Guide to Social Media App Development: Everything You Need Тo Know (2024)

App Development
Guide to Social Media App Development: Everything You Need Тo Know (2024)
Article by Szabolcs Szecsei
Last Updated: July 08, 2024

Does the world need another social app? The answer depends. In the case of Meta’s somewhat recent Threads, the answer would be a resounding yes, as the new platform generated over a million users in a single hour. However, Threads had the help of its big brothers, Instagram and Facebook to help that growth.

So, does social media app development make sense without the help of an already established app? In this article, we’ll talk about the untapped potential of social apps and how you can make waves by creating your own.

Why Should You Build a Social Media App?

Experts estimate that people spend around two and a half hours on social media globally every day, with people from the Philippines taking the crown at an average of 3.34 hours daily. Such numbers show that people like spending time on social apps, and there is an existing market to satisfy these needs.

However, that doesn’t mean that social media doesn’t still have heaps of untapped potential waiting to be leveraged. Just think about the commercial success of TikTok, long after Instagram and Facebook became household names.

Let’s look at why it’s worth taking advantage of creating a social media app.

Focus SME
[Source: Focus SME]

Generating a Vast User Base

Expert data suggests that the number of social media users hovered at 4.89 billion in 2023. Such a massive user base can enable you to tap into a huge audience of different communities. By understanding their preferences, needs, and interests, you can market your app to a specific group and meet their requirements.

Such focused targeting can create a better sense of community — better than what’s available on current platforms — for like-minded individuals who may have lacked the perceived security to communicate thus far. One example of this could be a dedicated app for the LGBTQ+ community.

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Taking Advantage of Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing has really taken off in the past few years, reaching $21,1 billion in 2023 from a fairly modest market size of $1.7 billion in 2016.

What would this mean to you and your potential social app? Influencers can drive more engagement and activity within your app, fueling the growth of your user base. A strong presence of influencers can also draw different brands to your app, offering several opportunities to reach their target audience.

Be a Part of an Evolving Landscape

The constantly evolving social media features, trends, and technologies present ongoing opportunities for creating new social platforms. Building an app that’s constantly up to date with current user preferences and industry trends can help both attract and retain users.

As M.R. Tanvir H, Co-founder of Datazo InfoTech told DesignRush, new technologies such as AI and machine learning will be significant in the future of social media:

“They can make things better for users, like suggesting content they’ll like and keeping out bad stuff like fake news. These technologies use smart algorithms to learn from lots of data, making social media more personalized and safer for everyone”.

He also adds that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will change how people use social media. With these technologies, users will have more fun and will be able to hang out with friends in virtual worlds or try out products in interactive demos.

“Social media apps are adding AR filters and effects, allowing you to jazz up your photos and videos with cool virtual stuff,” he expands. “And VR lets you explore new virtual places and meet people in ways you never could before, making the digital world feel more real than ever.”

How to Create a Social Media App in 6 Steps

Creating a social app may seem like a massive undertaking, but with the right development strategy, your idea can become a reality in a streamlined and optimized fashion.

1. Identify the Right Market and Product Fit

Defining the product/market fit means creating an app that satisfies your target audience’s needs. However, when creating a social app, you should be flexible enough to endure slight or more significant tweaks post-launch to meet user preferences.

For instance, apps like Instagram and X found success by constantly adapting to different trends until they became platforms that dictate trends themselves.

2. Gain Advantage With Market and Audience Research

An effective and professional development process is only one part of creating a successful social app. A massive chunk of the success comes thanks to market research or sizing up competitors and understanding user trends.

Through a solid understanding of the market, you can position your offer in a more unique way, introducing features that fill in the gaps of existing social platforms. The app's proposition should also be one-of-a-kind, as opposed to offering just another social media app on the market.

On the other hand, gathering data about your target audience is also crucial. Once you’ve identified your target audiences, don’t hesitate to ask for feedback about your social media app, possibly from the initial idea to beta testing. Constant communication with them allows you to incorporate more engagement-boosting features based on real behaviors and preferences.

3. Opt for a Growth-Oriented Business Model

A social app will need to be well-received to be profitable. As such, you should opt for a business model that enables long-term growth, while keeping revenues in check.

Here are a few popular business models that social apps commonly use:

  • Freemium model: This option allows users to create a profile on your app for free to use its basic features. Premium features and services are then only available for paying members. A good example would be LinkedIn, which charges for premium tools like job-matching and InMail services.
  • Advertising model: This model relies on advertising to generate revenue and is used by both Instagram and Facebook. The strategy revolves around growing a massive user base quickly and targeting them with relevant ads, while balancing your intent to generate revenue while offering impeccable user experience.

According to Tanvir H, there are several ways you can keep users engaged, while also focusing on generating more revenue. By using a less direct form of native advertising, such as pushing in-feed content, users will be more inclined to engage with branded posts, as they aren’t promotions. The content can have embedded links to landing pages which will still take users to business sites or product listings.

In-feed commerce and dedicated app marketplaces can also help boost advertisement revenue, as the in-app eCommerce features will make the product discovery process more seamless and convenient.

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4. Strive for Intuitive and User-Friendly App Design

User experience plays a detrimental role in the success or the downfall of your new social media app. Performing the necessary user research is crucial to tailor the app in a way that meets and exceeds expectations.

When it comes to app development, often, less is more. You should make sure that your platform is functional and visually appealing at the same time. Having a disorganized and crowded layout can turn off potential users.

[Source: Figma]

Once your app is launched, it’s important to focus on creating a digital ecosystem that satisfies the needs of every group that uses it. Take Facebook, for instance, which has a great feed for users and comprehensive tools for advertisers, content creators, and publishers.

5. Opt for a Minimum Viable Product for Idea Testing

A minimum viable product (MVP) is the skeleton of your app. It is a product that has the basic features it needs to run and allows you to test everything in a less competitive and complicated environment.

With an MVP, you will avoid the risk of having to deal with technical issues and bugs post-launch. It can help you gain valuable data from users regarding the app's features, layout, design, navigation, and more. Later, you can leverage this data to fine-tune everything to your target market’s preferences.

6. Focus on Constant Refinement

Once you’ve gathered and implemented the feedback from the MVP, it’s time to make your app available for download. However, your work won’t stop after launch.

You should continuously research user feedback and implement the necessary tweaks to ensure your app keeps up with the changing digital trends and user behaviors. You will need to rely on analytics to identify new trends and forecast specific behaviors accurately.

Also, remember that a successful app requires continuous updates, new features, and solid security to remain relevant in the digital landscape.

Mandatory Social App Features

Most social apps tend to target almost every demographic, appealing with their use cases and value propositions. Instagram, for instance, has become somewhat of a lifestyle blog of images and short videos, while TikTok users are there to have a good time.

Nevertheless, despite these differences, there are several must-have features that should be included in all social apps.

1. Sign-In Features and Onboarding

Your users should be able to sign up via various options, such as phone registration, email, and password, or another social platform, like Facebook. It’s also smart to have a short onboarding tutorial, so users can quickly familiarize themselves with the app after creating their account.

2. User Profiles

Every social app should provide a dedicated digital toolkit enabling users to create personalized profiles. Aps should also provide access to more advanced options that allow them to regulate how they want to consume content and interact with others.

[Source: TheRichPost]

3. Search

The option to scan and search your apps allows for easier discovery and potentially, better engagement. It allows users to locate content, groups, people, etc. quickly, improving their experience and boosting engagement.

4. Content Feed

The feed should take center-stage in your application as this will be the digital surface where content is displaced and the one users will keep coming back to.

5. Content Creator

As hinted above, content is what drives engagement (and revenue) on social apps. Your users must have access to the necessary tools that allow them to create posts and share their experiences via photos, videos, or text.

6. Chat

A well-built chat is another mainstay feature, regardless of who is using your app. Having a messaging platform can help users stay connected, enabling smoother communication. Messaging features like text, photos, videos, or voice notes are mandatory for social media apps.

7. Push Notifications

Push notifications are also pivotal to keep your users up-to-date and alert them of different events like reactions, messages, and new content that they might want to engage with.

8. Third-Party Integrations

There’s a good chance that your users will be active on more than one social media app. If your app has the option to connect to third-party social media networks, you can facilitate more awareness, boost content searching, and help grow your own network and brand.

Focusing on Safety: The Security Aspect of Social Media App Development

It goes without saying that social media application security is paramount for your app’s success. However, operating a social media platform is a two-way street, meaning that even if you adhere to the latest security protocols and utilize all trending features, your users may still not be aware of potential weak points and best practices on their end.

For instance, users have to be familiar with your app’s privacy settings to avoid getting their content downloaded and misused by others.

Tanvir H suggests that social users should consider tampering with their privacy settings, so only relatives and friends can see their content. Similarly, he advises using strong passwords to keep user information secure, connecting your devices to authorized Wi-Fi networks only, and carefully checking a link before clicking on it. Lastly, users should accept friend requests only from people they know, and immediately block users who seem suspicious.

Wrapping Up Social Media App Development

As you can see, there’s still lots of room for new social apps, even in the era of TikTok’s, Facebook’s, and Instagram’s reign. Remember, these apps were also small and insignificant platforms once.

With a unique product idea, thorough research, and the help of the right expert team, you may well create the next social powerhouse, boasting millions of users across the globe.

Social Media App Development FAQs

Can you use app builders to create a social media app?

In theory, you can. There are several great options out there that simplify the app development process as you wouldn't need the extensive coding knowledge to build the actual app. However, such apps will probably lack the scalability and customization options you get from a dedicated team of developers.

Is creating an app like Facebook or Instagram challenging?

Yes, creating such a complex platform is challenging. These two apps have sophisticated backends, extensive features, and engaging UI/UX design solutions. In such cases, development costs may exceed $250,000.

Should you also create a website together with your social app?

While it’s not necessary, developing a website alongside your social app can broaden the reach of your platform and boost user engagement. However, this is a significant investment that will take more time and effort.

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