Are you wondering how to create your own social media app?
Maybe you’re asking yourself questions like “how do I make a social networking app like Facebook?”, “ How much does it cost to make a social media app?”, “ Can I make an app for free?”, “Is it hard to make a social media app?”
If so, this is the only guide you’ll ever need to read. We’re going to answer all of your burning questions and guide you through every step you need to take to make it happen.
- What a social network is and why you should create one
- The benefits of creating a social network
- The growing social media app landscape
- Types of social media apps
- Options for creating a social media app
- Features of a great social media app
- Advanced features of social media apps
- How to create a social media app in 5 easy steps
- Best practices of social network design
- How much it costs to create a social media app
- How to make money from a social media app
- Quantitative metrics for social media apps
- Acquiring users for your social media app
Let’s get started.
What a social network is and why you should create one
When you hear the term social media app, maybe apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Linkedin spring to mind.
A social network is an online platform that people use to build social networks and relationships with people who share similar interests, backgrounds, or real-life connections with others from all walks of life. Whilst they were originally intended for people to build connections with others, they are also powerful marketing tools. Users can share ideas, photos, videos, posts, and inform each other about online or real-world activities with people in their network.
Essential features of a social network include an activity feed which displays all of the latest updates from friends or groups, a messaging service to directly communicate with specific users, a profile for people to list personal information such as their name, age, or profession for example and is usually accompanied by photos, videos, and summaries of their most recent life updates or interests.
Social media platforms provide an easy-to-use interface, an open forum to connect with people from all over the world, and the opportunity to engage in discussions. Essentially these functionalities are the basis of a social media app.
So why should you create a social media app if these existing platforms already exist?
Let’s face it, people are starting to fall out of love with traditional social media networks and for good reasons too. Social networks have become a minefield of frustration for creators, entrepreneurs, and businesses – they are broad, generalistic, and designed to cater to anyone with an internet connection.
Everything from data breaches, zero monetization options, trolling, distraction overload, dying reach, constant algorithm updates that push people into paying for ads, and a lack of personalisation are major contributing factors to the disenchantment with existing social media platforms.
Luckily for you, there is an alternative. Thanks to modern technology, you now have the opportunity to create a social media app. Your own, customised social space, dedicated entirely to you and your community.
The benefits of creating a social network
Creating your own social network provides you with a huge number of benefits, the power to reach your community on your own terms is just one of them.
Here are 6 other ones:
1. Customised social network apps create more direct relationships and interactions
Cutting out the middleman is an understatement here. When you design and own the digital platform you interact with your community on, there are no outside rules or limitations. Want to make sure everyone who follows sees what you have to say? Your own social media app gives you the ability to reach your community quickly and directly.
2. Get a deeper understanding of your community
Major social media platforms only give you access to a fraction of your communities’ data. This helps them to ensure that you’ll keep coming back to pay for advertising so you can get smarter audience targeting. And they’ll only give you access to the extra data if you’re the highest bidder.
When you create a social media app, you’re in charge. You’re the one throwing the party so you should be able to know everything about your guests. In addition to the freedom of being able to interact with your community on your own terms, you have the power to fully access data about the people who are most interested in who you are and what you do which is great for social media marketing activity too.
3. Creating your own safe community space allows for more creativity and innovation
For creatives especially, connecting with fans, followers and subscribers can be somewhat limited by traditional social media platforms. But when you have the means to design and operate a social media app yourself, your creative vision doesn’t have to be compromised.
When you create a social media app, you’re in full control. No longer do you have to squish important sentiments down into a 280 character limit. And gone is the standard, one-size-fits-all approach to design and functionality. In your own, dedicated community space, you’ll have way more control over the design, look and feel.
4. Customised social networks make monetization easy
Selling things to your community isn’t possible in many cases on existing social media platforms. But with your own customised social media app, digital marketplace options can be built right into your platform. Things like one-click and express purchasing become possible.
You get to earn money on your own terms. And to make it easy for your audience to buy the products and services they want.
5. Wave goodbye to dying reach
The downside of having so many people, creators, and businesses on existing social networks is that everyone is competing for space and attention. And the networks have to use algorithms to figure out which content to show to who.
When you create your own social media app, there are no tricky algorithms to navigate or news feed spaces to fight for. It’s just you and your audience. So you’ll reach all of them, every time you post.
6. Ditch the distractions
Creating your own social network allows you to have your own space away from all the noise and distractions on busy social media platforms. There are no ads, people ranting about the latest news headlines or cat memes dragging your audience’s attention away from your content.
By creating your own social network, you’ll free yourself and your audience from all those distractions.
The growing social media app landscape
Social media users have grown by more than 10% over the past year, taking the global total to 3.96 billion by the start of July 2020.
This means – that for the first time, more than half of the world’s population now uses social media with more people using social media than not, and 99% of total social media users accessing these platforms via mobile app at some point.
This provides you with a huge opportunity to rapidly grow your community and monetize your audience with your own social media app.
Here are some powerful insights on how you can use your social media app to influence purchasing decisions.
Source: Global WebIndex
Types of social media apps and what people expect
Now that we’ve discussed what a social media app is, the benefits of creating your own and the huge opportunities which lay in doing so, let’s talk about the different types of social media apps available, the categories they fall into and the expectations people have from each option.
Social network apps/ Relationship networks: These are what many of us may already be familiar with (Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook). They’re used to connect and interact with people online and to share information.
Media sharing networks: These are social apps that allow you to share all kinds of media files (photos, videos, GIFs, etc). Platforms such as Youtube, Vimeo, and Tiktok are good examples of this.
Consumer review networks: These are used by customers to find or review businesses they’ve had an experience with. Yelp and Trustpilot are good examples of these.
Community and discussion forums: These are places for asking and answering questions, sharing experiences, insights, and tips. Apps such as Quora and Reddit are examples of them.
Content curation networks: These are apps that are used to share, discover, and save content. Think Pinterest or Flipboard.
Blogging and publishing platforms: These social media platforms allow users to create blogs and publish their content. Tumblr and Medium examples of platforms that offer this functionality.
Interest-based networks: This is a niche type of forum that unites people with common interests such as Goodreads or Soundcloud for example.
As you can see, there are lots of types of social media apps. Each is defined by specific features so it’s a good idea to consider what functionality you’d like when creating your own social media app.
Options for creating a social media app
With technology rapidly developing and the increase of no-code product development, there are now way more options available to easily create social media apps.
Ultimately when it comes to creating your social media app, there are four directions you can go in, each with their own pros and cons. We’ve broken the options down for you below:
SaaS Solution: SaaS platforms such as Disciple provide you with out-of-the-box features that you can use to build your own social community across web and mobile. You can customise the look and feel, quickly get an app up and running and have options to monetise your content based on your preferences.
Open-source software: Open-source software can be downloaded and configured on your own server. There are free and paid options available. Although they offer more flexibility in terms of customisation they will require the cost of a developer and you’ll have to pay for any hosting. You also don’t benefit from any customer support or any automatic software updates.
CMS with a social network extension: You can use CMS platforms such as WordPressor or Drupal to build a social media site with plugins. These plugins can be free but are also quite limiting in terms of what you may want to achieve and be buggy. They’re also better for a social media website rather than a social media app.
Develop from scratch: Let’s say you have a completely unique idea that requires extremely advanced technology like Snapchat that has VR filters for example, the only way may be to build your app from scratch. Hiring a specialist app development company will help you to achieve this – this approach is last because whilst it’s an option it’s also incredibly expensive and time-consuming.
Must-have features of a social media app
Now that we’ve discussed the different options for creating your social media app, you may be wondering what features you should consider for interest-based network.
Here are some key things to consider:
Profile. A personal profile for users to include information about themselves such as their name, location, and photo, etc.
Posts. The ability for users to publish posts. Your users should be able to share news, information, and discuss topics with their friends or the wider community.
Notifications. A way for people to be notified of updates or things they’ve been ‘tagged in’ for example as well as Push Notifications where people can be updated on their mobile phones without having to log in to the app.
A search bar. This makes it easier for people to find groups, topics, or people.
Friending options. Users must be able to send a friend request or be able to follow others in order to see updates in their news feed.
News Feed. This is a central space where users can see what’s happening in the lives of the friends, people and groups they’re following.
Chat/Messaging. This is a private messaging system that gives users a chance to chat in private mode, outside of a group for example as well as the option to comment and engage in public posts within groups.
File uploads. The ability for users to upload media such as photos and videos for example.
Resource library. A central space where you as the owner of the platform can store relevant content assets such as videos or PDFs so you can easily share them in relevant spaces.
Groups and subgroups. The ability to set up a group but also to set up subgroups. For example, if your community or network is targeted to people who love photography, you may want sub-groups that focus on wildlife photography or event photography, etc.
Moderation tools. One of the best things about having your own social network is not having to worry about random people trolling your Group or trying to defame your business. Having moderation tools such as shadow banning and editing comments on your own social network is a great way to eliminate any harmful activity.
Livestreaming. More and more people are accustomed to watching livestreams. Having a livestreaming option should be a must. It’s a great way to instantly connect with an audience and do product or fitness demos for example.
Customisation. The ability to customise the look and feel of your social network to fit your brand. You should be able to change colours, fonts and add your logo, as well as customising your domain name.
Security. It goes without saying that your platform should be highly secure and provide the option for data to be owned and managed by you.
Analytics. It’s really important for you to have access to data and analytics so you can track where your users are located, device type, and content they’re engaging with the most so that you can ensure you’re providing the best user experience.
Admin Access. The feature is to help you and those you assign roles to, to manage the site, block unreliable users, and perform other administrative functions.
Monetization. Do you want to monetize your social network or community? If so, having options to achieve this will be really important when creating your social network.
Advanced features of a social media app
As discussed earlier when we talked about the option of building a social media app from scratch, below are some unique and advanced features you may consider for a bespoke app.
Augmented reality and face filters: Snapchat and Instagram are the trendsetters here. People still enjoy the funny face filters for an added effect.
Artificial Intelligence chatbots: These are the automated chatbots that predict and respond to questions.
Ephemeral content: This is the type of content that disappears after 24 hours such as messages or stories. Again, Snapchat and Instagram are the leaders here.
How to create a social media app (Step-by-step)
Now that we’ve talked about your options. Let’s dive into the essential steps you need to take to create a social media app.
Step 1 – Target audience and purpose
Decide what your social media network will be about. Just having an idea for an app is not enough to get you started. Make sure you have a full understanding of your market and the competition that already exists.
Social media app adoption is a tricky battlefield to navigate so it’s important to understand what features your potential users like and what your current competition lacks.
Once you have a clear idea of what your app will be about and the purpose of it, it’s time to start putting together your ideas. You’ll want to consider your options for user retention, as well as what strategies you’ll use to grow and engage your community.
If you plan to make money from your app, think carefully about your different monetization options.
Step 2 – Features and functions
When you first start planning your social media app, it’s easy to get lost in the many different functions and features you can implement. But initially, be sure to understand your limitations, budget and development skills to ensure that all the features are necessary at this early stage.
Decide what you want your active users to do on your app. Some ideas to consider:
- Do you want your users to be able to post updates (whether that be photos, videos or text). If you do plan to use a news feed function, decide who will be able to post. Will status updates be for all users, or just some?
- Do you want to enable comments or like features to foster user engagement?
- What kind of content will you upload to the app? How will you help people find that content?
- Will you use Push Notifications to keep people engaged with your app and content?
- Will your app be a private community, or free for anyone to download and interact?
- What security measures will you take to ensure your app is as safe as possible for all users?
- Will you link your app to other social media platforms to increase your reach?
- Will your app give people the ability to create their own profile?
- Do you want to allow geolocation? Geolocation allows your app to locate where your users are. This could be a useful tool if you want to use user-generated content and allow people to tag where they are or where their content was sourced from.
Step 3 – Development & Design
When you’ve outlined the core features and functionality of your app, it’s time to start designing and developing it.
You’ll need to decide early on what route you intend to take and whether you want your app available for Android users, Apple users, or both.
Android and Apple both use different technological stacks.
If you’re using a SaaS solution, you don’t need to worry about this step too much but if you’re planning to start from scratch it’s important to note that the development process can be both expensive and time-consuming, so make sure that your outlines and designs are as clear as possible for a developer to put them together if you’d like to go down this route.
Start by wireframing your app. This will help your entire team visualise how the app works and what pages link together.
Prototyping is the next step and involves creating a working model of the app. It helps everyone understand the app better and will put you in a much stronger position when it comes to the final development process.
Step 4 – Grow your community
Once you’ve developed your app, it’s time to get your users on there and start building your community.
Think about your initial marketing needs. How will you get users to download your app and what incentives will you use to make sure they have the best time when using your app? Will you include people you know from real life? Don’t worry, we’ve got some tips on how to do this below.
Step 5 – Analysis
There are a wide range of analytics tools that can help you assess the success of your app. You might look at how long people spend on your app, or how many times per week/month they use it.
Keeping track of engagement can help you make actionable changes for the future.
Best practices of social media app design
When thinking about creating a social media app, it’s important to make sure it’s intuitive and easy to use and will be appealing not only to you but to the audience you’re catering for.
Here are a few best practices to keep in mind when thinking about the look and feel of your app:
- A simple, clean design that people are already familiar with using is a good starting point.
- Make sure the look and design remain consistent across the web and mobile to avoid confusing your users.
- 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.
- Provide options for people to share information and add personality to their profiles.
- Tailor colours to your brand guidelines for seamless user experience.
- Make it easy for people to search for users and relevant content or groups.
How much does it cost to create a social media app?
The cost of creating a social media app varies depending on which route you decide to go down in terms of building it. If you’re planning to use a SaaS or CMS solution for example the cost is going to be significantly less and be much faster than say an open-source solution that involves the cost of software, a developer, and paying for hosting.
If you’re considering creating a social media app from scratch then you need to account for the cost of back-end development which can often take months and sometimes even years, as well as the cost for trying to develop an app for either iOS or Android development – these costs can range anywhere from $94,500 for one platform (iOS or Android) and $152,850 for two platforms.
How to make money from your social media app
If you’re wondering how you can monetize your social media app and make money from your investment, there are a few ways to achieve this.
Paid subscriptions: We all want to feel that we belong to something exclusive. As long as your content delivers real value to your community members many of them will be happy to pay for a subscription. You can offer a free tier with good content and one or more paid tiers that offer more in-depth or high-value content. With an app-based community, Apple and Google payment systems make subscribing incredibly easy.
Physical purchases: From cool merchandise with snappy slogans to links to your fully stocked online store and Shopify integration, community members who love your brand are going to find it simpler to buy directly from you.
Sponsored content: If you’ve got lots of engaged community members, what are the chances that businesses would like to reach out to them? Paid sponsorship is the way to turn your reach into money. Tip – always be transparent and only allow ethical sponsors that match your member base.
In-app purchases: Got a course, ebook, video or audio file that you know your community members would love enough to pay for? Give them the chance to unlock digital products directly from your app with in-app purchases.
Events and activities: Promote events and online experiences through your community platform. Simply link them to your favourite ticketing platform and start selling.
Quantitative metrics for social media apps
Not to get all technical on you, but if you’re serious about measuring the impact of your social media app and metrics are your thing, we’ve listed the key ones that you should keep a track of.
CPI: (Cost Per Install) is calculated by keeping track of the number of installs for your app which came from advertising.
CAC: (Customer acquisition cost) is the sum of the total amount of all your marketing efforts that were required to attract a user into your app.
User activation: This is the number of active users in comparison to people who have simply downloaded your app and may not be using it.
User retention and churn rate: This is measured by the number of users who stay and use your app in comparison to churn which is the number of people who have stopped using the social media app or deleted it.
User engagement: This is measured by the amount of engagement you’re seeing in your app. This can be measured by the number of actions a user takes and how long people are spending in your app as well as the frequency they’re using it for example.
Traction: This is how much traction and growth of users your app is getting.
How to acquire users for your social media app
Ok, so we’ve covered everything you would ever need to know about creating a social media app. So now you’re probably wondering how to get people using and raving about your social media app.
Here are some top ways to drive people to your app:
- Use smart banners on your website: to take users from your website to your app store page to install.
- Content marketing. Create blog posts, infographics, videos or eBooks on topics your customers are interested in and searching for and make the call-to-action to join your app.
- Leverage your existing networks: If you already have a presence or large following on social media or on your email list then don’t be afraid to shout about your app and promote it on these channels to funnel people into your app.
- Create a series of ads: You can use Google ads or ads on other social networks to drive interest for specific audiences to download your app and join your community.
- Connect with influencers in your niche: If you know of any influencers that are a great fit for your app, reach out to them or build a relationship with them to see if there is a partnership you can form with them to promote your app to their audience.
- Create referral codes: Use in-app messaging to prompt your active users to invite friends.
- Tailor PR pitches: Before reaching out to journalists and bloggers, find out how your app fits into what they write about and what their audience is interested in. A unique angle will help your pitch (and your app) to stand out.
So there we have it. We’ve covered everything you need to know about creating a social media app. The good, the bad, and the ugly!
People want a real digital connection with no strings attached. Niche social media apps are the solution that you and your community are looking for and there’s never been a better time to create one.
And if you’re sitting there thinking “this is going to cost a fortune and take ages to complete”, think again. As we discussed, there are alternative SaaS solutions that are quick, affordable, and easy to start up––like ours at Disciple.
Our platform gives you the quickest, easiest, and most affordable way to create a social media app. Sound good? Let’s get started.