Mobile Social Network Development: Why, How To, Features
How many social network apps do you use? How much time do you spend on them every day? Ever since social media appeared, our lives have never been the same. It has changed the way we work, learn, communicate, and entertain ourselves. Social media has entered almost every sphere of our lives, and it’s definitely here to stay.
If you’re dreaming of how to knock Instagram off its perch, this is the place to start. Read our blog post to learn how to create a social app. In this blog post, we will also discuss the reasons you would want to develop a social app as well as the core features it should have and the main steps to building it.
Why you need to create a social app
Let’s start off by defining what a social network is. Basically, it is an online platform that people use to build connections with others. Users share texts, photos, videos, and inform each other about online or real-world activities with people in their network. From a business perspective, it is a powerful marketing tool.
Since 2004, social media has been growing rapidly, and it hasn’t reached the peak of its popularity yet. Today we have Spotify to listen to music, Snapchat to share a moment with our friends, and Twitch to livestream. But, there is always a place for new ideas. For example, TikTok has become a huge success as an excellent entertainment platform for end-users and a marketing channel for businesses in recent years.
Let’s take a look at some key statistics on social media usage.
Current popular social networks worldwide as of January 2021, ranked by number of active users:
So, why should you create a social media app if these popular platforms already exist?
- People are starting to lose interest in traditional social media networks as they are too broad and general. They need more personalized apps that connect them to people who share a similar interest. For example, it can be an app for guitar geeks where they can learn how to play their favorite songs, record and post covers, share tips, etc. Just think of the diverse interests that people all over the world have! There is always space for a new community and platform.
- Existing social media platforms often disappoint users with data breaches, poor monetization options, dying reach, a lack of personalization, and constant updates that push people into paying for an ad-free experience.
If you research all the weak points of current major market leaders, choose a specific niche, and stick to your target audience’s wishes, you will have all the chances to build a game-changing social media app that will command people and businesses’ attention. Now, let’s move on to the features that make a mobile social network app successful.
Key features of a great social network app
The concept of every social media app is different. Usually, each one has some unique features that make it stand out from its competitors. However, there is an essential set of features that any social app should include.
The most popular features, according to the Manifest 2018 Consumer App Survey, are:
Let’s explore these and some other important features in more detail:
- Profile. People use profiles to describe some characteristics about themselves, such as interests, expertise, professional affiliations, status, recent activity and geographic location. Therefore, it is important to ensure that your users can present themselves in the best way possible.
- Posts and newsfeed. The whole point of building a social media app is to encourage users to create content. The ability to create engaging text, photo, and video posts easily and share them with friends or the wider community is what attracts users. For them, a social media app is a platform to express their views, thoughts, and showcase their talents or achievements. The newsfeed should allow them to compress all of their activities into a single view, generating a consistent flow of content including photos, videos, articles and more.
- Reactions. Social media is not only about making and sharing content. It’s also about giving feedback. Think of an interface that would encourage users to like, share, and comment on posts seamlessly.
- Chat and messaging. One of the main features of social media apps is that they allow users to send both public and private messages to each other. Many social media apps even have the option for users to engage in group chats and video calls.
- Friending options. Users must be able to send a friend request or follow others in order to see updates in their newsfeed.
- Notifications. Users want to stay in the know and be alerted when someone they are following posts, when a business they are following has a sale, or when a significant event occurs in the news. Be sure to include this feature in your app.
- Search and recommendations. It is necessary to include a search functionality in your app. This will allow users to access vast amounts of information, ultimately resulting in greater engagement as they find relevant groups, topics, or people that they are interested in.
- Livestreaming. More and more people have grown accustomed to watching livestreams. These days, a livestreaming option is a must-have. It’s a great way to instantly connect with an audience and do product or service demos, for example.
- Privacy Settings. There are users that enjoy sharing their information publicly and there are those that prefer to keep their content restricted to only users they know. The main feature among social media apps is allowing users to control their privacy settings. Your app should allow users to determine who can view their profiles, how much of their information is shared, and the ability to opt-out of certain marketing tactics, like tracking online browsing or shopping experiences.
- 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, their device type, and the content they’re engaging with the most so that you can ensure you’re providing the best user experience for each individual.
- Admin Access. This feature is meant 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 essential when creating your social network.
Process of social networking app development
So, how do we build a social media app? Let’s find out. Any application development can be divided into these key steps, and you can follow them to build your own social network app. There are a few additional considerations during the process of social media application development.
Before you decide to reach out to social networking mobile app development companies, you'll have to think about the app’s purpose and make a plan for monetization. This helps you define a target audience and understand how to promote the app. In a world where there are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you need to come up with an original idea that will make your social network different. Just to be clear, it should be something like this: “I’d like to create an app for animal hospitals and monetize it through animal feed advertising.” Or, at least, “Being a photographer I always wanted to use a professional social network app to have easy access to my colleagues.” William Upshaw, one of our customers from the US, came to us with this very request — to make a social networking mobile application for the photography industry.
We built a mobile social media app called Pro Photo Shoot for William. With the app, users are able to register as a photographer, a model, or an MUA. There is also an option for users to upload a portfolio into their personal account and search for required professionals to connect. Pro Photo Shoot is a business mobile social network and it’s monetized through the subscription fee. Users can subscribe to a paid account and boost their profiles to get more visibility.
As for monetization, these are the 5 most popular ways to make a profit with a social media website:
It is a classic way to monetize an app, but you have to implement it carefully, so you don’t annoy your users. When working on a design concept, make sure that there’s enough space - not too small or too large - for attractive banners to catch users’ attention.
Such a method implies promoting content published by companies or individuals. Content usually appears at the top of the newsfeed of target audiences. In turn, promoted content creators pay for this service and get more post views and followers.
- Paid features
For example, users can access basic features for free. But, you can offer additional features such as catchy games or AR tools for a fee. If the paid functionality is in-demand and of good quality, users will be willing to pay for it.
- Paid content
What if you charge your users for listening to music on your mobile app? If you have a rich database with great audio, you can grant access to this sort of content for a fee.
In some cases, users pay to enter a specific social network. For example, if you run a powerful professional or job search network, you can charge your users for a subscription.
Planning and estimation
After you’ve studied the industry and decided on the direction that would take you to success, evolved your idea and selected a potentially profitable monetization strategy, you can move on to implementing your idea by creating a real software solution.
At this stage, you’re likely to have questions like “How much does it cost to develop an app?” and “How long will it take to develop?” To answer such questions, we do a software project estimation and scope the project.
Be prepared to deal with the possibility that you may change your mind about including or excluding certain features in the middle of the project. When we developed Pro Photo Shoot, the startupper, William, decided that the chosen features were not enough. We had to increase the scope of tasks and move the release date forward. As a result, the project costs became higher. However, we built a social networking app for the professional photo industry in accordance with the client’s requirements.
Analytics and UX/UI design
At this stage, our analysts study the market for which the service will be designed, available analogues, and the needs of the target audience. They study, supplement, and clarify the initial requirements for the product. They also determine the priority features that will form the basis for the MVP.
Next, a prototype of the entire service is created, where the logic of its operation and the structure of the interface are schematically displayed. It demonstrates the app’s general idea and allows us to understand how different components and screens relate to each other.
To create an attractive social media mobile app, you need to provide users with an intuitive and exciting UI. That’s where our UX/UI designers come in. Here are the key pieces of advice they have:
- Combine key information parts in a profile, hide less important features in the navigation menu.
- Create an easy way to interact with the social network content — add sharing icons, repost buttons and emojis.
- Avoid a supersaturated UI with different color schemes and fonts. Study users’ preferences and stick to the defined, most suitable color scheme.
- Find out more about the latest trends in software design and select those that would help you acquire new users and make them keep using your network.
- Also, be prepared for the social media app’s UI to change during the development process. We faced this while developing Free For Lunch — a social networking app and a dating service. For the first design version, we made a color timescale with a control that shows the closest meeting. The closer the meeting was, the warmer the color of the control got. Usability tests showed that users didn’t care about this scale, they were interested in new acquaintances and meetings. Thus, we had to change the initial plan and decided to show meetings using pins on the map. To optimize the view of the pins on the map, we implemented a cache and filter systems for users and events.
Development and testing
When project estimation, detailed technical specification as well as the design are ready and the prototype of the mobile application is approved, the development stage starts. The development team writes code to implement the intended behavior of the app and connect the application’s logic to the back-end. Also, we embody the finished design in the code - we prescribe all the styles and UI elements with which the user of the application interacts.
To ensure that the final product is secure and stable, we provide quality assurance and testing services. Azoft QA engineers join the project as early as possible and test frequently. This ensures a high level of quality and helps the client save on their budget.
The result is a social networking app with all of the necessary features and an attractive design, ready for high server loads.
Support and maintenance
Social networking app development doesn’t end after the release. Along with the development of new features for your social media platform, you shouldn’t forget about maintaining and supporting the existing product.
Support and maintenance of social network apps doesn’t differ from the support and maintenance of other applications. They can be done as a continuous process or as an on-demand service. It depends on the frequency and amount of tasks.
If the client finds bugs after the release, we fix them. If the first months of the application's life show where and what needs to be finished or redone, there are two options: conclude a maintenance contract or start a new development phase taking into account new variables.
In general, support and maintenance at Azoft includes:
- Working on additional features upon request
- More quality assurance
- App stability control
- Control of server performance
- Scaling apps
- Product update (technologies, OS, servers, security)
You still have a chance to beat Facebook. Give it a try and launch a product that will bring you profit and experience.
Once you’ve developed the first version of your custom social app for Android and iOS and tested its viability and marketability, it is time to move forward. You should constantly heighten users’ interest in your product by adding more features and improving upon the existing ones.
That’s where we can help you. Azoft has been building successful custom applications since 2002, and we would love to help turn your vision into reality. Contact us to discuss your ideas and learn more about how to make a social networking app. We can assist you in determining the best social media app features to include in your application.