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.
Social media apps are part of daily life for most of us, but they come with enough negative implications to scare off most brands. From mental health problems to bullying and xenophobia to fighting algorithms, creating a social media presence is no simple thing.
So what if you just build your own social network?
In this article, we’ll show you how to make a social media app under your own brand. We’ll talk through the planning that goes into an app, important questions to ask before you start, and a step-by-step guide to building.
What is a Social Media App?
A social media or social network app is a piece of software written for mobile that allows for digital human interaction, usually in the form of either asynchronous or synchronous content. Asynchronous content could include things like discussion boards, a group, a video, or an activity feed that curates posts, while synchronous content could be things like livestreaming, live-tweeting, or chat. Social media apps often correspond to web apps: for example, with platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
If you’re making your own social media app, you’re essentially creating space for human interaction–much like traditional social network apps have. You’ll probably choose a type of content you want, or maybe a mixture–things like discussion forums, text posts, video sharing, photos, or livestreaming.
Most social media apps have some sort of membership or profile option too. And last–but not least–the content on a social media channel is usually gated, either through a log-on process or even a payment system.
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). For these reasons, creating a social media app can feel both harder and more expensive than either creating your own website or building a simpler mobile app.
Benefits of creating a social media app
There are several benefits to creating your own social media app. These can be understood as both benefits to the individual user or member, benefits to the app owner, and benefits to third-parties (e.g. advertisers)
Most social media platforms feel free, but that’s almost never the case. Social media has traditionally let users in for free and monetized their eyeballs–that is, letting advertisers pay to reach their users.
This revenue model has HUGE upside. For example, Facebook will generate about $153 billion in ad revenue this year.
But platforms monetize in other ways too. Consider LinkedIn’s Premium offering, which gives users advanced tools for job searching AND its Recruiter plan which gives recruiters tools to find talent. Their “charge everyone” freemium model created $8 billion in revenue last year.
While you might not be thinking on this scale (yet!) we frequently see our social media app clients break 6, 7, and even 8 figures in revenue! They monetize with features like memberships, courses, events, coaching, masterminds, and/or bundles of more than one of these. For example, we recently had a podcaster and author sell 5,000 seats to a $997 course in 10 days!
Creating your own social media app can be the ticket to a really profitable recurring revenue business–and that’s super exciting!
There’s no frustration quite like growing an audience on a traditional social media platform and realizing you’ll never actually reach them. You’re at the whim of the algorithm. We’ve seen brands with tens of thousands of followers reach only a handful of them from social media posts.
Hootsuite reports that the average engagement rate for a Facebook Page post is 0.07%. That’s ridiculously low! Plus, when you build on platforms you don’t own, you take the risk of being flagged or locked out or falling victim to hacking.
For businesses, there’s really nothing like creating your own social media app to fix this. You can take control of your content. And with notifications, you can keep members engaged (making sure they see EVERYTHING you share). For example, we recently saw a social impact SAAS build a social media app to mix with their regular conferences see a 70% increase in contributions & engagement.
When you create a social media app, you benefit from user-generated content (UGC). It’s exactly what it sounds like: when users create and share the content that drives your platform. This is frankly why social networks can see such ridiculous growth–because they create the platform and users make the content.
For a business, especially for a customer community, this can create huge benefits. For example, the women’s apparel brand Oiselle Voleé created a customer community, and they found that it drove really meaningful conversations and friendships, while also helping them by giving a feedback loop for existing products and ideas for new ones.
One of the final obvious benefits to creating a social media app is the fact that it's so accessible. Most of the current social media giants were started by developers, but with a growth of platforms to choose from–including white-label software–anyone can create a native social networking app under their own brand.
Types of social media apps
There are different ways to categorize social media apps, and no perfect division. LinkedIn has social networking, but it also has a blog function. Facebook has community features and a discovery feed, but it also has a powerhouse live video platform and it operates a photo-sharing platform (Instagram).
If we roughly follow Hootsuite’s classification, here’s a useful way to think about types of social media apps:
- Social audio platforms: Think Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces
- Video sharing platforms: YouTube or TikTok
- Short-life content: Snapchat, LinkedIn Stories, IG Stories.
- Discussion forums: Reddit, Quora
- Social commerce: Pinterest, Facebook Shops
- Image-driven platforms: Pinterest, Instagram
- Livestreaming: Twitch, YouTube
- Business & professional networks: LinkedIn
- Membership communities (private): Discourse, Facebook Groups
- Long-form content: Medium, LinkedIn Articles
But remember, this is just a way to think about these platforms. Many of them cross lines. When people build a Mighty Network, for example, they usually incorporated a lot of these features: discussion forums, livestreaming, memberships, long-form content, and events.
Background questions for your social media app
If you’re thinking through how to make a social media app, there are a set of background questions that can help you decide what you need to build and how to go about it. Answer these background questions either on your own or with your organization to get a clear roadmap forward.
1. What do you want?
The place to start is really to ask yourself, “What do I/we want?” The answer isn’t usually about features–it’s about connection and transformation.
When we’re thinking about planning a community, we call this a Big Purpose. And we create a Big Purpose by talking about the people we’ll bring together, the type of activities we’ll do, and the outcome we hope to have.
It looks like this:
Your Big Purpose statement is a powerful way to think about Community Design™. And it helps you get really clear on who your social media app is for–your niche.
Here are some examples of goals we see for creating your own social media app:
- “I want to create a space for “back of the pack” runners to share their love of running, tips, and improve.” (Slow AF Run Club)
- “We want to create a community for the wellness business owners who use our software to connect, learn about the software and each other, and grow their businesses.” (Mindbody One)
2. Revenue model
Not every private social network is revenue driven, but a lot of them are. And while traditional social media might monetize with ads, people building their own social networks more often monetize with membership fees and other benefits like courses, events, coaching, private groups, etc. And many of them bundle these things together. In fact, 90% of our Mighty Networks that offer a paid membership also make sales on top of that membership.
Think about your revenue model. Even if you’re not monetizing right away, think about your options to grow into a revenue model. If you make a social media app with software you can’t monetize and change your mind later, you’ll have to start again.
3. Development style
There’s a whole range of ways to make a social media app: from a DIY app builder to app development companies. These come with a range of prices that extend into the millions. So part of making a social media app will be thinking about what development style you take.
We build apps under what’s usually referred to as a “white-label” process. Basically, this means you get our awesome community engine for your social media app, but we build it under YOUR brand. You get the feel of custom development and we take care of the technical side, but it’s at a much lower cost.
Finally, you can think through the features you want for your social media app. Whether it's photo sharing or livestreaming, chat or courses, or a mixture of all these things, make a list of how you’d like to help your members get what they signed up for.
We’ll talk more about features below.
How to Create a Social Media App: 7 Steps
1. Choose a clear audience
We talked above about thinking through a Big Purpose for your social media app, and that’s the first step. Create a Big Purpose. if you’re stuck, you can use Mighty Co-Host™ to generate one automatically.
As background research for your social media app, you should also talk to some Ideal Members to validate the idea and make sure you can find people interested in joining. Set up informational interviews with 15 or 20 people to ask them questions like:
- What would you like to get out of a social media app?
- What content do you most enjoy consuming?
- What content do you enjoy creating?
- What features do you like?
- Are you willing to pay for membership in a premium community? If so, how much?
2. Define features
If you do these steps in order, this step will be a lot easier. Once you know who’s going to be using your app and what they want out of it, it’s WAY easier to choose the features you need.
Here are some features that you can add to your own social media app (different app companies will have different options):
- Discussion forums
- Chat & messaging
- Member profiles
- Other membership features (eg. “members near you”)
- Livestreaming and native video hosting
- Live and pre-recorded courses
- Shops and merchandising
- Event hosting and scheduling
- Long-form written content
- Polls & questions
Also think about things like selling memberships, which would require a built-in checkout engine and a way to manage plans. Or maybe sign-on options like SSO for added security.
Knowing the features you want will help you decide where to build. Some companies will specialize in a few of these features. When we build social media apps you have the option to add ALL of these features (except for a shop), and you can turn them on or off in our flexible Spaces.
3. Choose your development solution
As you research app creation software, you’ll need to eventually choose one that meets your needs. The type of solution will probably determine what comes next. If you’re choosing an online DIY builder, you might start building.
But this guide is geared toward working with a social media development company. That’s because it’s a better option for most people.
It’s easy to underestimate the steps that go into making a social media app, things like:
- Planning out your features
- Designing a beautiful UX that meets your brand needs
- Developing an internal structure & flow
- Designing flash screens, logos, and every branded element
- Setting strategy & marketing plans
- Submitting to the App Store & Google Play Store (and meeting their requirements)
- Including privacy and legal requirements
- Troubleshooting and ongoing support
- Understanding data and analytics
Working with a company that has a track record of creating social media apps will create way fewer headaches for you and your team. You can also check references or reviews from past work the company has done.
4. Consider your budget
Budget is usually always a consideration–and it makes sense. Getting custom development done can run in the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. If you’re a top brand with hundreds of millions in revenue, getting a totally custom build can make a lot of sense.
But we really have to talk about the white-label option. A white-label company like Mighty will still completely build your app for you, creating your brand and your app using OUR top-rated community software.
The end result is that you get an amazing app for a fraction of the price of custom development. And believe it or not, a white-label app can even be a better solution. Here’s why. We have been building community platforms for a decade. We do this exclusively and all our energy and attention goes into making Mighty the BEST community platform (and the G2 ranking shows it).
Even in dealing with custom builders, you’d have trouble finding someone with as much experience building social media apps.
The other cool thing with monetized apps is that we often see our clients recoup the cost of the app in a very short time–often the result of having new ways to create revenue they never even thought of!
Because Mighty Pro is SUPER versatile with features; new products and offerings are just a button-click away. Memberships, VIP areas, paid courses, coaching, exclusive offers, virtual training, and live and pre-recorded courses.
- A financial community that scaled FAST to $23K monthly from a $19.99 subscription.
- The community of 2,500 members that introduced an add-on course, & unlocked an additional $100k in revenue within 2 months of launching!
- A health-focused launch to 100 high-ticket members added $40,000 in ARR.
5. Design & develop
The next step will be working with your chosen app team to design and develop your app. Different companies have different approaches. But when we do this, our work together will consist of several meetings with you and your team (if applicable). We design a roadmap for working together.
Our engineers take care of the actual building and QA work. But with Mighty Pro, we also have a team of community strategists and account managers that work with you on the strategy side of building apps. Because of our experience, we can often see things that clients might not. For example, our Pro team recently advised a speaker on launching a 4-week promotion that saw an additional $30,000 increase in revenue.
There’s really nothing like having a team in your corner–a team you can access when you need help. We work with you throughout the build to make sure it’s smooth and that you’re ready. And we take care of the tech.
6. Launch and grow
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. There are a lot of ways to do this, but here are some of the popular approaches:
- Share invites on traditional social media posts
- Run an ad campaign on social media
- Pay for Pay Per Click advertising on Google
- Invite your email list
- Invite your current members (if transferring from another social media platform)
- Host a virtual event
- Offer a webinar or training
- SEO optimize your community (with keywords people search for)
- Appear on podcasts or guest post (use other people’s audiences)
As you work with our team, we’ll help you figure out what’s the right approach for you. You don’t necessarily need to do all of these to grow your social network. You can check out some of our other resources on how to grow membership.
7. Maintain and learn
Finally, as your app is live and growing members, you can watch your analytics to learn what’s working and what isn’t. (We help Mighty Pro clients figure this out too). Don’t be afraid to keep adapting and trying new things in your social media app–that’s the way to succeed! Find what works for you and your members.
A few more social media app quick tips
1. Don’t be all things to all people. You can build an amazing social media app even by focusing on a narrow niche of people.
2. Recognize your limitations. Social media apps can be complicated to create and require a lot of ongoing upkeep and support. Don’t try to do it yourself unless you can commit to this.
3. Focus on your strengths. If you or your team doesn’t have strengths like app development, don’t be afraid to find those elsewhere and keep your team doing what they do well.
4. Don’t treat your social media app as an afterthought. If you’re a brand or business, a social media app isn’t something you tack on as an afterthought. Many of the brands we work with find that their social media app will replace their existing funnel with a powerful flywheel that keeps customers engaged.
5. Don’t expect it to be a ton of work. Once your app is up, it can often be managed with as little as a few hours a week. Thanks to user-generated content, your members can create a lot of the conversation that happens on your app. We also add AI assist tools to Mighty that will help you start and maintain conversations–making your community management way simpler.
Ready to get started?
If you’re ready to get started building with Mighty Pro, schedule a call with us to see what you could build! Our social media apps bring together a TON of features, including discussion forums, chat & messaging, member profiles, livestreaming and native video hosting, live and pre-recorded courses, event hosting and scheduling, long-form written content, and polls & questions. You can sell memberships or any of these features independently or as bundles.
We’ve built apps for brands and creators like TED, Fortune, Cambridge University, Adriene Mishler, Drew Binsky, Mindbody One, and Sadie Robertson Huff. And when you build with Mighty Pro, you’ll work with our team of Account Executives and Community Strategists who have scaled 7-figure creator brands and 8+-figure subscription businesses.
Mighty Pro also comes with the latest in community AI, Mighty Cohost™, which can generate landing pages and marketing copy as well as boosting your human connections and creativity with things like automatic course outlines or the Infinite Question Generator.
Book a call and we’ll show you what you could build.
Psst… And if you’re not ready for a custom app yet, you can always try our community platform–Mighty Networks–free for 14 days and validate your idea. It comes with most of the features above plus the Mighty Networks app is included.