How to build a social media app: An entrepreneur’s guide

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Forbes reports that the number of people using social media worldwide has reached 4.9 billion in 2023. By 2027, this number is expected to reach approximately 5.85 billion. Over the last few years, social media has evolved from being primarily a communication channel and entertainment platform to marketing and growing businesses, contributing to significant social and political discussions. The revenue generated by apps such as TikTok ($4.6 billion in 2021) or Facebook ($117 billion in 2021) is one of the reasons many businesses want to create their own social media app.

Social media apps that attract many users and become almost essential to their daily lives are not simple to develop. You may be wondering how to make a social media app that generates income, attracts a sufficient audience, and meets the needs of the user. This blog explores the process of developing new social media apps, their primary and additional features, monetization models, and the costs involved.

Before proceeding to understand the process of social media app development, first, you should understand the market prospects of social media apps.

Social media apps’ market size

According to Statista, the use of social media is one of the most popular online activities. There were more than 4.59 billion users of social media worldwide in 2022, and this number is expected to grow to almost six billion by 2027.

Global social media users from 2017 to 2027

  • Market leader, Facebook, has surpassed one billion registered accounts and currently has about 2.9 billion active monthly users, making it the largest social network worldwide. According to the Apple App Store, the top social media apps in June 2023 were WhatsApp and Telegram Messenger, as well as Facebook’s mobile app.
  • The use of social media is an integral part of daily internet usage. An average internet user spends 151 minutes per day on social media and messaging apps, an increase of 40 minutes since 2015. Latin American internet users spent the most time on social media per day on average.

How to build a social media app: 10 steps to follow

There are several important steps to follow when you consider how to make your own app. First, you must determine the purpose of the app – what market it will target and what features it will offer. You should also consider designing for social media which involves the app’s user interface and user experience. Then comes the development and testing phase. Here is a step-by-step guide to the process.

1. Decide what is the most innovative value proposition you can offer

Describe how your product or service solves customer problems, meets their needs, or gives them value in a way that sets you apart from your competitors. You should make it concise, comprehensive, and tailored to your target audience. Consider what makes your app unique compared to existing social media platforms. Focus on a niche audience that is currently underserved or address a specific need. Create an easy-to-use platform that offers valuable services that other platforms do not. Get a better understanding of your users by using data and analytics. Define the core purpose of your app by emphasizing the problems it will solve or the benefits it will provide.
While considering the social media app ideas, keep in mind the below Social network examples (Types)

  • Social networks
    Leading platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn,
  • Media sharing networks
    Leading platforms: Instagram, Snapchat, Youtube
  • Discussion forums
    Leading platforms: Quora, Digg, Reddit
  • Blogging and publishing networks
    Leading platforms: WordPress, Tumblr, Medium
  • Content curation networks
    Leading platforms: Pinterest, Flipboard
  • Consumer review networks
    Leading platforms: TripAdvisor, Yelp

2. List the features your app will offer

Create a list of features your app will offer, such as photo sharing, messaging, video content, etc. The features of a social media application vary depending on the type and complexity, but some should be included in every application. Make a social media app with features that provide value to users. Your MVP should start with a plan and a list of its main features. Here are a few common features you can consider:

List the features your app will offer
  • Sign up and user profile
  • Post-creation and publishing
  • Search engine
  • Friending or subscribing options
  • Feed
  • Chat or direct messaging
  • Group and sub-groups
  • Notifications
  • Moderation tools
  • Live streaming
  • Customization
  • Admin panel

Additional features

  • Social commerce
  • AR/VR
  • Chatbots
  • Short videos
  • Gamification

3. Do the market research

Social media app success depends on this crucial step, which many entrepreneurs miss out on. Keep up with the current and future trends in social media and technology to anticipate users’ preferences. To differentiate yourself from other social media apps in your niche, you need to know their strengths and weaknesses. Create detailed profiles of your target users, taking into account their demographics, interests, and behaviors.

4. Create a business plan

In your social media app’s business plan, prioritize features that are essential at launch while planning to add others after receiving user feedback. Ensure that monetization aligns with value and user expectations. Consider in-app purchases, subscriptions, and ads that enhance the user experience. Estimate the cost of development, ongoing maintenance, and potential revenue streams. It is important to carefully plan your finances to ensure your app’s sustainability. You will build a strong foundation for your social media app’s success with a focused launch, user-friendly monetization, and financial stability. Having a holistic view will help you make informed decisions and secure the resources your app needs to succeed.

5. Choose a social media app development company

Finally, it’s time to start developing your social media app. For your idea to succeed, it is imperative that you choose the best social media app development company. The company will assist you with the strategy, design, development, testing, and deployment of the social media app. Even companies like OpenXcell provide post-development support, guide you through launch strategies, and help you raise funds with their network. Therefore, make sure you choose your app company wisely to ensure your vision is realized.

6. UI design, prototype, and testing

Once you have determined the features set, look for ways to integrate them into a convenient interface that follows the latest social media trends. Moreover, don’t follow trends blindly – analyze them in advance.

There is quite a buzz about Stories on social media platforms. LinkedIn has already adopted them after being inspired by Instagram. Are they really necessary for a professional networking site? To summarize, make sure the trend you want to follow improves your UX and UI and that the feature it corresponds to is truly necessary, not just trendy. Once you have finished creating your prototype, test it with your users via heat maps and user acceptance tests.

7. MVP development

It has never been more important to create an MVP when developing social media apps. It is quite difficult to predict the preferences of social media users and the trends they wish to follow. You can only make some accurate predictions using AI, but your MVP gives you a chance to test the real market environment firsthand. By launching your product quickly, you can modify it according to feedback from users. By doing this, you can stay on top of your competition and keep your product relevant in an ever-changing social media landscape. However, you should be prepared for unexpected results and ready to use the insight gained at the next stage.

8. Prepare a marketing strategy and test it

Another essential task is promoting your social media app. The idea of popularizing your social media platform with the help of other social media seems strange, so think about other ways to do this. You can start with SEO-optimized content, partner with industry influencers, and run targeted ads. Additionally, reach out to bloggers and media outlets to get your app featured in their stories. Make sure you test each marketing approach. Social media trends change too quickly, so what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow.

9. Develop a full-fledged social media app

Now that your MVP is almost complete, it is time to turn it into a full-fledged application while keeping the users’ impressions in mind. Many business owners tend to replace their development teams at this point, assuming that the major part of the job has already been completed. In any case, you should proceed with the same development team since they are already well acquainted with your business, and it is always easier to continue working with your own code.

10. Launch, support, maintain, and scale

Once you have launched your social media, prepare yourself for a never-ending maintenance and support job. As your app attracts more users, your development team will have to exert more effort to keep it running smoothly. As your business grows, it is necessary to adapt your UX, adjust the workload, localize your product, and keep receiving feedback from your users.

How much does it cost to build a social media app?

You can expect a social media app to cost about the same amount as any other solution development, depending on the technology you choose, the complexity of your design, the number of features required for engaging interactions, and where your social network app development company is located. With the help of a company from one of the top IT outsourcing destinations, you can significantly cut your costs while remaining flexible and confident in the outcome.

You can build a social media app at an affordable cost, depending on what route you choose. In comparison to open-source solutions that require software, a developer, and hosting fees, SaaS or CMS solutions are considerably less expensive and more efficient.

In order to build a social media app from scratch, you need to consider the cost of back-end development, which can take months or even years, along with the cost of developing an app for either iOS or Android – these costs can range anywhere between $80,000 to $2,50,000. When developing an Android or iOS social media app, it is important to emphasize quality over cost and opt for the trusted mobile app development services.

Need a custom social media app?

Make money with your social media app startup

Now that you know how to create a social media platform, it’s time to figure out how to monetize it. All of these monetization strategies have their own strengths and considerations. When choosing the appropriate approach for your social media app, consider factors such as your target audience, the value your app provides, the competitive landscape, and the ethical implications. Using a combination of these strategies can also be effective, but be mindful not to overwhelm your users with paid options, which can negatively impact their experience. You should always prioritize delivering value to your users while monetizing your apps sustainably.

Revenue model How it works
Paid SubscriptionSubscription plans can be offered at different levels. Plans may include varying levels of access to premium features, enhanced user experiences, and exclusive content. In order to access these benefits, subscribers pay a regular subscription fee (monthly or annually).
Physical PurchasesProvide users with the option to purchase physical products within your app, such as merchandise, branded items, or items that relate to the app’s niche. If you have an engaged community for your app, this could be especially effective.
Sponsored ContentYou can display sponsored posts or advertisements in the app’s feed by partnering with businesses and individuals. Your app’s sponsors pay you for exposure to its users. Maintain transparency and trust by clearly labeling sponsored content.
In-app PurchasesProvide users with the option to purchase virtual goods, digital products, or additional content within the app. An example of this would be stickers, filters, avatars, special emojis, or any other digital items that enhance a user’s experience.
Premium FeaturesThe premium version of the app allows users to access features that are not available in the free version. For instance, ad-free browsing, analytics tools, enhanced customization options, or content discovery filters could be included.
Events and ActivitiesCreate and promote events, workshops, webinars, and meetups related to the app’s theme. Providing users with unique content or experiences that they cannot find anywhere else but at these events.

How OpenXcell can help you build your social media app?

To turn your visionary ideas into reality, OpenXcell – software development company can be your trusted tech partner across all major mobile platforms, including Android and iOS. Our social media development and IT consulting services range from custom social networking and messaging apps to full-fledged apps. We have helped clients across several industries with their social media apps when it comes to mobile app development. Now is the time for you to take the leap. Meet our team of social media app development experts and take your next step toward shaping the future of digital interactions.


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Niha Parmanandani

A dynamic content writer with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism, she specializes in writing for web and social media.  It is her passion to play with words and keep up with technology trends. Her passion for reading drives her to create engaging, educational, and inspiring content.


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