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Appifany Guide: Building a Social Media App

Updated: May 22, 2019

It's clear that the biggest players in the social media landscape are apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn. These apps have have millions and even billions of monthly active users and have created and connected enormous networks of users.

With such big players in the industry it may feel intimidating or out of reach for newcomers looking to break in. With existing platforms offering features that address a wide-ranging array of needs, is there anything new that can be launched to entice users? Yes! And the opportunities now lie in niche markets.

For example, there is a social app studio called Swipe Labs, that has been hired by Uber to improve its user experience and make the app more personalised. This is a perfect example of how it's possible to still enter into a matured and competitive market like the social media space.

Here at Appifany, we want to share what features make a social media app and other helpful tips of successful entrepreneurs and startups.

Social Media App Features:


Studies have shown that social media apps with the highest user popularity are ones that contain a personal profile feature, where users can promote themselves. So when thinking of key features to include in your social media app, focus on a personalised profile that is fast and easy to use. This may include options to add a photo or other personal details.

A method to allow users to effortlessly add in their details is by linking up to other social media apps they already use, so that the information can automatically be retrieved onto your app. As you may have noticed, a lot of mobile apps now include a feature to link up with your Facebook profile when creating an account.

Profiles are a personal expression, therefore you need to have a profile section that is customisable and personalised. This may include features like profile picture filters or banners.


A key to keeping users engaged with your social media app is by including some sort of stream of content or newsfeed. Make it a bit more interesting than just a list, maybe include photos, memes or news updates. These content typically fall into three categories:

  1. Updates. An update is for example checking-in to a location on Facebook. It is an update about where that person is and possibly what they're doing.

  2. Expression. Allow users to self-express through: ability to create unique user-generated content, make hte user experience (UX) as simple as possible, and enable users to target posts at different audiences. 

  3. Esteem. Esteem content allows users to bolster their self-esteem. For example, Instagram allows users to post photos of their lives and holidays, and there are filter and editing tools for users to enhance their photos. Another way to develop users' self-esteem is through reward, and by gaining rewards through activities.  


Perhaps the most important thing to any social media app, is connection. Users need to be able to connect and communicate with one another. Ways that you can allow your users to do this are:

  • Search: This will allow users to search for other users onlien whether that is family, friends, work connections, etc. Beyond a basic name search, your app should include other search filters such as location or workplace.

  • Groups: Groups connect users with common interests for exmaple to connect with each other. Consider making this a feature of your social media app, or it may even be the core feature. There is a group-oriented networking app called Meetup that connects users to social groups, showing how to make group connection the core of an app.

  • Social networks: As noted above, you can link your app with other social media apps your users are already using. Keep in mind, this can also be done in other sections of your app besides just the log in or create an account.

  • Suggestions: Depending on what user information the app has access to, suggestions can be made to connect users in different ways. Possibly through recommendation of social groups, community groups, etc.

  • Content: Consider how users will be interacting with content within your app and the type of content so that you can better tailor the app to suit your users. Users connect with each other usually by sharing content with each other, so again the UX of this aspect is very important.

Tips for success

1. Adapt to your competitive landscape

Steve Jobs once quoted Picasso, saying "good artists copy, great artists steal." And in the social media app world you need to take note of what your competitors are doing and be able to adapt to features adopted by key competitors. That is how social media network Myspace has failed to maintain presence or relevance, because they did not adapt to their competitive landscape.

2. Understand your audience

Listen to your audience, what they want and how they want the functionality or user interface to be more fast or efficient. Users want things to be simple and like things to stay as they are if it's working. You don't need to change areas of your app that are already working well and users are engaging with. Make your app as easy and simple to use as possible!

3. Find a niche

Although social media apps that cater to nearly everything (like Facebook) are extremely popular, for some users it's maybe just too much for a specific need they have. And this is where a social media app catered to a niche can work really well.

4. Stay ahead of social media trends

In such a competitive landscape you need to stay ahead of the trends in the social media world. Understand what trends users are following or attracting to, and what trends your key competitors are implementing. A couple of prevalent social media trends are:

  • Messaging is transforming social media

According to The Economist, most young adults and teenagers are using their phones to instant message rather than use the social networks themselves. For example, WhatsApp users spend about 200 minutes weekly on the app. For different reasons, users are more comfortable to share things in private messages than on a newsfeed, depending on the context of course. But it's important to keep in mind that you need to cater for users who aren't as comfortable sharing content to large groups of people.

  • Rising popularity of ephemeral content

First popularised by Snapchat, ephemeral content refers to impermanent content or messaging that lasts for a limited period of time. With this popularisation, brands are now implementing ephemeral content marketing strategies, particularly with contests or behind the scenes content.

There you have it, the Appifany Guide to Building a Social Media App. If you're thinking of building a social media app and are in search of an app developer, give us a call on 1300 ANY APP (1300 269 277).

//If you found this article helpful check out our one on SEO GUIDE: How to rank for high value keywords!


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