If you’re active on social media then you’ve probably noticed the trend toward short-form content. These addictive videos, ranging from five to 30 seconds, have become the trademark of social media with every platform from Instagram to Facebook offering their own take on the concept.
While Vine, which launched in 2012, is attributed as being the pioneer of short-form videos, TikTok popularized this type of content, eventually becoming the world’s most popular website in 2021.
That same year, the social media platform had 86.9 million users in the United States alone, increasing its user base by 29 percent compared to 2020. As one of the fastest-growing social media apps in the US, TikTok is expected to reach 103.3 million American users by 2025.
These numbers can only mean one thing: TikTok must be doing something right. In this article, we’ll explore the social media giant’s business model and popular features to shed some light on how you can develop your own social media app that achieves the same success. Keep reading to learn more.
What You’ll Learn In This Post
- TikTok Market Trends
- Essential Features of TikTok
- Technical Considerations
- How to Monetize Your Social Media App
- 4 Steps to Develop an App Like TikTok
What Is TikTok?
Owned by ByteDance, TikTok is the international version of the short-form video sharing service Douyin, which was released to the Chinese market in 2016. The social media platform was launched in 2017 for iOS and Android, and became available worldwide following a merger with Musical.ly in 2018.
TikTok users can use the platform to create, share and discover a variety of videos that run anywhere from 15 seconds to 10 minutes. These user-submitted videos typically showcase pranks, dances and lip-syncs, and utilize special effects like music and filters.
Aimed at engaging the platform’s community, users can also take part in TikTok trends, a compilation of videos that feature popular sounds, dances or challenges.
Related Article: How to Make a Photo-Sharing App like Instagram
TikTok Market Trends
Since its worldwide release, TikTok has achieved unprecedented growth in the social media industry, becoming the seventh-most downloaded app of the 2010s with 693 million installs in 2019 and 850 million in 2020. TikTok was also the most downloaded and highest grossing app of 2020, increasing its revenue by 142 percent year-over-year to reach $4.6 billion in 2021. This success is likely to continue, as TikTok is expected to achieve 1.8 billion monthly active users by the end of 2022, and $11.64 billion in this year’s revenue.
Why Build a Social Media App Like TikTok?
As one of the most downloaded mobile apps in the world, TikTok’s short-form video format clearly resonates with today’s young audiences. And, for entrepreneurs looking to build a successful social media platform, creating a TikTok-like app is an appealing option.
This is because the bite-sized videos pack a visual punch, making content easy to consume on mobile and delivering a quick hit of entertainment, humor, or inspiration. With TikTok, users can film creative sketches, show off dance moves, and try viral challenges without a high barrier to entry.
TikTok’s intuitive editing tools and special effects also add to the fun, as someone with zero experience can still make fun, quality videos after just playing around in the app. These low stakes ultimately encourage continuous engagement with the app.
Top Competitors of TikTok
When any app as popular as TikTok comes around, it’s not long until competitors try to replicate its success. Here are the top competitors of TikTok today.
Once TikTok exploded, Instagram launched Reels in 2020 to offer its own short-form video feature. Instagram users can record 15-second multi-clip videos with audio and effects using the platform’s familiar creation tools.
Although this feature benefits from Instagram’s existing user base and seamless integration with feeds and Stories, some complain the community feeling doesn’t match TikTok’s. Nevertheless, Reels provides Instagram with a solid vehicle to compete in the red-hot short video space.
YouTube Shorts gives creators a TikTok-esque option to make 60-second or less vertical videos using YouTube’s massive audio and video libraries. Given YouTube’s entrenched creator community, Shorts offers a built-in talent pool to feed it content.
However, YouTube’s focus still lies with longer videos. While the company is promoting Shorts, it hasn’t yet built a standalone short-form experience comparable to TikTok. Even so, the rapid early growth of YouTube Shorts shows promise.
Triller markets itself as a content community for creators rather than a full social network. Essentially, it enables users to produce short videos with pro editing tools and share them more easily on other platforms.
Triller experienced a bump in users when TikTok faced bans in 2020, but reviews by creators note it still lacks TikTok’s robust discovery and recommendation features. While adoption lags, Triller offers a polished short video product that caters to influencers.
Essential Features of TikTok
TikTok took the world by storm for a reason: its unique features that offered a fresh take on social media. The platform also provides a constant stream of content that’s specifically aimed at individual users, inviting them to engage with the TikTok community.
Perhaps the most essential feature of all is the fact that TikTok enables users to create short-form videos using its extensive and ever-developing video editor. This allows a simplified process in which videos can be easily cut or cropped, and captions, music and other effects can be added without much time or effort. The end product can then be shared instantly across the platform.
TikTok also encourages users to engage with other users on the platform through comments, likes, and hashtags, which brings users together who share similar interests, values and ideals. A Q&A feature is another available option that allows users to reply to audience-submitted questions with a video that will then be posted to the user’s bio on their profile. Because the goal is to build a following, TikTok has designed the platform so that the more you engage with others, the more they will engage with you.
To measure engagement, TikTok even lets creators access in-depth analytics about their posts performance. Users can view a variety of metrics, including views, likes and comments, and even calculate their overall engagement rate by dividing their number of likes and comments by their number of views. This helps users track their progress and shows which content is relevant to viewers.
Technical Considerations – Choosing a Techstack
In addition to implementing essential features, you’ll also want to consider the more technical aspects of developing a social media platform, such as utilizing a personalized algorithm system and building a progressive web app.
The TikTok algorithm selects which content to show to its users based on their previous interests and interactions with other videos. Content is also recommended based on user searches, location, and video information like sounds, captions, and hashtags. Users can hit “not interested” on videos they don’t like, as well. This algorithm works to ensure that users are being provided with the right content to keep them engaged with the platform.
Progressive Web App
Related Article: 7 ways Progressive Web Applications Can Benefit Your Business
5 Steps to Develop an App Like TikTok
Now that you understand the appeal of short-form video apps, how can you start building one? While creating the next TikTok poses challenges, the right preparation and development partners can ensure your app is poised for success.
Define Your Target Audience
First, you’ll need to clearly define the user group you want to serve. You could simply analyze TikTok’s core demographic and try to appeal to them or tailor your app to a different audience. Defining your target audience is crucial, as it will guide future decisions regarding features and marketing.
As a result, it’s a good idea to conduct user research through surveys, interviews, and focus groups. This will help you better understand your potential users’ interests, pain points, and motivations, and provide valuable insights to further refine your target audience. Generally, serving a niche tends to be more fruitful than going head to head with a tech giant like TikTok.
Design the UI/UX of Your App
After defining your target audience, you’ll need to identify which features you’d like to include on your app based on the preferences of your demographic. You can then design the user interface (UI) of your app, carefully considering the placement of interactive elements like buttons and the overall workflow. Following proper UI principles is key to creating an excellent overall user experience (UX).
You may first wish to create a wireframe – a barebones outline that denotes functionality to developers to flesh out with a visually appealing design. This is an excellent way to ensure no features are missed during the development phase.
Hire an App Development Expert Like Idea Maker
Developing your mobile app is usually the most lengthy and crucial development phase, as it involves constructing the server infrastructure and APIs that will power your backend, as well as coding the front-end app experience itself.
Robust mobile development skills are required to build an app that both functions reliably and provides a polished user experience. If your team lacks expertise in areas like server management, API integration, and mobile programming languages, you have a couple options.
The first option is to utilize a no-code development platform that abstracts away much of the complex coding but may limit customization capabilities. Alternatively, you can partner with an experienced mobile app development agency to leverage their technical talent and resources.
If going the agency route, it’s important to take the time to carefully vet potential firms to ensure they are the right fit for your project. This will involve scrutinizing their portfolio for relevant examples, evaluating client references, and confirming they provide long-term maintenance support post-launch.
Test and Deploy Your App
You’ll then need to thoroughly test your app’s performance, speed, and user experience before launch and fix any obvious bugs that arise. You might choose to use beta tester groups to put your app through rigorous real-world testing before deploying to app stores.
Once you’re happy that your app is functioning correctly, you can deploy your app like TikTok to app stores. Google Play and the iOS app store have different processes for app delivery, so it might be best to ask your development team for help.
Maintain and Market Your App
Because ongoing app maintenance and feature enhancements are essential, you should be sure to closely monitor user feedback and app store ratings to quickly address any issues. In terms of marketing, promoting your app through organic and paid social media is an excellent place to start.
Moving forward, you should create a product roadmap for future app updates based on user feedback and market trends. For this, you may want to keep some of your resources on rapid bug fixes and general app upkeep to ensure a continually positive user experience.
Building an MVP
Meant to test the viability of a platform, a Minimum Viable Product is best practice when it comes to launching an app. The aim here is to start small in terms of features and then gradually build up your platform’s functionality over time.
After building an MVP, you will want to have it tested for usability and gather feedback that can then be used to make necessary improvements. This will allow you to test different concepts to see what works and helps verify that your app resonates with users.
Another perk of an MVP is that it’s cost efficient, as you’ll be cutting back on development costs by only offering basic features upon its initial launch.
Choosing a Monetization Model for Your App
Social media apps like TikTok can earn a revenue in a variety of ways. These most commonly include sponsored posts, brand partnerships, and sales commissions.
With sponsored posts, users can pay for ads to boost their posts on the social media platform. This can be done through a pay-per-click (PPC) or pay-per-mile (CPM) strategy, in which companies pay a price for every 1,000 impressions an ad receives. TikTok, for example, offers a minimal CPM of 50 cents per mile – or 50 cents for every 1,000 views. For PPC ads, the platform charges a minimum of two cents per click, with advertisers being required to spend at least $500 per ad campaign.
Social media apps can also earn revenue by allowing brands to pay to have their products featured on the platform. This is typically done by collaborating with social media “influencers” to create in-feed ads about a specific product. To promote this strategy, TikTok provides a Creator Marketplace for brands to search for creators, view their insights, and invite them for collaborations. The cost to hire an influencer, however, will depend on the scale of their following.
Sales commissions are another popular monetization strategy for social media apps. With this model, the app will take a percentage of the sales made through the platform. For instance, TikTok allows merchants, brands, and creators to showcase their offerings by linking products on videos and livestreams, and then takes a five percent commission fee for each product sold.
Once you’ve determined which monetization strategies you’d like to implement, it’s important to also put some marketing plans in place. You can use App Store Optimization, search ads, and social media to ensure that your social media platform is poised for success.
App Store Optimization
Similar to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), App Store Optimization (ASO) consists of using your platform’s title and description to gain search visibility on major app stores. The main thing to remember here is to always use natural, engaging, and attention-grabbing language. You’ll also want to be sure to choose the right keywords and categories, and encourage user reviews. With a solid ASO strategy, you should be able to increase your app’s visibility, organic installs, and revenue.
Often called paid search advertising or search engine marketing, search ads involve placing digital pay-per-click ads in app stores and search engine results. Companies will then pay a fee each time someone clicks on one of the ads. All three components of search ads – headline, display URL and description – should be aimed at enticing users to click the ad.
Another solid marketing plan is to use existing social media apps to promote your own platform. With this strategy, you’ll want to showcase any special features or services that you offer that sets your platform apart from the competition. You can also utilize pay-per-click ads to incite users to visit your app.
Things to Consider
In addition to monetization and marketing strategies, you’ll also need to consider other important details of social media app development like copyright laws and platform support.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) criminalizes the duplication and distribution of digital copyrighted works in the United States. With social media, users own the copyright to any images they post and it’s against the law to post others’ copyrighted content without their permission. This means that there must be a mechanism on your app in place for users to report acts of copyright infringement.
When building a social media app of your own, you’ll need to decide whether you plan to release the platform on iOS or Android. Ultimately, the platform you choose will affect the development process, as different frameworks are required for different platforms. You could also develop a cross-platform app, making it compatible with multiple operating systems.
Related Page: Cross-Platform App Development Services
Idea Maker’s Experience in Social Media App Development
Since 2016, Idea Maker has excelled in all areas of web and software development, shifting its focus from small businesses to enterprise-level applications. Our team of designers and developers have built various mobile apps, including a cross-platform chat app called Quick Friends.
If you’re looking for a dedicated and trusted development agency to help you build your own social media app, then schedule a free consultation with us and take the first step in bringing your vision to life.