How to Make a Social Media App

Curious how to build a social media app? It's not as crazy as you think. The new crop of social media app builders are changing the game. You can now have your own social media app today faster, more cheaply, and with less risk than at any point in the past.

Congratulations. By clicking on this article, you’ve identified yourself as someone with the courage to ask how to create a social media app in 2021. 

In asking how to make a social media app, there’s probably been more than one of your friends who have said a variation of the following to you: 

Are you crazy? Have you ever heard of a little thing called Facebook or its friend Instagram? 

What makes you think people want another social media app today? 

How do you plan to launch this when you don’t have an army of engineers at your disposal?

But here’s the thing you know that they don’t: The power of bringing people together to connect to each other has never been more relevant or valuable. In fact, you don’t have to assume you’re taking on Facebook or Instagram to explore how to create a social media app for your own unique idea. It turns out that you can build your own social media app today, with just a few simple decisions. 

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What is a Social Media App?

First things first. What exactly are we talking about when we’re talking about how to make a social media app? A social media app is an app that’s delivered directly on a person’s phone where the primary function is interacting with comments, photos, videos and more posted by people in the app.   

In asking yourself how to create a social media app, you need to make sure that you are building at least the following 3 features:

  1. Member profiles.
  2. Posting text, photos, and/or videos.
  3. Threaded comments.

These are the minimum features needed to make a social media app. From here, you can also add things like direct messaging, events, polls and questions, and more.  

When you set out to build a social media app, remember that your users will need their own accounts (and all the privacy and security that entails). When you create a social media app, it’s harder and more expensive than either creating your own website or building a simpler mobile app.

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How to Create a Social Media App in 4 Steps

Step #1: choose a narrow audience or purpose for your social media app.

It will be important that you focus narrowly on who you will serve with your social media app or how people will use it. In 2021, you can’t be general or generic when you choose to build a social media app. It needs to fill a need that either a specific subset of people have that isn’t being met or let people do something that can’t otherwise do today. The narrower you are at the outset, the better your results will be. 

Step #2: define your social media app features. 

Once you have clarity on who your new social media app will serve, now you get to choose your features. While you don’t want something too simple, you also want to be careful that you’re not taking on too many features. With every feature you add, it will take longer to build a social media app and there’s more risk in the process. It’s one of the most important things to understand in how to build a social media app. 

Step #3: set a realistic budget to create a social media app.

Let’s get this out of the way. It’s not cheap to build a social media app. Once you understand your options for creating a social media app, you’ll see that your budget needs to be in the tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, to get a social media app built. 

Step #4: design and develop your new social media app.

Assuming that you’re not an engineer who is planning to build a social media app yourself over the next six or more months, there are really only 2 ways to create a social media app today:

Option #1: Hire a Custom Development Team to Build Your Social Media App

The first option for how to build a social media app is to find and hire one of the tens of thousands of custom development firms that operate around the world. You can typically find firms by asking friends, researching apps you admire to see if they used a development firm, or by putting the word out on LinkedIn, Upwork, or other platforms where the sales teams of custom development firms look to find new projects.    

The pros of hiring a custom development team to build you a social media app is that it will get built to your exact specifications. Especially if you have a new idea for a different kind of social media app with photos or videos that work a certain way, a custom social media app builder will likely be able to deliver a generally usable initial version of your social media app on either iOS (Apple) or Android (Google).

That’s where the benefits of hiring a custom development team end. The pitfalls of hiring a custom development team to build your social media app typically outweigh the benefits:

It’s risky, especially if you have never built a social media app before. From understanding and tracking app performance (how fast it is to load) to security, user experience, and a design that doesn’t just look beautiful but that actually makes sense for people to use, this kind of project is not for the faint of heart. Especially with a team that’s halfway around the world, the communication gaps and lag time between the design and execution of your social media app makes the process risky.

It’s expensive. Custom software development is not cheap. It’s still typically going to run you $200,000+ to get the first version of a social media app and that’s *just* for iOS OR Android, not both. 

Maintenance and new features are priced (and staffed) separately. That $200,000+ price tag? Yeah, that’s only to deliver to you the first version of your social media app. It doesn’t include maintenance, updates, and the process that you’ll actually need to start after you have an initial version to figure out what your people want from your social media app. 

By the time you’re done with your first year of building your social media app, it’s not crazy to assume that to get something decent that people actually want to use will cost you $500,000 to $1 million. 

It takes a long time. To understand how to create a social media app, you need to know that building one takes a long time. There are a ton of features your users will expect, and that they can get today in a few clicks on Facebook or Instagram, that you’ll need to have. 

If a custom development shop tells you that it’s going to take them a month to build a social media app and they are quoting you $50,000, run the other way. The likelihood is that what they’ll deliver at the end of the project won’t be what you’re imagining your social media app will look or operate like today. 

Option #2: Choose a Private Label Social Media App Builder 

In the past few years, there’s a crop of new software-as-a-service platforms that have built all the features for a social media app that they then offer to clients to run under their own brand at a small fraction of the price of custom development. 

The largest and most well-established of these platforms is Mighty Networks and their “Mighty Pro” plan. With Mighty Pro, they’ve prebuilt member profiles, member messaging, posts and articles, photos and videos, events, sub-groups, AND even online courses to deliver a social media app. Plus, there’s a direct way to charge a subscription or one-time fee for membership into the social media app, sub-groups within the app, or to purchase online courses. 

When you understand how to create a social media app by choosing a platform like Mighty Pro, you’ll see the value in instantly launching your new social media app under your own brand on iOS, Android, *and* the web. Plus, your social media app will be available to download in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Your users won’t know that you didn’t build your social media app yourself. With a solution like Mighty Pro, it takes care of scaling, hosting, maintenance, bug fixes, and customer support. It also adds new features regularly.  Here’s what a Mighty Pro social media app can look like:

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Step #5: Share your new social media app.

Now that you’ve learned how to build a social media app and have actually gotten one created, you’re ready to share it with the world.  Today, there are really three ways to get the word out about your social media app:

  1. Start with friends and family. If you’re starting from scratch without a social media following or email list, start with your friends and family. Ask for recommendations or nominations for your earliest members. There’s nothing wrong with starting small, getting it right, and growing your app users from there. 
  2. Share with your email list. If you’re starting with friends and family, use them to build an email list. If you already have an email list, make sure that you’re using it to share your new social media app. 
  3. Run social media or search ads. Search and social media apps are the final way to be able to quickly share your social media app. 

There’s Never Been a Better Time to Know How to Create a Social Media App

So you may not be creating the next Facebook or Instagram with your social media app, but there are people out there waiting for your unique take on what a social media app should be. 

Whether you are bringing people together to level up their careers (like creating a mini-LinkedIn but just for user experience designers), or to create a social network of travelers who are sharing photos, videos, and recommendations (think about a combination of Yelp and Instagram), your users need you to bring something new into the world. 

I, for one, can’t wait to see what you do with it.

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