How to Build a Social Media Application on iOS

You know why I adore social media networks? I’m obsessed with them and can’t live through the day without checking my Facebook or Google+, not to mention WhatsApp or Viber. And Skype? Oh yeah, I basically live there, it’s an integral part of my daily routine, because my family, colleagues and friends are there and I can reach out to them any second of the day.

I guess, I don’t need to explain that it can be hard and tricky to have people you love so much living on the other side of the globe... If not for the social media apps and websites, I can’t imagine what would I do to keep in touch with my loved ones, when sometimes there is no opportunity to connect with a person via post letters or a regular phone call ‘cuz it’s really expensive options.

But almost every one of us has ultra modern iPhone or Smartphone with the Internet connection close to a 24/7 length. And allow me to ask a question... can you name at least five people your age who doesn’t know even one social media network? And by ‘know’ I mean actually that a person is just familiar with the concept. Can you do this? I can’t, truth be told, because even my grandparents are aware of such thing as Skype and Facebook. And the best part of these magic apps? They’re free of cost for their users!

Social media apps

That’s why I’m so deeply grateful to all those creators who built that wonderful and super useful social media mobile apps allowing all of us to be connected with friends and family, to be entertained and keep up with the worldwide news or trends.

Social Media apps are making history right now, they’re revolutionizing the marketplace and giving a huge opportunity to any hungry mobile app developer to make a great business idea for a startup come true. You can either create your app from scratch or make money through advertising via already existing social media apps. And if earlier such apps were just for entertainment purpose these days they became a strong business platform that allows the entrepreneur to connect with the users and understand their preferences. Thankfully to the valuable statistical data provided by social media apps you can create such product that will be loved by huge numbers of people.   

So, today I invite you to go for a new trip to the land of Social Media App Development.

How to develop a social media app?

Custom social media application development is like... a volcano bursting its lava all around, every year there are a couple new social media apps delivered to the market. Some of them are destined for fame and some... are doomed to be soon forgotten. Therefore, to become a successful entrepreneur among so many already famous social media giants you need to prepare for a hard battle.

Your app should be unique and extremely fresh, with some super cool features and interesting concept to attract the users and to encourage them to stay. Of course, the social media niche is pretty occupied with well-known players, but the constant changings and rapid development of technologies provide a chance for anyone brave enough to see the actual flourishing business perspective.

Well, to build any mobile app you need a guide called ‘How To Build a Mobile App’, which we already prepared for you. But as for social media app, you’re going to follow some specific basics. Before you begin the development process you should plan your marketing strategy and think through your budget structure.

What do you need to do to create a social media app?

1.  Research the market.

Study the apps of your competitors to explore their advantages and weaknesses. Find out as more as you can about their users, what they do or don’t like in that apps and what you can provide them instead.

2. Define your target audience by age, demographics, locations etc.

Get the clear understanding of their needs to make an accurate app’s project estimate.

3. Decide whether you need a type of localization or multi-language support option?

This strictly depends on your target customers. English is a globally spoken language, so for your first startup you can actually hold on to this.

4. Choose the Platform your app should aim for.

Will it be iOS or Android? A native approach or a hybrid one? Keep in mind that Apple gadgets users are the majority in Northern America, Western Europe and Oceania, while the Android preferred by the rest of the world. As for the development costs, to develop a social media app for android usually takes more time and money along with the challenging requirements in the process. And iOS app developers charge more, but the project will be finished faster and without any hassle involved.

5. Define the type of the app you want to build.

Will be a local enterprise social app or an app for teens and college students? A dating app? Or maybe you plan to make a social media app for those who are seeking jobs? Well, it can be anything from a small app for the close friends to a worldwide used social media hero like Twitter or Tumblr.    

6. Write down all the key features you plan to have in your app and what services you gonna provide for users.

And come up with the catchy name for your app along with the bright and memorable icon. Will you create just a messaging app or a video chat app? Or it will be an Instagram clone, who knows.

7. Pass your project to a trustworthy social media app development company.

Let the professionals take it from here. They will configure your app, exercise all the necessary files and test the app to find the bugs and fix them.

8. Prototype the key features & Prepare the MVP of your app & Launch and promote it.

We strongly recommend starting only with an MVP (minimum viable product) to save your time, money and efforts spent on the whole ready app that no one wants or cares about. Only when you’ll see the first feedbacks regarding your product you can plan the further strategy – whether you need some improvements or the whole concept changings. The MVP will cost you a lot less than the final app and it should include all the essential features and functions that represent the purpose of your product.

9. Listen to your users and engage them in the development process on the early basis.

Gain your numbers of users by interacting with them and make them sure you hear them. Show them that you’re trying to build a product that will satisfy their needs and that you’re interested in your user’s opinion. Constantly promote your app and maintain the Marketing Campaign.

10. Don’t forget to include the analytical tools in your social media app.

You need those to gather an important data – to see how exactly people are using your product, how much time do they spend on it and why are they uninstalling the app if so. To find out more about such tools you can read our other post ‘The 5 Most Popular Mobile App Analytics Tools’.

11. Choose the right metrics to monitor and keep track of your app success.

We’d like to recommend to stick to the metrics that grant tracking engagement and help to make valuable business solutions. There are a wide range of such metrics (7 Mobile Marketing Metrics): acquisition (Cost Per Install & Customer Acquisition Cost), user activation, user retention and churn rate, user engagement, traction metrics and burn rate. Without a proper revenue model your product will suffer greatly.

12. Develop a Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Let your users know that you’re gonna protect them from the data theft and unpleasant account break-ins. They need to be sure that they safe within your app, only then they will stay with you and recommend your product to their close ones. And also don’t forget about the app submission guidelines you need to explore, so on the launch-day you won’t be held down by the rejection of the chosen app store.

And this is just the surface of that deep ocean that you’re going to dive into. Let’s say... You chose the iOS platform and plan to win over the App Store Market. How should you proceed and what your app will look like?

Well, first of all, if you’re going to build such app by yourself you must have some high programming skills and knowledge of the iOS basics. For example, to build a full-fledged social media native iOS app you should learn the Objective-C or Swift language and write a backend code which can be in Ruby on Rails, MVC PHP frameworks or Python, or any other server programming language.

And for a database storage, you may choose between SQLite, MySQL, PostgreSQL, or NoSQL. Besides, you can also use a backend service like Parse SDK or Azure etc.

Social media app's features and functions

This is not nearly all you need to know, but what we can provide you with right now is the list of the features that we suggest you should consider having in your app.

Must-have features of a Social Media App on iOS

In general, a social media app that allures users and feeds its creator must consist the following components:

  1. Attractive and suitable UI/UX design.
  2. User Registration and total Data Protection (via built-in services for secure private communication).
  3. Customized Profiles (bio that displays interests, hobbies, food preferences; avatars; backgrounds; nicknames; user status; themes settings to define style, content, and layout of the profile etc).
  4. Adding friends & Advanced Search Options for friends or those who are have the same interests.
  5. Social Logins (via Facebook or Google+ ) & Social Integration with other media resources.
  6. Indicator for the online presence of other users & The ability to view other user's profiles.
  7. Event management and calendar synchronization.
  8. Account management & Admin panel to manage the content and user base.
  9. In-app encrypted private messaging, photo and video exchange directly with other users & Anonymous messaging.
  10. Delivery and reading confirmations & Self-destructing messages.
  11. Video or Voice Calls.
  12. Video Chats & Group calls (for video chat social media apps).
  13. Groups of interests.
  14. Media Content sharing option & Instant share to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr etc. & Commenting.
  15. Support for various data formats (text, video, audio, pictures, photos, stickers etc.).
  16. The ability to post pictures and videos/music on user’s profile grid.
  17. Upload Option to take Images or videos from one’s phone.
  18. Visual editor & Photo filters & Creative text and drawing tools.
  19. Recommendations & Exploration of photos and videos, that user might like and follow new accounts.
  20. Interactive news & content feed to help users find a new interesting content or view stories from the people they already follow.
  21. Search filters (location, sex, interests, jobs, or any other information that is associated with a profile).
  22. Geolocation & Geofilters & Location-based contacts.
  23. Seamless Interaction With Other Apps.
  24. Payment System & Monetization options.
  25. End-to-end conversation encryption & Encrypted chats.
  26. Cloud services synchronization (user files storage).
  27. Server backend (REST API) & Offline backup.
  28. PUSH- and in-app notifications.

See? With a closer look at the must-have functionality, you actually have a lot on your plate. The would-be developer needs to process a huge amount of data when it comes to building a social media app. The features we enlisted above is just the fundamental start for your project and building a social media application can be a difficult and challenging task. But you definitely can come up with other unique features for the app to make it even more attractive to users and profitable.

Users of social media market

To find out more about common features and well appreciated among users, we advise you to study the cases of the next social media giants that will help you to understand the whole concept of the successful social media app.

The best and most popular social media apps in 2016

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Tumblr
  • YouTube
  • Periscope
  • Messenger
  • WhatsApp
  • WeChat
  • Instagram
  • Viber
  • Vine
  • LINE
  • SnapChat
  • Google Hangouts
  • LinkedIn and Xing (for people who seek career opportunities)
  • Pinterest
  • erodr and Yik Yak (for college students)

All of those apps successfully completed the primary task of every social network – connecting people. Each one of them tries hard to keep up with the latest technical solutions and tendencies to satisfy their most demanding users and make them stay with their app. Developers are constantly providing the updates, so the app would bring the actual value to the customers and beat the growing number of competitors.

Do you want to create something like this? Want to help people to keep in touch and feel closer to each other? Well, then there is nothing stopping you there! Just one issue we should discuss. Let’s proceed, shall we?  

How Much Does It Cost To Build a Social Media Application on iOS?

Social media app cost

When it comes to social media app development cost, I can assure you that there is no fixed price for any such app. The cost will greatly depend on the mobile app development company you hire, a complexity of the project and the desired features you want to implement in your app.  Bear in mind, that the purpose of your product defines the final cost of it.

If you don’t mind, let us tell you that when it comes to creating social media app for iOS, the amount of  money  to be spent highly depends on:

  • Features and the core functionality of the future app;
  • Custom-made right from scratch app or just adapted from a white-label solution;
  • A server backend, a third-party services integration (Rest API);
  • Connection with other social media platforms;
  • Geolocation option;
  • Design of the app –  the more complex and sophisticated UX/UI you want, the higher will be the price;
  • Approach to app development (native or hybrid) – the price of the cross-platform app will be lower;
  • Specialists you hire to build your team – the location and number of developers involved in the project (their hourly rate);
  • Analytic solutions integration;
  • Post-production maintenance;
  • Security & Data Protection (Database encryption);
  • Advanced admin panel with powerful analytics and numerous functions;
  • Custom interaction mechanics between users.

There going to be 5 steps of social media app development if you decide to hire social media app development company (which we insist on doing): development of strategy; design stage (sketching, wireframing, prototyping,  design app skins), development & QA, launching & marketing, post-launch support. Social media app development requires three wheels: mobile client, backend and database. And most of the time and cost will be distributed on the backend connection.

So, to implement each feature, backend and frontend coding, you gonna need a dedicated team of social media app developers. It may look like this, for example:

  • iOS Developer
  • UX Designer
  • UI Designer
  • Project Manager
  • Q&A engineer
  • Front-end & Back-end developers.

Social media team

Yes, if you have a basic knowledge of programming you can build your app using the clone of already existing one, but... Honestly, it's a very challenging task for so many reasons. That’s why we strongly advise you to hire professional developers from a trustworthy social media app development company if you want to do it faster, with high quality and potential to win the market niche.

According to The Next Web cost estimation, the top social networks has a following price:

  • Twitter-like app: $50,000 to $250,000
  • Instagram clone: $100,000 to $300,000
  • WhatsApp: $125.000 to $150.000
  • Pinterest: around $120,000
  • Vine: $125,000 and $175,000
  • Snapchat: $75,000 – $150,000

According to our experience, we can tell you that a social media app delivery time takes about 3-6 months (1800-2500 hours) and the total price of such fully functional chatting app developed from a scratch can be estimated roughly between $75,000 – $280,000 (at 40$/hour). Plus, you should keep in mind some extra money for post-launch tech support (improvements and upgrades) and promotion campaign (read more in "How To Start Mobile App Marketing Campaign").

As for the hourly rates of developers across the world, you can check it in one of our latest articles called “How to Build a Food Delivery App Like DoorDash?”.

Afterword

It’s already clear that social media apps won’t go anywhere in the nearest future and the development industry will only grow and expand faster and wildly that one can predict. But... building a social media app isn’t an easy task. However, with a good idea, our experience and the professional team of highly-skilled developers we can beat any challenge on the road to success of your business project. You don’t want just a clone of another app, right? Well, come to us, so we can discuss your idea and find suitable solutions to make your dream come true. We’ll try to help you build a social media app that is alike to those from the top-rank league mentioned above.

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