How Hard Is It to Make a Social Media App? 9 Difficult Parts

With almost 4.5 billion people using one or more of the hundreds of social networks, you might wonder: how hard is it to make a social media app of your own?

It is hard to make a social media app with the features and support expected by today’s users. Creating a social network and the mobile and web experience is an extremely daunting venture, especially for those outside the software industry. Some vendors offer Social Media as a Service.

A social media app is more than just an attractive mobile and web user interface. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of additional pieces of functionality that must be created and maintained to succeed. Sounds very difficult, doesn’t it? It can be done.

Two mobile ux developers making a social media app.

What Goes Into Making a Social Media App?

  • User interface design
  • User experience principles
  • Programming and software development practices
  • Server and network infrastructure management
  • Data warehousing
  • Information security
  • Marketing and onboarding
  • Customer support
  • Legal counsel

Creating a social media app is an ambitious project, especially if you’ve never built and launched a software product. It’s more than just programming an attractive mobile and web user interface.

The Hardest Things About Making a Social Media App

The hardest things about making a social media app are learning the necessary programming languages, developing a supporting backend, and then getting people to use your social media app once released.

On an iPhone, apps are typically developed using a programming language called Swift. Android apps are coded using Java.

Some cross-platform frameworks like Flutter, which uses the Dart language, offer the ability to develop once and deploy across multiple operating systems. For developers more familiar with JavaScript, React Native creates mobile apps indistinguishable from apps coded in the primary two languages.

After thinking through the mobile app, the next most challenging thing about developing a social media platform is the backend. Your app needs server infrastructure either owned, maintained, or rented. On these servers, backend software is needed to save and share posts containing text, images, and videos to other users.

Likely the hardest thing about making a social media app is getting people to use it once it’s released. The network effect is key to a successful social media platform and makes or breaks new social networks. Rarely are viral launches successful. Effective marketing campaigns may help cut above an already noisy industry to onboard users. But ultimately, collecting a sizable and loyal user base is the hardest part of making a social media app.

The Easiest Things About Making a Social Media App

The initial idea and feature set is the easiest part of making a social media app. Many creative entrepreneurs can also visualize a user interface that will delight social media users.

Some founders want to launch a social media app with a high conviction that their innovation will draw new users.

Other leaders want to launch a social media app to offer their existing community an exclusive place to gather.

Of course, both desire a quick time-to-market launch which surprisingly is closer than you might think.

Smiling business woman behind laptop looking to make a social media app

A Way to Speed Up Launching a Social Media App

Social media as a service (SMS) is an unbranded white label social media platform. Companies and creators can launch their own social media experience without the need to own any of the underlying software and business infrastructure.

For example, Circle offers technology that allows independent creators to create a community while avoiding the long process of building their own social media platform.

Discourse is a free and open-source software Foss offering that allows entrepreneurs a social media community. The software can be self-hosted, or there are vendors offering Discourse hosting. Discourse has both iOS and Android apps. There had been plenty of talk about producing a white-labeled app.

If you move towards creating a social media app, take a look at your competition. Here are the best and safest social media apps and another list of the worst social media apps.

Mike Chu

Mike is a web developer and content writer living as a digital nomad. With more than 20 years of devops experience, he brings his "programmer with people skills" approach to help explain technology to the average user. Check out his full author bio by clicking here.

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