The successful stories of such giants as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter have pushed the social media industry, stimulating phenomenal growth. As a result, businesses from various sectors are wondering how to build a social network to survive in the current social media age.
If you want to take advantage of the trend, read this post to know all the peculiarities of social website development, including features, cost, and types. Let’s get started.
Popular Types of Social Network
Before delving deeper into social website development, let’s consider what social media platforms stand for, what types are there, and do companies need a website.
Social media website is a large community where people can interact through textual or video content, purchase products or services, and create their network of contacts. It’s also an excellent marketing tool for marketing strategy building to segment and target the audience.
Panning to develop a social media platform, it’s critical to determine the type of networking service. It’s not restricted to social communities like Facebook or Twitter. Depending on the concept and features, they’re split into the following groups:
Social networks. This is the most common type of social media website. It focuses on an easy interaction format and lets people establish connections with multiple users. The most impressive representatives of this type are Facebook, Instagram, TikTok.
Entertaining websites. There may be a mix-up between social networks and entertaining websites. However, the last ones join people based on their interests. People love such communities for the ability to find like-minded people and share their thoughts with them. There are a lot of hobby networks like Patook, MeetUp, etc.
Educational platforms. Educational platforms also link people according to their interests, but the core goal is to acquire new knowledge.These resources enable teachers and students to interact and open access to wealth research opportunities, including different social network functionality. Academia is the most striking example of such a network. The platform is allowed for sharing engaging articles and research results.
Scientific communities. Researchers also require special communities for interaction. Scientific resources allow scientists to share their domain experiences and expertise. ResearchGate is a leading player in this industry.
Corporate websites. These types of social media websites are practical tools to boost a company’s sales performance. As a result, business leaders directing to commercial success tend to make corporate websites. It’s also an excellent way to join employees and increase brand loyalty.
Professional resources. Professional platforms are created to enable interaction between specialists in the most effective way. LinkedIn is the most prominent example of such a community. The platform lets professionals share their experience and insights, discuss business matters, search and offer job positions, valuable contacts, and more.
Dating communities. Dating resources are flourishing and experiencing a tremendous rise in popularity. They’re designed to help people find a soulmate, as you, as an owner, can take advantage of it by offering exclusive features on a subscription basis. Tinder gives an idea of how to create a social media website of this type.
Information websites. Let’s explain with an example. Say you want to build a social media website. You start looking for the information to know how to start but can’t find helpful information. This is where information websites come in handy. You may ask questions and receive expert advice on the item of interest. Quora and Reddit offer examples of how to make an information platform.
When Do Business Need a Website
It’s common to build an application to provide fast and easy access to information. However, if you intend to present smashing content to build a broad online presence, it’s better to come up with a responsive website. So let’s look at the cases when it’s beneficial to build a social networking website.
You want it to be SEO-friendly. The majority of customers use Google to explore the information about specific products or services before making a decision. Website is a good way to engage more leads and convert them into customers. The users enter particular requests to the search bar, and your website is shown in the search results, in case it’s well-optimized. It enables you to reach more users and boost traffic to your platform.
You’re limited on budget. Social networking website development requires less money than building, for instance, a cross-platform mobile application since you don’t need to hire separate specialists experienced in Flutter app creation. Responsive websites have a sole codebase that operates on all devices across various browsers. Moreover, websites are easier to create and maintain.
You want to update your data infrequently. Before choosing between a website and a mobile app, consider how often your content needs to be updated, especially if you plan to develop information or a corporate community. Creating a website is the right choice if you need your data to be regularly upgraded. The updated version of the website is available to users once you upload it to the server.In contrast, mobile apps require verification approval by the App Store before being delivered to users. For example, it requires approximately two days for iOS-based apps and 2 hours for Android ones to be confirmed.
Strong Sides of Social Media Platforms
Social media increases in popularity every single year, which means such a solution has substantial benefits for companies in different domains. Let’s take a detailed look at them.
Enhanced Brand Awareness
About 57% of respondents say that they check social media to find new products or services. Social media is a powerful instrument for brand promotion since you can directly communicate with a large audience of consumers. You just need to create a business page and start interacting with the clients to get underway. Encouraging employees and business partners to “share” and “like” your content will boost the brand’s visibility and expand its reputation.
Better Conversion Rates
About 69% of interviewed stated lead generation increased by implementing social media into a marketing strategy. Every post, video, or comment may engage more users to the company’s website and increase traffic. When brands actively interact with customers by sharing interesting content, it personalizes them. People prefer to have connections with people rather than companies. Online presence also plays a part in improved business credibility. If the companies post status updates systematically and reply to customers in person, it also increases clients’ trust in the brand. Hence, people are more likely to select this company when searching for products/services.
Social media marketing stands for the most cost-efficient part of a marketing strategy. Even if you decide to offer a paid promotion, it will still cost the businesses less than other promotion channels. Hence, companies will be prone to exploit your social media platform to promote their services. For instance, when clients decide to set up paid advertising, let them start with a trivial sum. Then, after they polish their advertising strategy, they will pay more. Moreover, social media has a 100% higher close rate compared to outbound marketing.
Lead generation is considered to be the biggest issue for many companies. Thanks to individual-level engagement, a social media platform will lead to better client satisfaction. One-to-one interaction is an excellent opportunity for enterprises to prove their understanding of clients’ needs and improve customer experience. Whether a client requests a consultation or has a complaint, social networking sites enable matter addressing privately.
Points to Consider Before Creating a Social Media Website
Let’s say you want to develop a social media platform to bring designers and manufacturers together. In this matter, you should be ready to answer the following questions:
- Are there similar project ideas that have reached success?
- Is the local market oversaturated? How many companies will you be competing with?
- Why should users select your product over a competitive one?
The question set can vary depending on the type of social network. To stand out from the competition, make sure you enter the available niche, understand your audience’s problems, know how to address them, and create a website fitting your users’ needs.
Identify Target Audience
You can’t make a social media website for everyone as well as for one user. You need to determine a group of like-minded people based on their preferences and problems to understand who you build a community for and what features should be implemented. Try to apply as many filters as you can to develop a detailed buyer profile. Thus, you’ll be able to establish a social media website in the long run.
There are two approaches on how to define a potential user:
- Online research. There are a bunch of open-free resources that allow you to collect and scrutinize the information of a broad group of people. Start with simple details like age, location, and occupation and then delve deeper into behavior, values, habits, etc.
- Test and learn. This approach signifies you launch a social media website MVP (minimum viable product) and make improvements based on user feedback. You need to organize a test group, think of interview questions, and provide testing equipment. Even though this method requires some investment, you’ll get accurate data.
Most likely, you’re going to build a product that somebody made earlier. Hence, it’s better to examine market leaders to learn from their experience. Start with analyzing your direct competitors to define how unique your concept is and where to move on. There is no sense in making the same website if there’s a good analog. So try to think narrower and focus on your product’s strong sides.
Choose a Development Option
When it comes to social network development, you can either use a website builder or build a product from scratch. However, out-of-the-box solutions are made for the mass market and can’t offer complete customization and high functionality. Moreover, there is always a risk that someone may employ the same template as you, while uniqueness for such communities is everything. Bespoke solutions are allowed to deliver a unique customer experience. You can decide how your website will look, including colors, font, icons, and scale it as new tools become available.
Even though custom app development requires extra time and money, it will save you a pretty penny in the long term.
Work on Brand
After you determine what and whom you’re going to offer, pay close attention to brand name, design, and self-presentation. It will allow you to attract more potential customers and stand out from analog products. It does this by telling users four crucial things about your business:
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- How are you doing it?
- Why do you do it?
Who you are is implying your website name and design. These aspects of your brand stand for the first connection between you and your audience. Hence, you should generate a unique, remarkable website name. Besides, it’s essential to think of an appealing design (colors, fonts, page design, etc.) so users notice you and put it in mind.
What you do, describe the strong side of your proposal and clarify how your product will enhance people’s businesses or life. How you do it is a way you submit your product to end customers. It’s about interpreting the business values reflected in your behavior as a brand. And why you do, means that you share your business goals with your audience.
Consider Monetization Strategy
How to build a social network and transform it into a profitable asset? First, you need to compare several monetization strategies and pick the most appropriate for your business. Here are the most common social networking revenue models:
Advertisements. Ads stand for the most common way to get revenue for a social media platform. Again, think over design and overall concept. Ensure your website has enough space for eye-catching banners to grab Internet users’ attention.
Brand promotion. This strategy means promoting content posted on your website by individual organizations and getting paid. Target content turns up on the top of the newsfeed to receive more views.
Paid features. Many social media platforms contain a subscription-based model, allowing access to advanced features for an additional fee. For example, YouTube’s subscription plan enables ads-free content viewing. LinkedIn makes it possible for users to review who visited profiles and provides access to different educational courses to improve their skills.
Finally, you need to find a reliable IT company to breathe life into your project. I’ve collected five useful tips to assist you in hiring the right vendor and avoiding pricey mistakes:
- Check the portfolio. Look at the software solutions the company delivered before and see if they have appropriate experience.
- Read reviews. Study clients’ reviews to understand if it’s worth working with this company. It will help you to manage expectations and get ready for possible challenges.
- Consider industry expertise. Examine the company’s expertise to ensure they’re proficient in your field. This will speed up the social network development process since the software developers are familiar with procedures and required technology tools.
- Consider time zone differences. If you decide to outsource social media website development overseas, you may encounter communication issues. However, the majority of experienced outsourcing firms make individual communication plans to calendar the meeting at a time convenient for clients.
How to Make a Social Media Website: Essential Steps
Now let’s look at a step-by-step approach to creating a social media website.
Step.1 Market Research
Market research is a critical stage that allows you to understand the level of competition within your niche and if there is any at all. You need to scrutinize your potential competitors to define the following points:
- A complete list of services/products they offer
- Their strengths and weakness
- Their target user and how they interact with them
- What promotion methods are used
This will give you a proper understanding of the market situation, and it will be much easier to come up with a unique selling proposition that will stand you out from the crowd and grab the attention of fastidious consumers.
Step 2. Look for a Tech Vendor
You need to hire a reliable vendor who will assist you in building a social network from scratch. You can round up an in-house team or outsource product development to one of the popular outsourcing destinations like Eastern Europe or Western Europe.
Assembling an in-house team implies that you’re fully involved in social media website development and take the reins of the process. The main benefit of this option is that you have your team round the clock, and if an emergency arises, you can easily reach them. But it’s a cost- and time-consuming process since it requires additional expenses on rent, software, equipment, sufficient salary, and so on, and a lengthy hiring process.
Outsourcing is an excellent way to take the responsibility off your shoulder and get a top-tier social media platform on time and within the budget. The main benefit of this approach is the ability to hire specialists worldwide, which provides you access to a vast talent pool. Moreover, outsourcing will cost you less compared to full-time employees as you pay only for a project delivered.
Step 3. Discovery Phase
So you’ve found a tech vendor experienced in creating a website for social media. The first thing you will face is the discovery phase, which is a must-have step for building any technical product. During this phase, business analysts scrutinize your business, goals, and project concept. After examining the information, they create a specification plan that details all technical product requirements and desired features. Finally, the team is composed based on your requirements, and the company provides you with a final estimate.
Step 4. Design
During this stage, UI/UX designers make wireframes — the visual representation of future website design and the logic of transitions between screens. In other words, this is a blueprint of a future digital product that you must approve. After that, the wireframes convert into full-fledged design mockups that display how the social media website will look in the end. After you approve all the mockups, they transfer to the software developers.
Step 5. Development
The development implies converting your ideas and requirements packed in the specification into complete lines of code and a functioning technical product. The entire process is divided into sprints (fixed periods), and each lasts two weeks. During the sprint, programmers must realize a specific part of the functionality and introduce it to you at the end of the sprint. Such a pipeline is maintained until all the functionality is implemented. Bear in mind that your new software product can be built in two ways: during traditional or low code/no code app development. The last option, though, doesn’t assume the personality of your future social network.
Step 6. Quality Assurance (QA)
Your social media platform website must work flawlessly, and therefore, it goes through rigorous QA testing. Quality assurance specialists study every part of the product for bugs, and if they detect them, they make bug reports that are then submitted to the web developers. Bug reports enable restoring the latest activities during which the bug was tracked down and fixing it faster.
Step 7. Release
This stage indicates the finish line in developing a social media website. Finally, the web developers make final edits and polishes to ensure the site is all set to release. After polishing is performed, web developers pass your website with all the source code.
Step 8. Maintenance and Promotion
Further project support is extremely important for successful website performance and scalability. For example, your platform may require modifications based on initial users’ feedback, adding more sophisticated functionality, or polishing the old one. Generally, project maintenance can include bug fixing, code optimization, stability and performance improvements, ensuring your social network has a backup, etc.
So you’ve launched your social networking site, but how do you get users to see it? This is where marketing comes into play. You have multiple ways to promote your project, and in the social media field, you can consider the following ways:
- Content marketing. This category includes generating different types of content that both promote your platform and boost the SEO performance of your site. You hire freelance writers or in-house content writers to produce blog posts, Longform content, promo videos, podcasts, Instagram posts, and more.
- SMM. You can also consider promoting your own social media platform through popular social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. The strategy is similar to content marketing, but it exclusively encompasses social networks.
- Influencers. This is a way of promoting your product and services with the help of famous personalities. They may advertise your community on their blogs, social networks, YouTube channels, and so on.
- Email marketing. This way of promotion involves sending introductory letters and letters that provoke customers to visit your website.
- SEO. This is the groundwork of any business promotion because if you don’t keep an eye on your website’s search rankings, there is a risk of landing up on the last page of Google, where no one will find your site. This strategy focuses on optimizing keywords, titles, meta tags, and other elements that play significant roles when indexing a website by search engines. This way, you demonstrate Google your website is relevant to the topic, valuable to the users, worthy of being at the top of search results.
Technical Side of Social Networking Site
So, once you’ve figured out points to think about in advance and what development stages your software product needs to go through, it’s time to look at the functionality needed to build a social media website. I’ve singled out the two modules with “must-have” and advanced features to make this section extremely useful for you.
Basic or MVP Features to Make Social Network
Profile creation and editing
To start using your service, users need to have the ability to create a personal profile. To make this feature as valuable as possible, enable profile customization using various toolkits. It’s also good to add an option that allows participants to hide certain information from other users.
People adore sharing their thoughts and insights with others. Thus, this feature is vital to make it possible to generate, edit, and publish media content. You can also implement free and paid templates to enable exclusive post-design delivery.
Like, comment, and share options
These features lie behind a thriving social media community. Social media is a place allowing people to show themselves and demonstrate their awareness of different issues. And you, as the owner of a social media website, can take advantage of this intent. For example, you can enable post boosting to engage opinion leaders in your community willing to pay for their brand promotion.
Many business owners come up with promising ideas, start developing their website immediately, and don’t succeed because UI/UX design goes against users’ expectations and preferences. So don’t try to impress your audience with fancy design. Instead, focus on simple, intuitive newsfeed’s UX design, letting users easily share and upload their content.
The increased number of cyber attacks impacts the customers’ demand for high-security services. Users want their data to be well protected, so secure messages exchange is critical when developing a social media platform. You must integrate TLS/SSL protocols to guarantee all the conversations are confidential.
Create a Social Network with Broaden Functionality
Linking with existing social networking communities
The fewer steps users need to take to reach your platform, the better. People have already signed in on other social media platforms. Thus, there is no need to make them pass through the registration process once more. It’s a great idea to add the button “Login in using”, for example, Facebook to shorten users’ way to new social media experience.
Generally, social search tools are restricted in functionality, allowing customers to seek specific information. The advanced search feature will enable content filtering according to users’ preferences. In addition, it marks that users will be able to limit their search results by various variables like keywords, phrases, places, and more.
In-built social media analytics tools will let users scrutinize and understand which of social media strategies are resulting and which aren’t. This will allow brands to manage their time and budget effectively. Analytics also assists customers in generating social media performance reports and sharing this valuable data with stakeholders.
Well-Know Social Media Platforms
Let’s observe the most successful social network you can look at when creating your own social media community.
Could we talk about popular social media platforms and not to mention Facebook? Certainly not. Facebook is a major player in this industry that generated $28.2 billion in revenue in 2021. The total funding counts for $16.1 billion. The number of people accessing the platform exceeds 2 billion.
Facebook enables textual and video posting, photo posting, and carousel photo posting. People can also make live videos and share “stories”. The platform also gives access to compelling advertising and analytical tools and lets brands customize their business pages. For example, companies can highlight their strategic data such as products/services provided, contact info, and working hours. Besides, Facebook offers additional applications that link to specific services (for example, Facebook Messenger) and has both mobile apps and a responsive website.
Instagram takes second place in our list of famous social networks.
It’s a rapidly growing photo- and video-based social media platform with more than 1 million users. Instagram offers a variety of tools to promote products/services, including live videos, IGTV videos, and Reels. You can register a business profile and receive analytics of your posts and videos published. Moreover, the platform enables time scheduling for live videos and posting about them on the feed. You can plan the event up to 90 days before it starts. The calendar icon will appear on the post on the business page grid, allowing participants to click on it and set a reminder.
TikTok has developed from an emerging tendency to the leading short-form video-based social networking site. The platform has generated $1.9 billion in revenue in 2020. TikTok operates in 150 countries and has about 1 billion active users. People spend, on average, 89 minutes a day using TikTok. This social media community enables creating, editing, and sharing short videos, employing rich features set. The service concentrates on engaging short video content based on popular songs.
YouTube is one of the most significant hubs of news and entertainment, joining over 2 billion active users. The company’s advertising revenue outpaced $7 billion in 2021. YouTube started as a video-sharing platform back in 2005, but Google quickly bought it in 2006 for over $1 billion.
The service enables sharing, uploading, commenting, and viewing a bunch of video content. Over 500 hours of media content are uploaded to YouTube every minute along with 5 billion videos being reviewed every day. Anyone could become a YouTube creator by making a YouTube account. Business owners can upload interesting original content to attract more customers to their brands. You can also pool the media content and make advertising as well as interstitial advertising (short clips that show up before the video starts).
LinkedIn is the largest professional networking community, linking thousands of businesses and experts. The platform contains over 774 million registered users. In addition, the service generated $10 billion in 2021 along with advertising revenue of $1 billion.
LinkedIn is a perfect place to organize a community of like-minded people, position yourself as an expert, and promote your business. Specialists can register personal profiles pinning down their hands-on experience and expertise. In addition, organizations can create professional pages to share their business values, insights, and knowledge and post job position openings.
Pinterest is a picture-based social networking site allowing users to find, gather, and organize photos that they can find over the Internet or upload by themselves. It makes this through a set of user-generated categories called “boards” and a set of visual bookmarks called “pins”.
Pins imply different sorts of image-based elements, including photos, videos, animations, etc. Boards are applied for all types of various topics, such as traveling, home decor, do-it-yourself craft, fitness, and much more. Bookmark helps users remember essential or interesting web pages so you can recover them quickly if you need them. The service lets you store a massive collection of pages you like, uploaded computer files, or even things other participants have bookmarked. You can also share fascinating stuff with your close friends or make a “secret board” that only people you choose will be able to view or add images to.
Cost to Develop a Social Media Website From Scratch
What is the cost of creating a social media website? Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell as too many factors affect the final price: features, number of pages, design, integrations, developers’ rates, and others. That’s why I have calculated the approximate cost to build a website for social media based on MVP features. The estimation is based on the average rate of $50/h in Eastern Europe.
First of all, let’s see how much time it takes to make a Flutter-based social network (features by features), including admin panel development time.
- Register screen — 27 hours
- Login screen — 20 hours
- Complete profile screen — 13 hours
- Profile screen — 37 hours
- My favorites — 18 hours
- Purchase history — 19 hours
- Group screen — 25 hours
- Settings screen — 21 hours
- Live lessons — 19 hours
- Content screen — 34 hours
- Adviser’s Profile screen — 36 hours
- Group management — 19 hours
- Push notifications — 13 hours
Software developers will need 331 hours to implement all components.
You’ll also need a thoughtful admin panel since it’s impossible to manage all the users manually.
- Authorization — 5 hours
- Users management — 36 hours
- Contents management — 31 hours
- Payments management — 30 hours
- Settings page — 5 hours
- Notifications page — 12 hours
- Categories management — 16 hours
- Blog management — 34 hours
It will take 169 hours to build an admin panel.
So, to develop a social media website, you’ll need at least $103,000. But don’t forget you’ll need to pay a monthly fee for hosting a website and upgrading it once a while to stay on the leading edge of technology.
It’s also worth noting that the tech vendor’s location affects the final social media website development price. To give you a hint, I scrutinized the different hourly rates in popular regions and calculated the cost to make social communities across the areas.
- North America — $284,000 (based on $100/h)
- Latin America — $173,000 (based on $70/h)
- Eastern Europe — $103,000 (based on $50/h)
- Western Europe — $132,000 (based on $65/h)
- Asia — $90,000 (based on $35/h)
- Africa — $106,000 (based on $55/h)
As you can see, the rates vary across the globe. You can work with local web developers or look for experienced engineers overseas. However, finding the required expertise in local markets may be difficult. In addition, it can be an expensive solution since you’ll need to compete with other companies for a decent wage. North America has the highest rate, but the price doesn’t always imply quality service.
If you’re looking for the lowest price, Asia is the place to take into account. For instance, the services of a senior specialist in India could cost $30 per hour. But cooperating with Indian software engineers, you may encounter some communication challenges, weak work process organization, little attention to customers’ expectations, etc.
Eastern Europe has become a demanded software outsourcing destination. There are many reliable IT companies that provide custom web development services for $25 to $50/h while delivering end-quality services.
The social network niche is intensely competitive. Brands compete for customers and look for new ways to capture their attention while generating profit. As a result, it’s not sufficient to just make a social networking site. Instead, it’s critical to deal with an experienced vendor, examine the market, be highly involved in the project, and regularly test your platform for possible issues to keep it upgraded and relevant.