How to Create a Social Media App & How Much It Costs

How to create a social media app - illustration by Andrey Prokopenko

Now is the best time to create a new social media app.
People and even entire businesses are in isolation because of the coronavirus, and traditional old-fashioned, in-person communication has become impossible. Some people, such as Joel Golby in his Guardian article, even claim that “coronavirus has ruined communication forever”. What can help save it if not the social networks and social media applications? No wonder the voice calling over Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging app has doubled in volume in recent weeks. And social media apps are also a great source of breaking news. Even when the world returns to normal, we may continue shifting towards online communication. And this is a new opportunity for entrepreneurs wondering about how to create a social media app and how much it costs.
Even without pandemics, social apps are a very good business opportunity. Nowadays, you can’t do without a phone. People are engaging more in tablets and smartphones, and mobile traffic volume is increasing. According to eMarketer, owners of smartphones and tablets use the browser only 10% of the total time they use their devices. And 90% of that time they spend on various applications.
Most often, users go to the following applications: digital audio, social networks, mobile video, games, and messaging.

iPhone social media app by Shakuro

iPhone X Social App by Shakuro

What people expect from social media apps

Let’s see how to get the most out of creating a social application. First of all, determine whether it’s going to be useful but not from the business point of view, but from the end-user standpoint.
At this stage, you should make a list of problems that the application solves. Consider the purpose and objectives of the application from the users’ perspective. Determine why they would want to install and use your application. What problems will it solve? People download apps because of their content, functionality, and ease of use.
So what do people expect from a social app? They want to communicate, share, like, discover. Some use social networks as a tool for attracting customers, others — for self-affirmation and nourishment of their egos. Sometimes they become an integral part of life, fulfilling people’s needs for intimacy, attention, and communication. Besides, many people are preoccupied with how they look. Social networks provide unlimited possibilities for creating an image or themselves that people like to present.
In short, the main features of a social media app are:

  • Communication.
  • Self-expression and self-realization.
  • Ease of use.
How to make a social media app

Social Running App Animation by Shakuro

How to make a social media app like Instagram

With an intent as bold as this, it’s possible. In fact, Instagram is the number 1 social media app in the photo segment and has little competitors (Pinterest is no match for it), which leaves an opportunity for making a successful new social media app.
I like Instagram as an example because of how aptly its creators occupied the niche. Initially, they wanted to make an application for processing and sharing photos, but in time they realized that what users want is just to share photos and to like. So they created an application that combined the filters from Hipstamatic (a photo app that imitated vintage photo effects) and the Facebook feed.
Another reason for Instagram’s popularity is its publicity options. The interaction system on Instagram was built on the principle that differed from other social networks. While Facebook has such a concept as “friends”, Instagram deliberately avoids it by replacing it with “followers”. Thus, a user positions themselves as a public figure not bound by any social bonds, which means the wider society, not just friends from real life. So the more followers you have, the more popular you are.
According to statistics,

  • Instagram is visited by more than 500 million users daily.
  • More than 100 million photos and videos are published per day.
  • The number of Instagram Likes per day is more than 4.2 billion.
  • Instagram generated $20 billion in ad revenue in 2019.
  • Instagram’s potential advertising reach is 849.3 million users.

Instagram feature analysis and monetization models

Social media app development costs vary depending on how complex and versatile a particular app is. If you are determined to transform your idea into an application, you should first take a look at your competitors and try to figure out what you can do to make your application even better. The main idea is to create a social media app that will last.
The basic features of Instagram are:

  • Image editing.
  • Location tagging.
  • Private messaging.
  • Push notifications.
  • Group messaging.
  • Hashtags.
  • Filters.

Instagram stays successful thanks to the continuous improvement of its features. Every now and again the developers delight users with new features while improving the old ones.
A good social media app should have the following:

  • The ability to post and share photos and/or videos. This is the main point.
  • Ease of use — if you find something simple, make it even easier, otherwise, people won’t use your application. After all, one of the reasons for Instagram’s success was the ability to edit and publish a photo in just 3 clicks.
  • Ability to customize profiles and present yourself in the best way possible.
  • Ability to either find and follow your friends or make new ones using names, keywords or hashtags.
  • Integration with other social platforms. Your application is unlikely to survive by itself. Link it to other social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Integrated applications are more trusted by users.
  • Privacy and security — Facebook’s recent history of security and privacy issues illustrates this point.
  • Notifications and feeds — many people even start social network accounts without posting any content of their own. Their goal is to discover what’s new in other people’s lives.
  • Ability to post comments and send private messages.

Monetization models

Instagram is a free app for iPhone and Android. Being a photo-sharing app, it’s a natural platform for branded advertising, so advertising is its main source of income.
However, apart from placing ads, there are other ways to make money from free apps. There are several ways to monetize your free app:

  • In-app purchases — this is probably Instagram’s next big business with the company introducing an in-app checkout last year.
  • Freemium — the Lite option is free, but with a limited set of functions. If you buy a Pro version, you unlock the full functionality.
  • Subscriptions — you can provide a subscription for a user to pay a monthly fee to have access to your app.
  • Affiliate marketing — using affiliate partners to promote and sell your app on your behalf is a great way to start your social media marketing campaign.
  • Combination of several methods.

UI/UX design of a social media app

An attractive and user-friendly design is a part of a mobile app’s success. When the interface looks beautiful and easy-to-use, people subconsciously want to install that app. Follow the guidelines, help solve problems, present your benefits, pay attention to details.
The easier it is to navigate the application interface, the better. The ideal option is the intuitive use of an app. A well-designed menu is half the battle, the remaining 50% depends on the content.
Instagram has a clever, almost magical UX. Everything that the user does either is lightning fast or creates a convincing illusion of being lightning fast.
Moreover, a successful design today means a good choice of the color palette. With the help of a well-chosen color scheme, you can emphasize your brand and increase its recognition. It’s necessary that the selected colors appealed to users. But don’t use too much color. Design is not about art, it exists to solve problems. The main idea of a social media app is to let people connect and share their contributions. Don’t let your design distract them from doing so. The latest redesigns of Facebook and Dribbble moving towards more whiteness and rejecting the unnecessary elements prove this point.

How to start a social media app

Horeca App Profile Concept by Shakuro

Social media app technology stack

The larger the project, the larger the technology stack to use. 
Today there are a huge number of various programming languages, frameworks, and technologies ​​for making websites and apps. This is due to the development of languages over the past decade. Each technology is somewhat different. So when choosing the right one for the particular project, the main idea is to be guided by objective criteria with an eye to the project’s goals.
These are the technologies that we use for making mobile apps:
iOS/Android mobile app stack:
Swift, Objective-C, Xcode IDE
Java, Android Studio IDE, Retrofit, Kotlin.
Backend/API stack:  Ruby, .NET, Postgre DB, Redis.
Admin panel: Material UI, React, Angular, jQuery.

Social media app development cost & time

There are many websites on the net offering clones of the Instagram app. These are templates with few customization options. It’s tempting to choose one of them to try to save money. However, using them can breach security and privacy in the future. What’s more, you still have to develop a backend.
Truth is, an application developed from scratch stands out among others with its unique design, brand, and functionality. But like any bold project, such an application is likely to take time and money. So how long does it take to build a social media app and how much is it going to cost?
Social media app development timescale
The one-platform version might take up to 2 000 hours to develop, including UX and UI design, app development (server-side and client-side) and accompanying procedures like testing, deployment, and project management. If you also want to create a promotional landing-page website for your app, add another 150-200 hours.
Social media app development costs
The cost of a social media app development depends on how much you pay your developers. You have 3 main options:

  • Freelancers – from $10/hour.
  • In-house development team – from $80/hour.
  • Outsourced development team – around $35/hour.

The problem with freelancers is the necessity to coordinate them plus the possible lack of expertise which is especially hard to notice if you are unaware of all the intricacies of development and design.
Hiring a local development team means spending way more money.
The way out is using outsourcing development. It’s a great way to get the benefits of an in-house team at a lesser cost.
For an Instagram-like application, you can take these rough calculations:
Application development: iOS/Android – $23 100.
Server-side app development: $25 200.
Client-side app development: $13 475.
UI/UX Design: $8 400.
Total cost: $70 175.

Social media apps trends

Social networks are changeable. New trends and ideas change and go. This is what can prove to become a game-changer in 2020:

  • Interactive content

91% of users are striving for more interactive content. AR/VR, 360-degree video, quizzes, games, and not only that. The fundamental factor in the further development of social media marketing is the introduction of new technologies.

  • Video content 

Video is one of the most attractive forms of content and it’s gaining popularity. Whether it’s short videos, like on TikTok or Instagram Stories, or long videos like on YouTube, the social media video apps are our present and future.

  • Social commerce 

It’s becoming the primary way of retailing along with other means, such as websites and offline stores. This trend will intensify with the advent of an increasing number of social networks offering new sales features.

  • Using social networks to serve customers

This transition took place gradually, as brands began to notice that many customers are trying to contact them through social networks. The possible reason is a lack of response on other channels. Or it’s simply the easiest way to get in touch for some people.

Social media app development

Social Media Platform – Mobile App by Oleksandra Nevska

Turn your idea into a business and go for it 

The field of mobile application development is growing. If you have an idea with the potential to become the next big thing and occupy its place in the list of top social media apps, go for it! We’ll use our expertise in mobile app development to help you along the way of creating a social media app. 
After all, the unpredictable appearance of new and extremely dynamic social networks is a social media app trend by itself. TikTok is a trending social media app for making and sharing short videos. Its example shows that the social media market is not over-saturated. Users are open to something new. Although TikTok was launched in 2016, its popularity has grown only recently, starting last year. Currently, there are 800 million active users per month worldwide and more than 1.5 billion installations.

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Written by Kate Shokurova

March 30, 2020

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