How to Create a Social Media App
Social media apps have taken up a great part of our lives and the application market already, and their number continues to grow. With the increase of smartphone usage worldwide there have emerged the opportunities for social networks with more advanced features.
As a result, there are many entrepreneurs who cannot miss the chance to be part of the prosperous market and think of building new social media platforms. If you belong to one of them, you are right to be reading this blog post. In this article we are going to tell you how to create a social media app. You should read it if you want to be fully prepared for the whole process.
Types of Social Media Apps
Let’s first define what categories all social media apps are divided into. This will help you to understand what niche you are going to enter and what big competitors will be waiting for you there.
These are the common types of social media to know about:
- Social network apps
They are used to connect and interact with other people online. These social networking apps can be used for personal needs (Facebook, Twitter) or for professional communication (LinkedIn).
- Media sharing networks
Such social apps allow users to share all kinds of media files (photos, videos, GIF files, etc.). The most famous representatives of this type are Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Vimeo, and Imgur.
- Networks for consumer reviews
Such social media apps are used by customers to find and review businesses they’ve had experience with. Yelp is probably one of the most prominent examples in this category.
- Community and discussion forums
These platforms are great places for asking questions and receiving answers, sharing news, ideas, insights, and experience. The best social media apps in this category are Quora and Reddit, of course.
- Bookmarking and content curation networks
Users of these apps can share their own content and discover the content of other users and save it. Such apps like Pinterest, Mix, and Flipboard belong to this type of social media.
- Blogging and publishing platforms
These social media platforms allow users to create their own blogs and publish their content there. Tumblr and Medium are extremely popular now and thousands of people make their posts go live there every day.
- Interest-based networks
This type of social networking unites people with common interests. Users can share their hobbies and related experiences on such platforms. Goodreads or Last.fm are nice examples to check out.
- Anonymous social networks
This type of social networks is especially loved by teens because it lets them communicate anonymously with each other. Some of the most used apps of this category are Whisper, Ask.fm, and After School.
As you can see, there are many types of social media apps. You should pay attention to these categories because each of them defines the key features of the apps that belong there. Once you decide on your direction, make sure you have analyzed it properly and reviewed your potential competitors.
The next step to take is to review the latest social media trends.
Current Social Media Trends
Every year people involved in the social media sector speak about the latest trends in social media. To some of us this topic seems to be threadbare but it is not in fact. Trends are important to watch out for and to follow in order to make your social media app up-to-date and viable.
Here are the social media trends 2019 to pay attention to if you want to create a social media app:
- Augmented reality and face filters
Snapchat and Instagram are the trendsetters here. People still enjoy the funny face filters and it seems they will not go anywhere.
- Artificial Intelligence and chatbots
These are not new social media trends as well. Having become popular in 2017, they still enjoy the demand.
- Live streaming (live videos)
The most popular social media apps already have this feature. Users prefer watching live videos to reading posts on social media.
- Video is growing
Video content is more popular than written posts because users prefer watching to reading now. It is explained by the lack of time they have and by the fact that visual information is easier to perceive.
- Ephemeral content
It is the type of content that is live for up to 24 hours and then disappears from your feed. Again, Snapchat and Instagram are the leaders here. Stories increased the time people spend on these social apps daily. A nice thing to attract users, isn’t it?
- Focus on Generation Z
Researchers say that Millennials are no longer the most influential audience. They will soon be pushed aside by a new Generation Z (people born after 1998). If you think about how to create a social media app now, make sure you analyzed the need of the new influential group - Gen Z.
- Publishing content on social media
More and more people (and companies as well) want to share their content with as many users as possible. Websites are not the only place for creating content any more. Good social media apps already offer publishing opportunities to their users.
Once that you have decided upon your niche and learned trends to follow to make a social media app, it is time to get down to app features, design, and development.
Basic Social Media App Development: All You Should Know
Building a social network is no simple task. Your app idea has to go through all stages of app development to become a market-ready product. Let’s go into the details of each of them step by step.
Best Practices of Social Network Design
If you have analyzed the market well and have all necessary materials (a mind map, functional specification) to build your own social network then the first step you will take with your development team is UX/UI design.
If you want to know how to create a social media app that will look and feel nice and appealing, you should learn some basic requirements to your future product in terms of design. If to be correct these are pieces of advice based on some industry tendencies, designers’ experience, and related researches.
Nowadays, all social media apps should stick to the following simple rules:
- Use the shades of blue as this color is not considered annoying
- Use the same navigation bar with search functions, notifications, and profile icon throughout the app on every screen where they are required
- The design of the entire application should be adapted to a specific platform (there are design guidelines for iOS and Android) for users to feel comfortable using the app on their device. At the same time your app design should have its key features in common on all platforms. It is necessary to ensure equal user experience and feel if a user changes iOS to Android or vice versa
- Smooth switch from a web app design to a mobile app design to make user experience similar on any device
- Round profile pictures help to focus on a user’s face and make it simpler to remember them or distinguish them from the list of others
- Infinite scroll of posts
- Design simplicity and focus on user content
- Possibility of self-expression in design (custom opportunities like changing a profile picture, cover image, or even profile colors)
- Simple search of users and relevant content
- Quick sign in or app entry without signing up on the first stages to give an opportunity for users to find out more about your product
All in all, the quality of your social network design will greatly depend on a designer who will do the work for you. Nevertheless, the above mentioned best practices will help you find the happy medium between what you will want your design to be and what it should be.
A good way to design the first (basic) version of your custom app (social media apps included) is to actually make designs for the full app version. It is necessary to look at your project globally, plan possible interactions, and set a correct app architecture. Once your development team sees the complete picture, it becomes clear to them how to create a social media app you request. They decide what features to leave for next versions and which of them can be implemented within the first app version.
Basic Features All Best Social Media Apps Should Have
In spite of the fact that all cases differ and every social media app should have at least one unique feature to stand out from its competitors, there is a basic set of functions any social app cannot do without.
The suggested feature set, necessary to create a social media app in its basic version is as follows:
- Social authorization
- Post creation
- Post likes
- Social notifications
- User profile
- Push notification module
- Content management system (CMS): Admin authorization
- CMS: Admin management
- CMS: User management
- CMS: Reported user management
Let’s see what each of the features means:
|Social Media App Feature||Description||Notes|
|Social authorization||Users can register/login via a social network||- One social network - Facebook or Twitter or G+ (two or more networks influence the estimate)
- Transfer of account photo and full name included
- Creation of Facebook developer accounts (develop, staging, production)
- Facebook review process and support communication are handled by a project manager and not included into the estimate
|Feed||Users can see a feed with posts by one criterion/logic (basic)||- Each next criterion/logic influences the estimate|
|Post creation||Users can create posts (basic)||- Text, photo, geolocation|
|Post likes||Users can like and unlike post||-|
|Social notifications||Users can like and unlike post||- New likes, comments on your posts, new friends
- Automatic refreshing of displayed data on the fly should be implemented additionally
- Push notifications in background are not included (should be implemented additionally)
|User profile||Users can manage a profile (basic)||- Personal information (text fields, birthday, gender), one photo|
|Search||Users can search for one type of entity by one criterion||- Each next entity influences the estimate|
|Chat||Users can chat (basic)||- List of chats
- Send a text message or image, list of messages (with time and a user avatar)
- Push notifications for new messages and new chats
|Push notification module||Integration of a module for push notifications (hidden for users)||- Unsubscribe from push notifications if a user is logged out
- Specific push notification implementation influences the estimate
|Analytics||Basic integration with analytics (hidden for users)||- One Analytics tool (except Fabric)
- Flurry or Google Analytics/ Firebase or MixPanel
- Basic SDK configuration (minimum analytics
- OS versions, devices etc.), screen tracking for Android
- Develop, staging, production
|CMS: Admin authorization||Admins can register, log in, and log out||- Log in, log out|
|CMS: Admin management||Admins can manage other admins||- CRUD on administrators
- Full name, email
|CMS: User management||Admins can manage users||- Basic sorting, filtering and searching (by name, by email, by ID) included|
|CMS: Reported user management||Admins can manage reported users||- One entity (a photo or user or post), each next entity adds % to the estimate
- Can be removed
- Sorting by amount of claims
These functions are the minimum of what needs to be built to make your product be a social media application.
Do you want to develop a social media app?
Contact us for the initial consultation and we will elaborate on your app idea from a business and technical perspective. We can advise you on the best way to develop your social media app as well as provide you with an approximate project budget and timeline.
In addition to designing and coding social media apps there are other services that usually participate in the process of app development: business analysis, project management, and quality assurance. Do you think they are important? Let’s find out.
Business Analysis, Project Management, Quality Assurance: Do You Need These Services?
App development companies usually provide a full range of services to have their clients’ needs fully covered. This eliminates the number of parties included in the process of app development and helps both clients and a software development company like MLSDev to work more closely and efficiently.
Though such a wide service range exists not in vain, some people think that coding is the only thing they need to make an app. In fact, it is not true. The services that might seem additional to some of the clients (e.g. business analysis, project management, and quality assurance) are really important when it comes to real tasks.
You might need business analysis if you don’t know how to create a social media app and have only a rough project idea. In this case a business analyst will help you with all preparatory work that should be done before design and development itself. You will shape a project concept together, analyze competitors, work on the business and functional requirements of your project. The quality of this work and its deliverables (documents, functional specification, mind maps, sketches) are crucial for all other activities.
Project management is also a part you shouldn’t miss. Managing the workflow, team, tasks, and all kinds of communication take up a great deal of time. A project manager is a mediator between you as a client who wants to create a social media app and your development team who actually know how to make a social media app. If to think moneywise, you will save much more with a project manager rather than by doing this work yourself.
Development companies typically provide quality assurance services not because they are not sure in the quality of their work but because they know that no technology or app can be 100% bug-free. Every product needs QA, especially if it is the first version of your new custom product. Requirements to newly created apps have changed and now users want to see decent quality even if you have just released your custom product to the market. If you want to create a social media app of a good quality it should be polished well.
Important Aspects of Social Network Development for Different Platforms
Before you come to actually building a social network lots of work needs to be done to prepare. Be sure that it is worth it. The more you are informed and the better all is set up before developers start working on your new social media app, the smoother will the custom software development process be.
It is time now find out all ins and out of making a social app for Android, iOS, and web platforms.
How to Make a Social Networking App for Android
In this section we will mostly speak about technologies and how the main features of a social media app can be implemented based on our expertise. Let’s first find out how to develop an app for Android.
General information on social media app development for Android:
- Architecture: MVVM (model–view–viewmodel) architectural pattern
- Programming language: Earlier we used only Java to develop apps for Android but now Kotlin is preferable for all new projects.
- Framework: The main framework used is Google Play Services. It allows for access to Google Services like Firebase, Cloud Messages, In-App purchases, Geolocation, etc.
- Library: RxJava2 mostly for composing asynchronous operations.
We use the following technology stack to work with the UI Layer:
- RecyclerView. It is a native Android component that is used to show scrollable content (a list) to a user and allows interactions with items on the list.
- Fragments. It is a native Android container that contains other views and widgets. Their main difference from view containers is that fragments have their own lifecycle.
Technical implementations for the Network layer are done with:
- Retrofit for network requests
- GSON for JSON parsing
- Glide for loading images and caching
Code generation: Dagger framework for dependency injections.
Analytics: Fabric platform for collecting crash reports and minimal data about app usage.
Test frameworks: JUnit, Mockito, Robolectric
It is the technical basis for you to know if you want to understand how to create a social media app for Android.
Below is a table that shows in detail how to implement the basic features of a social app for Android:
|Social Media App Feature||Implementation on Android|
|Social authorization||Facebook SDK, Google Play services authentication, TwitterCore (part of Twitter Kit for Android).|
|Post creation||Native Fragments|
|Post likes||Likes counter is implemented with TextView on the Post View. List of likers is built with RecyclerView.|
|Social notifications||Done with RecyclerView. For clickable parts of text we use Spannable element|
|User profile||Highly depends on design. If the app should show a profile with a list of user's recent activities (posts, comments, etc.), we will use RecyclerView. Thus User Info will be a header of RecyclerView. In other cases it may be just a Fragment with User Info.|
|Search||Search results will be implemented using RecyclerView. Search field is built with the native EditText widget.|
|Push notification module||Firebase Cloud Messages|
How to Make a Social Media App for iOS
General information on social media app development for iOS:
- Architecture: MVVM (model–view–viewmodel) architectural pattern.
- Programming language: We use Swift to develop apps for iOS.
- Frameworks: Dip framework used as a service locator.
- Library: RxSwift
UI layer is built with the following technologies:
- DTTableViewManager/DTCollectionViewManager for building type-safe table views and collection views.
- LoadableViews for creating reusable view components.
Libraries used to build the Network layer:
- TRON/Alamofire for building network abstraction.
- Codable/SwiftyJSON for parsing JSON responses.
- AlamofireImage for loading and caching images from the network.
Automation and code-generation tools:
- Fastlane - deployment automation
- SwiftGen - resource code generation
- Sourcery - template code generation
- SwiftLint - for coding style guidelines enforcement
Analytics: Fabric for collecting crash reports and minimal analytics
Code generation: SwiftGen for generating the code to work with storyboards, images, colors, fonts, and localizable strings. Sourcery for generating the boiler-plate code.
Guidelines: SwiftLint for enforcing coding guidelines.
Tests: XCTest for unit tests. Nimble for asynchronous unit tests.
If you want to know how to create a social media app for iOS with the minimal feature set, look at the table below. It represents the technologies used to implement separate app functions:
|Social Media App Feature||Implementation on iOS|
|Social authorization||Facebook SDK, Twitter SDK, Google+ SDK|
|Feed||LoadableViews, RxSwift, DTTableViewManager, TRON/Alamofire|
|Post creation||CoreLocation framework, TRON/Alamofire|
|Post likes||LoadableViews, RxSwift, TRON/Alamofire|
|Social notifications||LoadableViews, RxSwift, DTTableViewManager, TRON/Alamofire|
|User profile||LoadableViews, RxSwift, TRON/Alamofire|
|Search||LoadableViews, RxSwift, DTTableViewManager, TRON/Alamofire|
|Chat||We use SwiftActionCable websocket library for communication with Rails ActionCable websockets
CoreData framework is used for offline chats storage.RecyclerView
|Push notification module||UserNotifications Framework|
Want to know how to make a social media app like Instagram?
Read our article that will tell you everything about Instagram-like app development:
How to Make an App Like Instagram: Tech Stack, Features, Costs
Should You Create a Social Media Website?
All popular social media apps have web versions to reach out to as many users as possible. If the type of social media users who prefer to use websites is not your priority, then you can omit this step. If, on the contrary, you want to maximize your outreach efforts, you should build a social media website.
Below you will find the information on how to make a social media website from the technical point of view.
- Framework: Angular 2+
- Unit tests: We use the Jasmine framework for unit testing of the self-written code
- Programming language: Ruby
- Framework: Ruby on Rails
- Web Server: Nginx
- Application Server: Puma
- Deploy tool: Capistrano
- Databases: Postgres, Redis, ElasticSearch
- Tests: Rspec
- API Documentations: Swagger
- Analytics and monitoring: AppSignal, NewRelic
- Hosting: AWS
- Source code storage: GitLab
|Social Media App Feature||Implementation on Front End||Implementation on Back End|
|Social authorization||- Facebook SDK, Twitter SDK (authorization via a social network requires its SDK)||- Receive a unique user token from the front-end or mobile client
- Make a remote request to Social Platform API and receive all user data that the platform provides through user's permissions
- Authenticate or sign-up a user and create a session token
- We use the Koala gem for Facebook authentication
- To save files as multipart objects or active storage we use Paperclip (a built-in gem in Rails 5.2)
|Feed||- For showing images/videos in posts (images carousel) we can use different libraries. The choice depends on required functionality. Some of the most used libraries are ngu-carousel, ngx-owl-carousel, Angular Slick Carousel||- Posts that a user sees in their timeline are based on the subscriptions that a user creates
- All entities that can create content for an application provide a user with the ability to subscribe to their content feed
- After aggregating all the content from all subscriptions the content is reorganized according to some algorithm (in a basic scenario - from new to old) and is sliced into pages
|Post creation||- We use a file uploader library to upload photos and videos and view them
- Google geolocation api is used for geolocation
|- For content creation we need regular RESTful API endpoint that most modern frameworks provide
- N.B. Every front-end platform can have some specific requirements and version issues
- For geolocation we use the Geocoder gem
|Post likes||- Self-written solution||- We build likes counters with the Redis:Objects gem|
|Social notifications||- Self-written solution||- We use ActionCable (Rails implementation of WebSockets) for sending real-time in-app notifications. This framework was merged in Rails 5|
|User profile||- Self-written solution||- Regular authentification/authorization system can handle this|
|Search||- Self-written solution||- For full text search many tools can be used - Postgres native trigram search index or Sphinx search engine or even a separate document-oriented database such as ElasticSearch|
|Chat||- Websockets are used for live chatting. From all available libraries we choose ng2-cable for communication with Rails ActionCable websockets||- Here a WebSocket system should be implemented. We use ActionCable to do this for Ruby on Rails|
|Push notification module||- Service workers (technology) are used to handle push messages in a browser||- To use push notifications a system should store a unique device or a browser should identify mobile devices or browsers should fire notifications when you need them
- To send notifications we can use 3rd party solutions such as Braze or do it for each platform manually sending requests to APNS or Firebase or use the Rpush gem for backend implementation of push notifications for IOS and Android
|Analytics||- Google Analytics SDK or SDK of any other analytics tool||- Back end can be done in a huge variety of ways
- For startups ready-to-use 3rd party solutions like AppSignal or NewRelic are highly recommended
|CMS: Admin authorization||- Self-written solution||- Separate namespace for admin users to CRUD content will be helpful here|
|CMS: Admin management||- Self-written solution||- Separate namespace for admin users to CRUD content will be helpful here|
|CMS: User management||- Self-written solution||- Separate namespace for admin users to CRUD content will be helpful here|
|CMS: Reported user management||- Self-written solution||- Separate namespace for admin users to CRUD content will be helpful here|
As you see, you will need to spend some extra time and effort to make a social media website but be sure it will definitely increase the number of your potential users.
How to Build a Social Media App Further?
Once you developed the first version of your custom social app for Android/iOS/web and tested its viability and marketability, it is time to move forward. You should constantly heighten users’ interest to your product by adding more features and improving it.
If you want your own network app to be among the best ones, you should work on it all the time. Below you will find out how.
Adding More Features to Your Basic Social Network App
Top social media apps never stop updating. They release new functions from time to time, make new designs, improve user experience, fix bugs, etc. You know it, you see it in your smartphones, you even wait for updates if they promise something really valuable for you.
Here are the additional features to add to your basic social media app first once you decide to grow your product:
|Social Media App Feature||Description||Notes|
|Email authorization||Users can register/login with email||- Restore password feature included|
|Phone authorization||Users can register/login with a phone number||- Restore password feature included - SMS code interception (for Android)|
|Post comments||Users can comment posts (basic)||- Only text comments|
|Friends management||Users can manage friends (basic)||- Following users allows to see their posts
- List of followers/friends
|Report content/user||Users can report an entity (content or another user)||- List with possible reporting reasons
- Each another entity increases estimate
|Localization||Users can see text content localized for their language||- Content is provided by a product owner - A system language is used (for iOS, Android)
- Back-end messages/notifications are localized
- NB! It's not internationalization of the app
|In-app purchase||Users can use in-app purchases (basic)||- One non-consumable in-app purchase (e.g. one that unlocks a feature)
- Each next in-app purchase influences the estimate
Of course, it is not a limit for the feature set of your new social networking app. We have just given you a hint on how to create a social media app with the basic and important secondary functions that will make it a working product. The rest depends only on you, but if to be more exact, on your budget, deadlines, plans, wishes, etc.
How to Maintain a Social Media App
Simultaneously with the development of new features for your social media platform you should remember about the need to maintain and support the existing product. It doesn’t matter whether you are going to release new great features or redesign your app completely, your current version in production should be stable.
Support and maintenance of social network apps are in no way different from the support and maintenance of other applications. They can be done as a continuous process or as an on-demand service. All depends on the frequency and amount of tasks.
In general, support and maintenance at MLSDev presupposes:
- Working on additional features upon request
- More quality assurance
- App stability control
- Control of server performance
- Scaling apps
- Product update (technologies, OS, servers, security)
It is not enough just to create a social media app, all listed activities should be part of the ongoing work on your product.
How Much Does It Cost to Build a Social Media App?
Now when you understand how to create a social media app, let’s speak about costs. Financial side matters, doesn’t it?
We will calculate three options for your convenience:
- The first one is the price for the first app version with a basic feature set.
- The second price is for a product with additional features and app development services.
- The third amount is for a large project with complex features.
The following table will show you how much it costs to create a social media app of your choice:
|Basic version (minimum feature set, 1 platform)||Full product (more features and design of a larger complexity, 1 platform)||Large app (complex app design, development, and support, 2+ platforms)|
|Time||~3-6 months||~6-9 months||9+ months (ongoing)|
Please note, that these social media app development cost calculations are rough. They should give you a general understanding of a budget you might need to make a social network. However, every case is special, so it is better to consult professionals about yours.
MLSDev Social Media App Experience
Though you already know how to create a social network from scratch in detail, it doesn’t mean that the process will be simple and quick. Famous social media apps like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter were not built in one go, so you should be patient and take smaller steps. It is a wise way to make a social media app and turn it into a successful product.
Our team has expertise in creating social network apps among which is Yummi project. This app is a platform that helps to track and share your eating adventures. It allows logging your personal food memories, share them with friends, and decide what new eating place to attend based on your friend's feedback. It began as a Minimum Viable Product on iOS. Later, the app was converted on Android with core features. These days, the project keeps evolving and adding new functionality like foodprints based on geolocation. You may check the Case study of Yummi project on our website and find there links to download the app on Google Play or App Store.
Want to make a social media app?
Our team will be glad to help you with any social network ideas you may have. Just drop us a short message to begin our discussion.