Since their inception, social media platforms have taken the world by storm and ingrained themselves into the fabric of our society. So it’s no wonder that the social media market is worth over $220 billion and is expected to reach over $777 billion by 2026. But if you’re reading this, you likely already understand the lucrative nature of social media.
There is ample opportunity for success in developing a social media app; however, competition is high. There are hundreds of social media platforms and apps available across the globe, yet only a few have achieved international popularity. Why? Because successfully developing a social media app is challenging.
Thankfully, Idea Maker is here to help. This guide aims to get you started in building a social media app that can stand out amongst the crowd. Keep reading to learn more.
What You’ll Learn In This Post
- Social media market trends
- Essential features of a social media app
- How to market and monetize a social media app
- Four steps to develop a social media app
What Is a Social Media App?
Social media platforms are online technologies that enable users to create, post and interact with user-generated content. Their main focus is to allow the smooth sharing of information and networking with other users. A social media application, then, is simply this same concept in app form and is available on mobile and tablet devices. It’s increasingly rare to see social media platforms without mobile versions.
Social Media Market Trends
Every industry faces constantly changing trends, but no marketplace metastasizes quite as much as the social media sector. In fact, much of social media platform content is made up of short-lived trends and viral fads. The market itself, however, is also undergoing critical changes that you must know before developing such an app.
The Death of Long-Form Content
With the rise of TikTok, you may have noticed other social media platforms, such as Instagram, adopting similar features that cater to short-form content. But it’s not just TikTok. Snapchat also inspired a wave of “story” functionality across social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook Messenger.
As a result, it’s no surprise that in 2020 60 percent of all video content published on social media was shorter than two minutes. There is no doubt that this trend has continued and will remain true for years to come, especially with user attention spans on a rapid decline. In fact, the average web user now has an attention span of just eight seconds.
Since COVID-19, the live-streaming industry has seen a substantial increase in viewers, becoming the seventh most consumed media type, below video games and above radio. Major social media platforms have had live-streaming capabilities for years now, but their potential is only now being realized.
82 percent of consumers say their preferred streaming method is through social media, causing businesses to take advantage by broadcasting live product launches, events, and celebrity interviews. Live streaming is an excellent way to encourage real-time interaction and drive brand loyalty, it has quickly become the new marketing staple of social media.
Top 3 Social Media Apps
Though many new social media platforms have come to prominence, the big three remain steadfast in their relevance: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Launched as The Facebook in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg founded this social media giant while enrolled in university. He later dropped the definite article along with his university degree, developing and growing Facebook to become the world’s most popular social networking site. Today, there are over 2.11 billion active monthly Facebook users. With a hugely popular mobile app, extensive API usage, and the metaverse, the Facebook platform is poised to continue its growth for several years to come.
Instagram launched in 2010 after creators Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger developed it as a photo-sharing app under the name Burbn. It wasn’t long after, in 2012, that Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, identified Instagram’s potential and acquired the app for $1 billion. The platform now sees over one billion active users a month.
With Elon Musk’s recent “free-speech” takeover, Twitter is at the center of much controversy. Yet it remains one of the most popular social media platforms with over 200 million daily active users. It was originally co-founded in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, Noah Glass, and Evan Williams, and is now a favorite of celebrities, political pundits, and general users who wish to share their thoughts online.
Essential Features of a Social Media App
There are several crucial features necessary in developing a social media app, all of which the above-discussed platforms have. However, the following features are just a handful of elements your app should include.
- User Feed: The user feed is where users can view, discover, and interact with content posted to the platform.
- Content Posting: Users should be able to create, edit, and post content.
- Engagement Options: Users should also have the ability to interact with other users’ posts through the use of likes and comments.
Under the Hood: Technical Considerations
Considering the technology behind your social media is crucial and will affect the outcome of your development. Here are some elements to consider.
When developing a social media mobile app, you need to decide where you’d like it to be available. Will it be a cross-platform application that’s available on iOS and Android or will it be native to just one? This decision will affect the technology involved in the development process. For example, cross-platform development will call for a knowledge of cross-platform technologies, such as react native and flutter.
Will your social media platform include private messaging capabilities? If so, you’ll need to consider data security and message encryption technologies. You could opt to integrate your app with advanced security features like two-factor authentication. Otherwise, you may wish to outsource the messaging side to a trusted third party.
4 Steps to Develop a Social Media App
Now that you have an understanding of the essential components of major social media platforms, it’s time to take this knowledge and apply it to your own app. Here are four steps to successful social media app development.
1. Background Research
The first step in developing a social media app successfully is to identify your target audience and niché, as well as your goals. Doing so will enable you to determine which features your social media app requires. For example, if you want to build a photo-sharing app like Instagram, you’d need excellent photo editing options.
Similarly, if you’re building an app for a particular demographic, then the features you’ll later implement must appeal to this audience. An app aimed at the older generation will call for different features than an app targeted toward younger users. In the case of the former, you may need to simplify the app for non-technical users or enable increased font sizes.
2. Design and Conceptualize Functionality
The next stage is to design and conceptualize functionality. This means creating design mockups of your app based on its required features and your proposed or existing branding. During this stage, it’s essential to consider user interface (UI), including how users will navigate the app and the overall user experience (UX) it creates. Poor UI/UX design is often the primary culprit behind disenfranchised users.
Clearly defining your app’s functionality in the design phase makes it easier for your developers to understand and create accurate features during development. As a result, it’s a good practice to mock up working prototypes with clickable features. This can be done with design tools such as Figma.
3. Develop and Test
After designing your social media app, you can move to the development phase. If you don’t have the technical knowledge to build a mobile app yourself, you should consider hiring an expert mobile app development agency. In this case, you’ll need to review their experience, portfolio, and services, to ensure their expertise is relevant to your requirements.
Once the app is developed, it is tempting to release it to the world as soon as possible. However, every mobile app requires testing to ensure there are no obvious bugs or UI/UX issues. You can read Idea Maker’s guide to beta-testing mobile apps to learn the importance of app testing.
4. Deliver and Maintain
Finally, it’s time to deliver your social media app to app stores. If you choose to work with a development company and are unsure how to do this yourself, they can help with this step, too. Once deployed, you’ll need to carefully monitor your app to identify bugs as they arise.
Remember, no matter how well-programmed and thoroughly tested an app is, it will never be entirely bug-free. When issues do arise, it’s crucial to fix bugs swiftly to continuously deliver a smooth user experience. Regularly collecting user feedback and modifying your app accordingly is also an excellent way to refine your social media application.
Marketing Your Social Media App
If we build it, they will come. This is not a working philosophy when it comes to most matters of mobile app development. Marketing your app is crucial to successfully secure a monetizable user base.
App Store Optimization
If you have an understanding of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the principles of App Store Optimization (ASO) should come naturally. ASO is the practice of tailoring your app listing page toward relevant search terms in order to make your app discoverable to the right users. And like search engines, app stores have ranking factors, including:
- App name
- Keyword usage
- Number of installs
- Reviews and ratings
So, optimizing your social media app store page ultimately grants it greater visibility and a higher chance of being discovered by users.
In keeping with the theme of directly advertising on app stores, search ads are an excellent way to leverage the powers of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads. These are advertisements that appear within the app store to users with particular interests relevant to your application. Search ads are an excellent way to get your app in front of a vast audience, but, like all PPC ads, it’s challenging to convert users to customers.
Ironically, using other social media platforms to advertise your social media app is an effective option. You can take advantage of their existing user bases and advertising capabilities like PPC ads, organic search advertising, user-generated content, and more. Read Idea Maker’s guide to increasing web traffic using social media, as the same principles can be applied to mobile apps.
Monetizing Your Social Media App
Now that you’ve developed, deployed, and marketed your social media app successfully, you can leverage its user base to generate an income. Here are just a few ways of doing so.
Allowing businesses, brands, and individuals to post PPC/Pay-Per-Impression (PPI) ads on your platform is an excellent and effective way to earn revenue. However, this is only a possibility once you understand the interests and behaviors of your user base. Otherwise, your ad targeting options will be limited and unappealing to advertisers.
If your users make money using your social media app, for example, by selling their products to their audience, you could ask for a sales commission. This is typically a money-generation method used by e-commerce companies like eBay, but if implemented through a creator partner program, in-app store or referral link system, it is a viable option for your app, too. It is important to ensure that any product commissions are clearly written into the terms and conditions.
Though unconventional, you could implement a tiered pricing structure to your social media app based on the principles of the SaaS business model. This would mean giving users access to a free account with limited features, allowing them to upgrade for a monthly fee and enjoy additional functionality. However, this will work best if your platform is niché, offering access to a network of certain individuals and features like LinkedIn.
At this stage, you’re likely eager to get started with your social media app development, but there are a few more considerations to make before launching your app. Legalities. It’s essential that you carefully consider and consult with legal professionals regarding your social media app. Otherwise, you could encounter content copyright and safeguarding issues.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) means that because your app allows users to create and post content, there must be a mechanism in place to report copyright infringements. Failure to comply with the DMCA can result in hefty fines and penalties. You can read more about the DMCA and how to protect yourself in this Idea Maker guide.
User Safeguarding Policy
How will you safeguard your users from harmful content? Or do you plan to take a free-speech approach by encouraging users to self-regulate? Either way, you’ll still need to consider age restrictions to ensure children do not use your platform, along with creating a safeguarding policy for young users. It’s best to consult with a legal professional for advice.
Social Media App Development Cost
The cost of developing a social media app will greatly vary depending on several factors. These include, but are not limited to, the number of features, functionality type, custom code requirements, development timeframe, platform support, and app scalability.
Idea Maker’s Experience In Social Media App Development
At Idea Maker, we have ample experience in social media app development, having successfully developed two networking platforms. If you’d like to discuss our services and how we can help you develop a social media app, schedule a free consultation today.