Table of content
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 one.
Apparently, TikTok has responded with a resounding yes. The fast-growing app has garnered more than 800 million users worldwide with no signs of stopping.
Facebook, with more than 2.4 billion active users in 2020, still leads the pack that also consists of the following:
Naturally, the high level of engagement also leads to high revenue from advertising and other sources. In 2019, Facebook recorded annual revenue of $70.7 billion, a record for the social media giant.
Judging by how lucrative the social media industry can be, it’s only natural that more startups are joining the fray. However, not all social media apps turn out to be wild successes. Many struggled to gain even a tiny fraction of Facebook’s traffic.
Often, the apps failed to appeal to the public as there aren’t clear points that differentiate them from the established social media platforms.
Here are how startups can build a better social media app from scratch.
Step 1: Identify The Right Product/Market Fit
The idea of a product/market fit points to the scenario where startups are delivering the right product that resonates with its target market. Startups should embark on a step-by-step process to meet users' needs.
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 changes 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 market and target audience 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.
Step 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.
Step 3: Get 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-to-one interviews with users. 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 persona and customer journey map (CJM). Persona creation is an effective method where the typical characteristics of the users are brainstormed in an ad-hoc approach.
A CJM helps startups identify the users’ behavior and collect data for improving the app. An effective CJM usually contains the persona, timeline, actions, and expectations.
Step 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 service.
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 rapidly to 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.
Step 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.
Step 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 comes 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 in 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.
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.
8 Mandatory Features Of Any Social Media App
While social media apps generally target overlapping demographics, each appeal with their 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.
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 Notification - 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 Integration - 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.
So, 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 backend and frontend of the app.
Generally, more than 1,000 hours are needed to build an MVP on a single platform. The final cost of app development depends on where the developers are based.
Here are the average rates charged in different regions.
- at the US market - average rate $150 per hour;
- at Eastern Europe market - average rate $50 per hour;
- at the India market - average rate $20 per hour.
Step 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.
Why Can We Help You To Build A Social Media App?
Yaza has everything that’s needed as a functional social media app. Furthermore, it stands out by providing users the opportunity to create, share, and react to the content created on the app and connect with friends with the chat function.
When we started Yaza, one of the first steps was to validate the idea and concept with real users. We wanted to see how users would respond to an app that allows impromptu video recording and sharing. Receiving feedback helps us to iron out teething issues and identify areas of opportunities.
Before development, we established the basic features by conducting the discovery stage. The result enables our team to narrow down the focus and identify features to be included in the MVP.
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. Talk to our team to learn more about creating a social media app.