content Feed 70 120
Search 42 34
Chat 70 120
Add content 60 180
Push notifications 18 18
Connections with other Social Networks 40 120
Total 362 732

Generally, more than 1,000 hours are needed to build an MVP on a single platform. The final cost depends on where the developers are based.

The average rates will vary drastically based on the country you outsource your software development. For example:  

  • In the US market - the average rate is $150  per hour;
  • In the Eastern European market - the average rate is $60 per hour;
  • In the Indian market - the average rate is $20 per hour.

The next calculations are pretty simple. It’ll cost you approximately $150,000K to build a social app in the US but if you come to the development studio from Eastern Europe, like Uptech the final check will be almost 3 times lower, around $60,000K.

Note that each project is special, and to get a more exact estimation, just contact us and we’ll be happy to help you.

app development


How Can We Help You To Develop A Social Media App?

At Uptech, our expertise in building social media apps can be proven and demonstrated through our projects like RSVP, a trip-planning platform for groups, and the Hackathon Event App, designed to enhance event engagement and management.

how to make a social media app

So how exactly can we help you with social network application development? Here's how:

Discovery and strategy

Let's take the RSVP case for example. The journey began with an in-depth discovery phase, where we audited the existing idea and laid out a structured roadmap. This phase helped us select essential features for the MVP and map out a focused development path. In the Hackathon Event App project, our initial strategy sessions were also crucial in defining the app's scope and objectives so that every feature could add value to the user experience.

UI/UX design

In the RSVP project, we redesigned the existing design, updating the UI/UX to resonate with the target audience's preferences. This redesign worked great for improved usability and visual appeal. For the Hackathon Event App, our design team created a visually striking and intuitive UX for enhanced navigation.

Feature development and improvement

RSVP's development included creating an all-in-one platform for trip planning, making it possible for users to set dates, destinations, and itineraries. This feature set was aimed to distinguish RSVP in the crowded travel app market. And it did. The Hackathon Event App saw the integration of innovative features like NFTs, which provided a unique way for participants to commemorate their involvement.

QA and testing

At Uptech, we are committed to high quality. The Hackathon Event App, for example, was developed and tested within a tight two-month timeframe, demonstrating our team's ability to deliver a robust, feature-rich app even under challenging conditions.

Launch and beyond

The successful launch of RSVP, complete with an MVP that included more features than initially planned, showcases our capability to deliver comprehensive social media apps within budget and on time. The Hackathon Event App's launch is no exception. Thanks to our agile development process, we could quickly adapt and present the app timely to support a major event.

Taking the idea of a social media app to a successful launch requires steps of planning, feedback, and improvisation. Each step mentioned above is crucial to the success of the app. Ready to bring your social media app idea to life with a team that goes beyond the code? Partner with Uptech, and let’s create some great things together.

FAQs

How do you create your own social media app?

Normally it takes 7 key steps to create a social media application:

  1. Determine Product-Market Fit
  2. Achieve a Competitive Edge with Market Insight
  3. Understand Your Target Audience
  4. Choose a Profitable Social App Business Model
  5. Work on Engaging UI/UX Design
  6. Develop an MVP to Validate Your Idea
  7. Use Feedback to Polish an App

Are there any social network app builders, and can they replace social media app developers?

Yes, there are quite a few social network app builders available, for example, Builder.ai, Moxly, and AppMySite. While they are designed to simplify the app creation process without extensive coding knowledge, they often offer less customization and scalability compared to what dedicated social media app developers can provide.

Is creating a social network app for Android different from making an app for iOS?

Yes, the development processes of a social network app for Android and iOS are different due to their distinct ecosystems, programming languages, and design guidelines.

  • For Android, you will use Android Studio and languages like Java or Kotlin. The process is flexible but there might be device fragmentation challenges.
  • iOS development uses Xcode and Swift, with a more uniform device ecosystem and potentially higher revenue per user, but with strict App Store guidelines. There’s also an option for cross-platform app development when you can develop apps for both platforms. But such an approach has its cons.

You can learn more about them in our dedicated article comparing native and cross-platform development.

How challenging is it to make a social media app like Instagram or Facebook?

Yes, it's extremely challenging to create a social media app like Instagram or Facebook due to the need for a sophisticated backend, engaging UI/UX design, and extensive feature set, with development costs potentially hitting $250,000 and more.

Should I also create a social media website to accompany my app?

It depends on the type of app you have and the ways you want your users to interact with your business. Of course, developing a social media website alongside an app involves significant investment and effort, but it can definitely broaden your platform's accessibility and user engagement.

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