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11 September 2020

How to Create a Social Media App

Social media applications are capturing the world. Just look at the success of TikTok. People love sharing content and chatting with friends. 3.5 billion social media users all over the world prove that.

In this article, I’m going to guide you through the process of building your own social media application. You’ll also learn about trends in this field and types of social media apps.

Types of social media on the market


The whole social media market can be divided into smaller niches. They are:

  1. Social networks — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn

  2. Media sharing platforms — Instagram, YouTube

  3. Forums — Quora, Reddit

  4. Blogging platforms — Medium, Tumblr

  5. Messengers — WhatsApp, Viber


The list goes on. Still, it gives a good picture of the social media market and its variety. Let’s take a closer look at each point.

Social networks


Why people use them: To connect with other people and brands

Social networks have evolved into something transforming every part of our lives — from sharing cat photos to finding a job or service nearby. If you decided to build an app like Twitter or Facebook, you’d need to spend a lot of time and money on development.


Media sharing platforms


Why people use them: To find and share content they like.

In fact, the line between social networks and media sharing platforms is very blurry. But the main difference between them is that videos and photos prevail on media sharing networks. Social networks typically have more text posts than the content of any other type.

The main difficulty here is to build a content compression algorithm and implement video streaming (if needed).


Forums


Why people use them: To discuss and find interesting topics with like-minded people.

Forums are basically one of the oldest social media. They are a great place for sharing opinions. Forums usually give users a choice — stay anonymous or add an avatar, city of residence, job title, and so on.

Similar platforms are relatively easy to build. But you have to put a lot of effort into creating content for it or attracting active users. No one would join an empty forum.


Blogging platform


Why people use them: To publish and find interesting content.

They let people write on topics they’re interested in, discover new content, and leave comments. Platforms like Tumblr and Medium do a great job there.


Messengers


Why people use them: To chat with their circle of friends.

Messaging apps are tightly connected with a user’s phone number. This means only those people having the phone number can contact that user. In social networks, everyone can find and contact everybody. Except for the cases when privacy settings are non-default.

The main difficulty with messengers is security. Messages users send or get may contain sensitive data that makes advanced encryption a must-have. In turn, it increases the average cost of software development.



Here is the list of top most popular social media platforms by numbers of active users in millions:

  1. Facebook — 2.375

  2. YouTube — 2.000

  3. WhatsApp — 1.800

  4. Facebook Messenger — 1.300

  5. WeChat — 1.112

  6. Instagram — 1.000

  7. QQ — 823

  8. QZone — 572

  9. TikTok — 500

  10. Weibo — 465

  11. Twitter — 330


Defining MVP features


As you understand, building the next Facebook is pretty expensive. That’s why it’s a good idea to start from a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), see how it goes, and add more features later on.

Let’s consider some of the features you could include in the MVP.

User profile


It’s hardly possible to find a social media app without user profiles. Their complexity and filling can differ, though. Look at Instagram’s profiles with tons of photos and videos and compare them to LinkedIn’s where text prevails.

Think through the essential data your users would like to see on one another’s profiles.

Search


A social network of any type has tons of data and hundreds of thousands of users. The in-app search engine is a must.

Think about the criteria for search and filtering system. For example, Facebook can find matches by sections (posts, people, video) and filter them by date, location, and so on.

News feed


Social networks use different approaches and algorithms to build up their news feeds. Some show recent updates from your connections. Others make it AI-based showing the content you might like first.

In-app messaging


Connecting with others is what makes most people use social networks. It’s up to you whether to make your social media app more or less focused on messaging.

For example, you can allow send text messages only. Without attaching files, photos, videos, and so on.

Push notification


Push notification is a mus-have feature not only for social media apps but for every application. Remind users about a draft they abandoned, unread message, past events or whatever else. Push notifications call users to action — launch your app.

Think about the ways to use unique features of your platform to build a system of custom push notifications around it.

Trending features to include


Let’s now take a look at some of the trending and additional features you can add to your application.

Payments


If you plan to monetize your app via in-app payments or allow other people to receive or send payments using it, then you have something to think about.

For example, WhatsApp already has a person-to-person payment in the application.

Marketplace


Look around. It’s a decade of marketplaces. Social networks like Facebook and Instagram allow placing and buying products to businesses and users. That means it’s another trend for social media — be a little bit similar to e-commerce stores.

Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality


Tech giants like Facebook invest a lot of money into pushing VR forward. But they can afford it. AR is much more affordable for smaller companies and more useful for the end-users (yet).
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