Updated June 2021
Social media provides persuasive communication and promotional tools that businesses can embrace through a social network application.
Social networks have changed indefinitely the way people and businesses connect, express themselves, and build relationships. Although, as a business, you can capitalize on the benefits of the already existing social media giants, such as Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, building a custom social network can turn out to be more beneficial.
By building a custom social network, you can increase customer engagement, build a stronger brand, and boost profits by multiplying revenue streams.
Even if the social network market is already crowded with multiple players, your business’s peculiarities will differentiate the way you approach your target audience. Before starting your journey into social media app development, it’s important to get familiar with the categories of social networks that take up your customer’s time.
Here are 5 things to know and think about when you embark on your journey to develop a social network.
What are the main types of social networks?
- Personal. Social networks that encourage social and emotional connections are among the most popular ones, like Facebook, dating applications,and chat applications.
- Professional. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn or Dribbble are created around professional interests whether generic or focused on a particular specialization such as design.
- Multimedia. Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo, and TikTok are social networks where users share photos, videos, GIFs, or short animations.
- Content curation. People use Pinterest or Flipboard to discover, create personal libraries, and distribute content based on a specific interest or hobby.
- Community and forums. These are knowledge-sharing platforms, where users share news, opinions, or best practices. Examples: Quora, Reddit.
- Reviews. On networks such as Yelp or TripAdvisor, users usually post information based on their personal experience with a specific product or service.
- Blogging and microblogging. Known as content sharing platforms, Medium or Twitter are used to publish ideas, insights, or thought leadership content in short or long-form.
- Interest-based. Nearly every passion has a social network. You can easily spot Goodreads for avid readers or Soundcloud for music lovers.
What are the most important aspects to consider when developing a social media application?
It’s not a surprise that 90% of users will stop using an app if it performs poorly. Social media is all about real-time information and reactions. If a social network’s performance affects the user’s ability to access or share content that requires immediate attention or action, it will, most likely, lose that client. Ensuring that the app runs smoothly and keeping the customerinformed that you’re taking care of the error they’re experiencing is one sure way to build customer loyalty.
Given that a social network is a vehicle for user-generated content, the application’s UI and UX need to be simple, intuitive, and non-intrusive. It’s essential to make sure the design matches the audience and the platform’s purpose, and it appeals to them. You might not want to reinvent the wheel, as social media built on existing frameworks have proven to be successful. But if innovation is one of your core values, using existing industry insights to bring a new perspective to social connection can also prove to be a good investment. And TikTok is an excellent example for this.
Ensuring the safety of your customers’ data is a prerequisite when developing a social network. There is considerable personal information shared on social media, so it’s crucial to create robust security protocols, whether it’s through two-factor authorization or SSL.
How you monetize the app is strongly connected to the purpose of the social network. If you’re looking to create a community that encourages bonding between users, monetization may not be a part of your strategy. In other cases, you can choose the option that suits your business best, whether it’s a freemium pricing strategy, in-app purchases, or advertising.
Just like design, the social network’s functionalities also define the app’s personality and have the power to captivate users. The platform’s features should be designed to encourage connection, exposure, and most importantly, allow personalization. As users turn to social networks to express themselves personally or professionally, it’s essential to offer them the flexibility to do so on their terms.
With that, let’s dive into the central features that any social network application is expected to have.
The must-have features of a social network app
- Social login. The app can have its authentication process. However, to speed up the registration and login process, the social authentication option is possible through integration with other well-known and trusted networks, such as Google, LinkedIn, or Facebook. Your app will retrieve basic information about the customer from these platforms.
- Newsfeed. An attractive newsfeed is vital for both users’ engagement and the proper distribution of content. It’s what defines a social network.
- In-app communication. Besides having the option to share their thoughts on a news feed publicly, users also expect to have personal communication tools at their disposal. A private chat is a must-have feature that will ensure your customers continue to use the app beyond its primary purpose and see you as a one-stop-shop for all the essentials in terms of social connection.
- Payment system. This feature is a must if you plan to implement a monetization strategy or your business is an eCommerce site that aims to make sales through the social network. Integration with 3rd party payment gateways such as PayPal can ensure secure transactions and ease of use.
- User interaction. Users should be engaged at all times, especially when they’re not using the application, enticing them to return through push notifications, SMS, or personalized emails.
- Admin panel. To keep track of all the user’s data and actions, a control panel is crucial. It will facilitate user management and will help you have an overview of your application.
- Data management. With a social network, vast amounts of data pile up, so you need a database to store and retrieve customer and application data rapidly.
- Analytics. Understanding users’ behavior is essential to finding the bottlenecks and weak points of the application. It also provides unique insights into what your users appreciate, how they interact with it, giving your business a roadmap for future development.
- Geolocation. Although not a critical feature, location-based services are becoming more valuable and requested from users. Geolocation features nurture personalization and create a more engaging experience for users.
- Integration with new technologies. Like Artificial Intelligence or Virtual Reality, the latest technologies’ potential creates new opportunities for social networks to provide an interactive experience within the app. And not only that, integrating the social network with other popular apps or services widens the content distribution options, helps your business stay on top of the emerging trends, and offers your user a comprehensive experience.
Social Network application development
The development process of social network applications is no different from developing any mobile or web app. If you decide to outsource the app’s development, a trustworthy outsourcing software development partner will guide you through all these steps.
“Begin with the end in mind,” as Franklin Covey would say. By defining the app’s intention, you create a simple path to determining its features and requirements. It, first and foremost, provides clarity to your project’s execution. And it will impact the way you build the user experience and plan your development. The application’s strategy and budget will help you choose between cross-platform, hybrid, or native development, and if you should start with a web application, a mobile one, or build them simultaneously.
Creating a social network requires constant support and improvements, so having a dedicated development team to ensure strong app performance is key to its success.
Social Network start-up costs
Developing a social network application is not a small investment to make. Even though there is no straight answer to how much it would cost, it’s a custom app development project at its core, and it should be approached as such when analyzing the costs.
The social network app development costs depend on a few factors, such as:
- The app’s complexity. The number and nature of the features and the design will significantly influence the application’s overall cost.
- The platform you choose. native or cross-platform development.
- Development partner. Outsourcing the social network’s development will incur different costs than building it in-house with a specially recruited team.
- Marketing budget. While often overlooked, this cost takes a big piece of the pie and should be considered when outlining the budget.
Social networks play a critical role in how the world communicates and how businesses promote their products and services. With an active user base expected to reach 3 billion users by 2021, social media will continue to be one of the most important sources of information, entertainment, and connection.
So, capitalizing on social networks’ potential by building your own is a strategy that can bring you a more loyal customer base, a well-established brand name, and growing revenues.
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