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How to Build a Social Media App in 2021

There can be very few founders, entrepreneurs or businesses that haven’t considered the benefits of building their own social media app, but it’s a crowded and competitive marketplace, so in this article, we will look at everything you need to consider if you want to know how to build a social media app in 2021.

What is a Social Media Application

Obviously, everyone thinks of the big players like Facebook and Twitter when you talk about social media, but the definition of a social media app is a lot broader than that. It is an application that allows people to build social networks with other people.

Traditionally these are with people you already know or you share similar interests with. It’s used to share words, photos and videos, allowing people to exchange opinions and information with others that are interested in what they have to communicate.

Whilst everyone will create a social media app differently, many features are common to them all.

  • The ability to post updates about what you are up to
  • A news feed
  • The ability to privately message someone
  • Enabling users to react to others posts
  • Letting a user create a profile
  • The ability to sign in using other global logins like Google or Facebook
  • Allowing notifications to be sent to a phone or email address

Whatever you are looking to build, start with why you should build a social media app and what it should contain.

In 2021, Should You Be Creating a Social Media Application?

How many of your friends no longer bother with Facebook? Do you know a lot of people that never really got into Twitter? Have you got mates that have been completely turned off the mainstream social media platforms?

I think most people can answer yes to at least one of these questions. As a result, you’ll realise that although it might seem odd to build a social media app when such strong competition exists, if you can find a niche and product that appeals to an audience, there is still a big demand for new social media apps.

Aside from the obvious benefits that could be achieved by creating a social media app that is hugely successful (who doesn’t want the fortune of Mark Zuckerberg), there are other clear benefits for your business in being able to create a social network app.

  • Greater and more direct interaction with your community / customers
  • The ability to understand the needs of your community more
  • A more captive audience to sell your products and services to
  • The competition for what you sell should be much smaller on it

What Types of Social Media Application Could You Build?

The variety of reasons for creating your social media app grow each year, but here a few common reasons for running a social media application development project.

Social Networking Apps

The classic application, connecting and interacting with friends and family, sharing what is happening in their lives. This is what places like Facebook are at their heart.
A sub-genre of this would be a media sharing networks, that generally focuses on a single format of media to be shared, like video. YouTube is the perfect example of this.

Consumer Review Networks

The sort of network dedicated to sharing reviews and information about products and services, allowing others to benefit from your experiences with a brand. This could range from a general review site like Yelp through to a sector specific sites, for example TripAdvisor.

Discussion Forums

Think about these as places that people go to ask questions and get answers from people with more experience. Again you might have quite general sites like Quora or sector specific forums, a good example being GitHub.

Content Creation Networks

A place to share and discuss creative ideas that others would like to see and take inspiration from. The classic example of this would be Pinterest but you might also include something like Soundcloud in this category. These are often referred to as bookmarking sites.

Blogging Platforms

Another very popular alternative to the traditional social media apps are those that allow people to create blogs and publish them for others to read and comment on. Medium is a great example of this type of platform.

Dating Application

A very niche but hugely popular form of social media application, dedicated to people building relationships, generally with people they do not know. Tinder is the biggest example of this.

Messenger Apps

Whilst some of the most popular messaging apps have grown out of traditional social media platforms (think Facebook Messenger), this is a growing area and WhatsApp is a prime example of a platform dedicated just to messaging a close network.

Depending on the type of social media app that you decide to build, you should then understand the requirements relevant to that and the ensure these features are built into your project.

The social networking app VEARTH, built on a NoCode platform

Everything You Need to Know About Building a Social Media App

Let’s think about how to make a social media app because it’s not a simple process but if we use the many resources available, it is something that most people can do.

What platform should you use?

You have a surprisingly varied selection of options when deciding how to build a social media app.

  • Developing your app from scratch will give the greatest flexibility but will likely cost the most and require finding at least one good developer
  • Many people have a website built on a CMS that allows you to build a social platform as an extension
  • A NoCode platform is becoming the most popular modern social media app builder and you can see why. It allows you to build an app within an interface that doesn’t require coding skills

What process should you follow?

Step 1 – Functional requirements and business plan
You need to know who your audience is, understand what you are trying to achieve and how much you are prepared to invest into the development.

Step 2 – UX Design
How will the app work, what does the design need to do and how would you like the user interface to work.

Step 3 – Include all key specifications of the build
This is the detailed brief of exactly what your app will do and the functionality it needs to include, which is handed to the person/business tasked with the build.

Step 4 – Development time
Depending on the method you have selected to build your app, at this stage you have the developer building the app from your brief or you will be working with a NoCode platform to build the functionality of the app. A good example of how this might work is using a platform like bubble.io. Go here to see packages that can get you going immediately.

Step 5 – Quality Assurance
This will involve the main testing of the app, both for bugs but also to ensure it fills the criteria you set out – will the users be able to do everything you want them to do.

Step 6 – Build An Audience
You have a great app, but without users it is pointless, so it’s time to start marketing. You know your audience, so you should understand where to find them. You’ll need to appeal to their needs and pains and give them a compelling reason to download your app.

Step 7 – Test and Learn
The key now is looking at the data, listening to the users and then continually evolving the app to make it the best it can be.

These steps will need management, so it’s important to have someone that will be able to project manage this process, whether that’s someone in the business, a contractor or maybe the development agency you’ve selected to build the app.

Best Practices of Social Network Design

When it comes to social media app development, we’ve already talked about a lot of the features that are important to include, but you must not forget about the usability of the app. It’s important to consider the best practices for how to build a social media app so that your great features are aligned to the right user experience.

  1. Consistency is important. Ensure the navigation bar remains the same through the app, make the search function consistent and consider how easy it is to return to the home screen from any point
  2. Remember that Android and iOS are different, so build different versions if you want people to use it
  3. If you have a web version of the app, make sure that the experience remains the same across them
  4. What you add to a profile will be different by app, but always ensure adding a picture is an option and have that picture sit inside a round profile frame
  5. Never limit the scrolling ability of the main feed
  6. Allow people to login using sign in details they already have, like Google or Facebook

Comparing the Technical Requirements of Android and iOS

Everything we have discussed so far is about how to build a social media app or how to code a social media app. It is advice that works across both of the dominant app platforms, Android and iOS. However, there are elements when you get into the specific coding that differs when you look at how to make a social networking app for Android versus iOS.

To simplify, let us look at the elements that are different and examples of what you might use for them. Remember that this is when building an app the traditional way, whereas most of these complications don’t exist for a NoCode development.

  • Social authorisation is similar, although with Twitter you’ll be using TwitterCore on Android, part of Twitter Fit which is specifically for Android
  • Feed – You could use the RecyclerView for Android but with iOS, you’ll need a combination of assets like LoadableViews and RxSwift
  • With Post creation and likes, notifications, search and the user profile, you’ll again need different approaches, utilising LoadableViews again on iOS, with RecyclerView being critical on Android
  • Chat is another function that will require quite diverse approaches, although with Android you can again reutilise RecyclerView

Defining Success - Metrics for Measuring Your Social Media Application

The time and money taken to create a social network app is not small, so you need to be ready to measure how it is performing and use those metrics to improve your app and guide it towards success.

The definition of what success means will vary from project to project, so the following metrics are designed to give you a choice, pick the ones that work for you and your end goals.

Acquisition cost

This is your first metric to measure how successful your marketing has been in attracting customers. By measuring the cost of marketing and dividing that by the number of customers it drove, you have a good indication of your marketing success and the ability to scale it to attract more users.

User activation

This is an important measure, looking at how many users download the application to become a user. Having a lot of downloads of your social media app will mean nothing unless you have these people actively participating in the product.

Churn rate

A vital metric to define if people are staying with the app over time, the churn rate defines the number of known users that stay over a specified period of time, typically measured monthly by most businesses.

Engagement metrics

You’ll find a variety of metrics that fit into this category and the important ones for you will depend on your specific goals

  • How frequently someone returns to the app
  • How long a user spends on the app
  • The amount of interaction (e.g. posts submitted) on the app

Burn rate

Whilst a classic business measure, the burn rate is important as it will look at the total cost of running the app and comparing that to the revenues it generates and the costs of acquisition. These tell you if you have a viable long term application.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Social Media App?

Many different factors go into concluding how much a social networking app development will cost a business; integrations used, hardware feature you make use of, storage or database costs and using features like in-app purchasing.

Research suggests if you are going to outsource your app development and have it built traditionally, then a simple app will cost around $40,000, but a more complex social media app might cost up to $120,000.

However, if you go the NoCode route, you’ll find that the time to develop and thus the cost of developing your app will be dramatically reduced. By not needing to hire expensive developers and by using a platform that is accessible to multiple people inside your organisation or for you as a founder, you make the development far more cost effective. Some might argue you could build a NoCode social media app for 10% of the cost of a traditional development project.

How to Acquire Users For Your Social Media App

Getting people to your social media app will require talking to an audience. This normally works in one of two ways

Your existing audience

If you already have a website or customers, then you have an audience that you could point towards downloading your app. Start to think about the customer journey and ways you could encourage your current web traffic towards the app. Give them compelling reasons why they should be downloading it, point out the problems it solves for them.

If you have a database you can contact, sell them on the idea of the app and the benefits it brings to them. Don’t focus on what it does, talk about the things it will do for the customer.

A new audience

This is a much harder marketing challenge but where most businesses have to start. Think about content marketing and messages that will attract your potential customers and drive them towards an app download.

Start to look at paid advertising on Google or social media platforms like Facebook. It is important to think clearly about the proposition and why a customer would want to download the app. Focus on the customer, not on your offer.

Try and utilise influencers where possible, people that have a large coverage and can increase the awareness of your brand and the app. Pick ones that would appeal to your ideal customer type.

Finally, if you’ve built something unique and interesting, you might even be able to generate some media buzz and free PR around the app, but you will need a compelling story or at least pay media to run with your message.

How to Make Money From Your Social Media App

You’ve built a great app, you’ve worked on strategies to drive users to your app, now it is time to monetise your investment, so let’s look at the different ways you can make money from a social media app.

Paid Subscription

Whilst most famous social media apps don’t charge you to be a member, it’s not unheard, particularly in more niche verticals. The concept is very simple, to sign up and access the app you have to subscribe, typically for a monthly fee or annually, where you’ll receive a small discount.

This method is quite popular in exclusivity networks, for example, company directors might join a social networking app designed to talk directly with other company directors and a user would pay a subscription to be part of the network.

In-App Purchase

Normally the domain of game apps, whereby someone buys extra credits or items to help with progression, depending on the type of social networking app you have developed, it might be possible to place in-app purchasing in the product.

A good example might be an online training course for the community members or an eBook they could purchase.


This is the traditional route of the social media platforms, meaning businesses can advertise to the user base. These can get quite sophisticated, enabling the advertiser to specifically target a user group that fits their target market.

Often in a more focused social media app, the whole audience is the customer’s target. For example, if you are a social networking app aimed at the accountancy sector, then someone like Xero would feel that the whole audience is ideal for them.

Selling Product or Event

Perhaps your network becomes well known and people what merchandise with the logo on it or maybe you start to organise events for the members and charge a fee for people attending.

Time to Build!

Hopefully, we’ve helped you understand all the elements you need to consider if you want to build a social media app, the process you should follow and ways to turn your app into a profitable long term entity.

If you need any help getting started, then we have a wide selection of ways to kick you off on your new venture, go through the marketplace and select the package that works best for you.
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