Did you know that the average smartphone users spend 2 hours and 31 minutes daily on social platforms?
Undoubtedly, people love spending time on social media. No wonder creating a social media app has become a lucrative business opportunity for many. In 2022, the global social app market was valued at USD 49.09 billion.
And as social media continues to penetrate more aspects of our lives, its popularity will only grow. Industry analysts expect the market to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26.2% from 2023 to 2030.
However, developing a social media app from scratch can be complex and challenging, requiring a deep understanding of the market, user behavior, and technical expertise.
In this blog, I’ll walk you through the essential steps to social media app development, from idea generation to launching and marketing a minimum viable product (MVP) in the market.
Whether you’re an experienced app developer or a first-time entrepreneur, this guide will provide the insights and knowledge needed to build your social network app.
But before we jump into that, let’s first look at the different types of social networking platforms.
Several social networking apps are designed to serve different purposes or audiences. Some common types are:
- General social networks: These are the most popular social networking apps that allow users to connect with friends, family, and people from around the world. Examples include Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
- Microblogging platforms: These are social networking apps that allow users to share short-form content, such as text updates, photos, and videos. Examples include Twitter, Tumblr, and Snapchat.
- Media sharing networks: These social networking apps allow users to share short or long-form video content. Examples include TikTok, YouTube, and Vimeo.
- Messaging apps: These social networking apps allow users to communicate in real-time, one-on-one or in groups. Examples include WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat.
- Professional networking apps: These social networking apps are designed for professionals to connect, share job opportunities, and network. Examples include LinkedIn and Xing.
- Niche social networks: These are social networking apps designed for specific audiences, interests, or hobbies. Examples include Goodreads for book lovers, Strava for athletes, and Nextdoor for local communities.
Thinking of creating your own social network app? Here are the essential steps to ensure an engaging platform:
Consider this: As of 2022, more than half, or 58% of the global population, are social media users.
What does this mean for you?
It means that you practically have three options.
One, you can tap the remaining 48% who aren’t social media users — in other words, create new users.
Two, you can go head-to-head with existing apps and attempt to get a fair share of the current population of users worldwide.
Three, you can try to do both.
At this point, you might think, all options seem like squeezing water from a stone — and you’re right.
But let me tell you something.
Before Facebook became a household name today, it was practically unheard of in a landscape dominated by Friendster and MySpace.
Source: 1000 Logos
But the tides have turned, and Facebook is now the leading social media platform in terms of the number of active users.
How did Facebook manage to make those two social media Goliaths obsolete? By finding a problem its predecessors missed and offering a solution.
While technical and business factors were also at play in the downfall of the two then-social media giants, it’s undeniable that Facebook also worked on its success proactively.
It offered a much superior solution for control and privacy, which was a need apparently more important to social media users than meeting new people.
Before investing resources in developing your own social media app, it’s important to validate your idea and ensure there is a market need and demand for your social network app.
Ask yourself: What needs does my app fulfill? What problem does it solve? Then, after confirming that there is indeed an audience for your idea, conduct market research.
It doesn’t have to be a grand-scale or nationwide study — but it has to be targeted and strategic.
One of our product managers suggests looking for a small group in one city, industry, or community to validate a need:
“Find people who experience the problem, and ask them about how they are currently dealing with it. Then, use their answers to design an app that solves the problem.”
Also, look into what the other social network apps, including niche social media apps, are doing and see what gaps in the market you can fill with your product. Read user reviews, feedback on those apps, and industry reports related to similar products.
Remember, you can’t be just another social app in an ultra-competitive market dominated by the likes of Facebook and TikTok.
Once you have identified an opportunity in the market, define your social media app’s MVP or “minimum viable product.”
This is a version of your app that has enough features and functions to satisfy early customers while also testing whether there are potential users who want or need your product.
In other words, your MVP is essentially the bare-bones version of your product that should include only those features that are must-haves for it to succeed.
Let’s go back to Facebook as an example.
Some industry observers argue that among the reasons why Facebook triumphed over its predecessors was that it has a less cluttered interface, more engaging features, and a wider range of apps.
But before all these advanced features came into the picture, Facebook was barely a website with pictures of everyone living in the dorm of Mark Zuckerberg and his friends.
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And even when Facebook was already launched and gained traction over other popular social media platforms, its improvements were made incrementally.
If you’re among the early adopters of Facebook, you might remember it looking like the image below — far from the look and feel of the social giant we know today.
Starting with your social app’s core and essential features will help ensure that your development costs stay within budget. It will also give you a clear focus on which features need priority attention when launching the app.
In our experience consulting for numerous clients, the best way to achieve this is first to define your social media app’s purpose. What does it primarily aim to do? Your app’s purpose is its core MVP feature.
In novel concepts, the core feature is often its niche or a unique aspect or function of the app that sets it apart from similar apps in the market.
For example, if Instagram is still in the MVP stage, its core feature will be sharing photos. While it’s nice also to have a video content feature, it isn’t necessary at the early stage of development. Instagram will still fulfill its purpose without it.
Essential social media features are functions that are necessary to accomplish the user experience expected from a social networking platform.
In the proof of concept or prototype stage, demonstrating your app’s core feature is often enough. But since a minimum viable product is ready for launch, aside from the core feature, your social networking app, at the very least, should also have the following features:
- User profiles: Users should be able to create a profile with basic information such as name, username, bio, and profile picture.
- Social connections: Users should be able to connect with other users and form social networks. This may include following, friending, messaging, or liking other users’ content.
- Content creation and sharing: Users should be able to create and share content in various formats such as text, photos, videos, or audio (depending on your social app’s type and core function).
- Notifications: Users should be notified of relevant events, such as when someone likes or comments on their content or when someone they follow shares new content.
- News feed: Users should be able to stay engaged and informed about the latest updates, news, and trends within their social network and beyond.
- Search: Users should be able to search for other users, content, or hashtags within the app.
- Privacy and security: Users should have control over their privacy settings and be able to choose who can see their content or interact with them.
Once your MVP has been established, it’s time to design your app.
At Appetiser, we pay keen attention to the design stage. We believe that getting your design right is the most crucial step to app development, as this is where apps fail or succeed.
Our design stage involves two major phases: sketching and wireframing.
Sketching is an early stage process in app development where our designers use digital tools to create rough design illustrations that reflect your product’s general idea and main sections. This process allows you to explore different design ideas, layouts, and user flows before investing time and resources into coding.
In our experience, your requirements can change significantly once the app development process starts. Making as many necessary modifications before coding begins can greatly simplify the process and minimize expenses.
Sketches can also serve as a useful communication tool between designers and developers, helping to ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of your app’s design and functionality.
Your sketch, once you’ve approved it, will also serve as a basis for scoping your project and creating a ballpark figure for developing your social media app. I encourage you to read our comprehensive guide on app development costs to gain more insights into this matter.
💡 Pro tip: Sketching an app is an iterative process. This means that you will likely need to create multiple versions to refine your ideas and incorporate feedback from others. Don’t be afraid to make changes and try out new ideas as you go!
After project scoping is wireframing. In creating wireframes, our designers visually represent the user flows and consider additional screens and sections for your social media platform.
The primary goal of wireframing is to create an interactive prototype that designers, developers, and stakeholders use to evaluate your app’s functionality, user flow, and overall structure. It also helps us identify potential usability issues and make necessary adjustments before investing time and resources into the development process.
Founder André Eikmeier followed his passion for pioneering a social challenge app to help people and the planet.
Using our quality design prototype, the startup has inspired thousands of like-minded investors, raising over $1 million from more than a thousand investors and gaining rave reviews in the app stores — all without investing significant time and resources in full development.
Check out the Good Empire case study to learn more about the startup’s inspiring journey to app success.
This stage is where the actual coding and programming happen. Developers can use numerous methodologies and frameworks to manage the process. For further insights, I encourage you also to check out our article about software development methodologies.
At Appetiser, we adopt the Kanban development method. This approach is based on the principles of visualizing work, limiting work in progress, and continuous improvement. We chose this method to give our clients the power to control the project and their budget.
Here’s how it works:
- First, we scope your MVP feature requirements into Kanban months and develop a roadmap.
- Then, we build a team to work with you on developing your app. The size of your team will depend largely on the complexity of your project features and requirements.
- Following the priorities set on the roadmap, your development team will implement the features per Kanban month. You have full control of how much you would like to develop monthly. You can scale up, down, or pause anytime — we will not lock you in.
- Features that spilled will be moved from the current to next month (roadmap adjustments)
- Once Kanban months in the MVP scope are completed, your app will be ready for launch.
Our in-depth guide on the app development process explains the Appetiser workflow in greater detail.
Creating a great social networking app is only half the battle. To be successful, you need to focus on marketing and user acquisition. It is crucial to have a solid marketing strategy to reach your target audience and encourage them to download and use your social app.
Here are some steps you can take to launch and market your social media app:
- Define your target audience: Identify who you want to use your app and their interests and needs. This will help you tailor your marketing efforts to reach the right people.
- Build buzz before launch: Sparking interest around your app before launch can help generate excitement and interest. You can create a landing page, run a pre-launch campaign, and reach out to influencers and media outlets.
- Offer incentives: Offering discounts, free trials, or exclusive access can help encourage people to download and use your app.
- Optimize for app store visibility: App store optimization (ASO) is the process of optimizing your app’s listing on app stores like Google Play and the App Store. This involves optimizing your app’s title, icon, description, keywords, and visuals to improve visibility and attract more downloads.
- Partner with other brands: Consider partnering with influencers, sponsoring events, or running joint campaigns with brands or businesses that share your target audience.
- Collect and analyze data: Use analytics tools to track user behavior, engagement, and retention, and use this data to make data-driven decisions to improve your app and its marketing strategy.
Following these steps can increase your chances of launching and marketing a successful social media app. However, keep in mind that marketing a social media app is an ongoing process that requires continuous strategic thinking, effort, and attention.
You must keep up with industry trends and adapt your strategies as needed to stay ahead of the competition.
This is among the areas where Appetiser stands out. Our team’s specialization in growth marketing is a key advantage in app development. We have a full stack of tools and skills that enable us to create a fantastic product, optimize it, and promote it effectively.
Our approach goes beyond just designing and developing an app; we also focus on driving growth and engagement by implementing proven marketing strategies. When you work with us, you will collaborate with strategists, designers, and marketers to drive the best results for your project.
With our expertise in app development and growth marketing, we can help turn your app into a success story.
The social media app development market is undoubtedly highly competitive and constantly evolving, with numerous players vying for user attention and engagement. However, this does not necessarily mean that the market is completely saturated.
With the rise of new technologies and changing user preferences, there is always room for innovation and differentiation. If you have a unique idea and a solid execution plan, there is still potential to carve out a niche in the social media app market.
Remember to prioritize user experience, stay up-to-date with the latest trends, and be agile in responding to user feedback.
A new social media app may require more effort and creativity to stand out from the crowd, but with the right approach and mindset, you can still succeed. And if you need help drawing the ideal strategy, reach out to us at Appetiser. Together, let’s turn your vision into action!
Jane Eslabra is a Content Marketing Specialist at Appetiser Apps. She has 14+ years of experience producing traditional and digital content. When she’s not busy being a wordsmith, she’s out swimming, taking a long walk, or trying new activities that will keep her eyes away from the screen and her body moving.
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