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create a social media app

How to Create a Social Media App Like TikTok?

Estimated read time: 13 minutes
Aran Davies

Aran Davies

Software ExpertDeveloperWriterPhotographer

Do you dream to create a social media app like TikTok with millions of active users worldwide

If you are a startup founder or an executive looking to expand your business into new markets, creating the next big social media app is a great way to see your company on the next front cover of Forbes magazine.

Developing an innovative app to target youngsters and adults alike requires a deep understanding of mobile development frameworks, advanced technologies like AI and VR, mobile cloud computing platforms, efficient mobile data integrations, etc.

If you don’t have a professional team with the relevant expertise to take on the complex task, then submit a request for a complimentary discovery call, and one of our tech account managers who managed similar projects will contact you shortly.

Online blogging and publishing platforms, like Instagram and TikTok, are very popular today. The United States leads with the largest TikTok audience, and the total number of users in the US market is forecasted to reach 103.3 million by 2025.

Let’s now explore how to create a social media app like TikTok.

Step-By-Step Guide on How to Create a Social Media App Like TikTok

You need to go through the following stages to create a social media app:

1. Research your target niche and audience

Getting to know your target audience is the first step to creating a social media app. Before investing in an app like TikTok, one must understand the market dynamics. Find out answers to the following questions:

  • What age group do you want to target, and what trends are popular among that particular age group?
  • What do the existing social media platforms offer?
  • In which features are users most interested? 

Answers to these questions would help you design your business model and create features for your new social media software product. 

2. Decide on your social media app project specifications and features

There are already a lot of competitors in the social app market. To stand out from the other popular media-sharing networks, you must offer something unique to social media users.

You should create innovative features and research to ensure they are what will strike your users and make them want to use your app.

For example, if you want to target young entrepreneurs through a social media app, you could provide different marketing features on your app that help the users advertise their product/service to a larger audience. 

You could also add a product display option for small businesses. The features can include store customization through different layouts, links to shopping directly, etc. The key is to offer something that appeals to your target market.

Key features for a social media website or an app

Some distinguishable features of an app like TikTok include the following:

Short Video Recording and Uploading: Users can record short-form content that is uploaded instantly.

Video Editing: Numerous options for video editing before posting. Options to trim the video, fast forward it, or apply filters on it to change the effects. 

With Augmented Reality (AR) filters, different scenarios can be added to the original video, i.e., changed eye color, flowers in the hair, hats, doggy ears, etc. Filters can also change skin tones or smoothen them. 

Social Connections: TikTok allows different TikTokers to connect across social media apps. Users create and share their TikTok content on Facebook, Instagram, etc.

Live Streaming: TikTok users with 1000 followers can interact with their audience by going live. The followers can send virtual gifts to their favorite influencers, who, in turn, cash them. The feature is unique to TikTok and a great way to boost TikTok earnings for influencers.

Geolocation: TikTok allows sharing of live location-based content in real-time. In this way, users also get to know other TikTokers in their proximity.

Personalized Content: Machine Learning algorithms allow social media app developers to curate a personalized content news feed for each user. Users can choose the content they want to see. The algorithm displays content according to the user’s preferences.

Engaging app features that made TikTok go viral

Duet: Users can perform (lip-sync and dance) to music and invite others to join them. 

Reactions: A feature to record a user’s reaction to particular music. The music plays in the background and is selected from the music library available on TikTok.

Hashtags: Hashtags on social media apps are used to make content go viral. They are used by people talking about the same trending topic.

TikTokers use hashtags to invite other people for a duet challenge or other trending challenges.

‘Walk Challenge’ was one such TikTok trend where different people shared ‘their walks’ in response to the song ‘Walk’ released by rapper Saucy Santana. Users add hashtags in the caption of their videos.

create a social media app

3. Map out a business model to create a social media network app

You are not here to invest your time, money, and creativity for nothing. So, the next important thing to decide on is your business workflow. How will you monetize it?

There are a few methods already in use by social media networks for monetization, such as the following:

Finding investors

You can pitch your business idea to investors. People are willing to fund startups with growth potential. You can raise funds for the initial rollout of the app.

Running advertisements

Different ad models have already proven to work in the digital marketing domain. You can run ads from different businesses on your app for financial rewards, etc. 

Different payment models for advertisers are:

  • Cost per Click (CPC), where a click on an ad charges an advertiser.
  • Cost per Action (CPA), where a definite action leading to revenue generation charges an advertiser.
  • Cost per Thousand Impressions (CPM – In Latin, M stands for thousand), where advertisers pay if there are a thousand impressions on their ads. The impression means the ad loads on a web page irrespective of user clicks or buys.

In-app purchases

As an app creator, you can always reserve premium features for users who pay for an upgrade. 

TikTok uses TikTok coins as an in-app purchase. Users can buy these coins for real money and send virtual gifts to their favorite influencers.

TikTok influencers convert these gifts into real money. These coins are available in bundles of 100 to 1000 for 99 cents to 99.99 US dollars.

4. Hiring professionals

The next step is to hire experts to get the job done. You need to hire for the following roles:

  1. A UI/UX designer designs the app interface offering the best user experience.
  2. Frontend developers specialize in Android and Apple apps. You can hire according to your target market. They are mainly working on the front end of the Android or iOS app.
  3. A Backend developer helps in connection with servers and databases and performs necessary API integrations.
  4. A QA Engineer performs feature testing and quality assurance before app deployment.

Depending on your budget, you can hire an in-house team of developers or outsource expert developers on a part-time or permanent basis.

Outsourcing is generally a cheaper option overall as it does not involve the requirement to keep staff hired permanently.

If you decide to hire software developers, then you have the following options:

  • Hiring on a freelance platform;
  • Hiring from a trustworthy software development company.

You might be able to hire a freelancer for a low hourly rate. However, freelance platforms don’t provide management support. You might find it hard to manage a project with part-time freelancers. Moreover, Freelancers might leave your project mid-way, and you need to find replacements.

Reputed software development companies provide full-time developers. They encourage their programmers to regularly upgrade their skills, therefore, you get motivated developers. These companies provide management support. They also provide replacements in the case of turnovers. 

Our guide on choosing a software development company can help you find a better social media app development team.

We discuss the technical expertise you should look for in your mobile app developers shortly.

5. Develop an MVP

Now that your development team is ready to move forward, you should focus on developing a minimum viable product (MVP).

An MVP contains the minimum or basic features of an app, allowing you to launch it to gain valuable customer feedback. 

Creating a product with all the features and then releasing it is an expensive process. A feasible approach is to design and develop an app with the main features. The product is then developed incrementally based on users’ feedback. 

Key steps to develop an MVP

Take the following steps to develop the MVP:

  • Design a great UI (user interface). Follow the Material Design guidelines for Android, and consult the Human Interface Guidelines for iOS.
  • Use appropriate IDEs (Integrated Development Environments). Examples are Android Studio for Android development and Xcode for iOS development.
  • Design and create a robust security solution. Use MFA (multi-factor authentication) and data encryption. Proactively mitigate top application security risks.
  • Develop your own APIs where applicable. Design the API endpoints carefully. Create effective rules for API requests and responses. Secure APIs using encryption and secure API gateways.
  • Integrate 3rd-party APIs and your own APIs into your code. 
  • Test the app using relevant tools. Examples are Espresso for Android and XCTest for iOS. 
  • Follow the Android developer documentation for publishing an Android app to Google Play. Use the Apple App Store guidelines to publish an iOS app.

Your software development team should be involved as early as possible to help you with the app development process.

Starting with the design where they help outline the requirements and timeframes, etc., of creating basic functionalities, help to outline the required technology stack, cost estimation, project deployment plan, future app updates, etc.

You need developers with the following skill set to develop an exceptional social media app.

Native iOS app development

Your developers should be proficient in programming languages like Swift and Objective-C for native iOS app development. Both work very well with iOS. However, Swift is a more modern language.

Apple prefers that developers use Swift to develop apps for its platforms like iOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS, etc. Swift enables programmers to achieve a lot despite coding less.

The language has robust security features. You can create high-performance apps using this feature-rich language.

Native Android app development

Java, a popular language, has been a mainstay for native Android development for a long time. Nowadays, many programmers use Kotlin for developing native Android apps.  

Both Java and Kotlin offer powerful features. They help programmers to avoid common programming errors. You can create highly scalable and performant Android apps using these languages.

Many developers already know Java, and there’s a rich ecosystem of tools and libraries for it. Kotlin is relatively new, and that’s the main difference.

Web development

Many technologies exist for web development. We recommend you use JavaScript-based technology stacks since JavaScript has a rich ecosystem.

You can use JavaScript, HTML, and CSS for front-end development. Alternatively, you can use JavaScript-based web frameworks like Angular and React.js.

Node.js is very common today for backend development. This open-source runtime environment for JavaScript helps you develop scalable and performant web apps. Developers can use many open-source Node.js tools and frameworks

API development and database integrations

You require APIs for data retrieval and updates, server-side operations, cross-platform compatibility, third-party integrations, etc. We recommend you use REST (Representational State Transfer), the de-facto standard for API development.

You need databases for data storage, offline data access, data analytics, personalization of user experience, etc.

A NoSQL database is more suited for developing a social media app like TikTok. NoSQL databases like MongoDB and Apache Cassandra would help your app developers with the following:

  • Flexibility in handling user-generated content (videos, comments, etc.) that is often unstructured or semi-structured;
  • Dynamic schema to easily introduce new content types;
  • Handling geospatial data for location-based features;
  • Big data processing for data analysis, etc.

Our article on the latest Software Development trends discusses technologies and frameworks widely in use today.

Cloud computing platforms to create a social media app

Today, cloud computing services like cloud storage and cloud servers are very much in demand. Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure are leading cloud service providers.

You might need different types of cloud computing platforms based on your requirements. E.g., a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) platform can help with web app development. 

PaaS platforms manage the cloud infrastructure, operating system, middleware, and runtime environment. AWS Elastic Beanstalk is an example. You bring your code and data.

An MBaaS (Mobile-Backend-as-a-Service) platform can help with mobile development. MBaaS platforms like AWS Amplify manage the cloud infrastructure and persistent storage. You can develop and manage the mobile back-end easily, thanks to MBaaS platforms.

Other APIs and tools to create a social media app

Different APIs can be integrated to create functionalities. Example APIs include:

  • Google Cloud Messaging or Apple Push Notification Server for push notifications feature;
  • Google Maps API or Apple MapKit for Geolocation feature;
  • ML Kit for Augmented Reality Filters;
  • Amazon Simple Email Service for signup feature.
create a social media app

6. App release and marketing

You should devise a dynamic marketing strategy for your app so that your target audience already knows about it before its launch.

In the era of digital marketing, you can adopt many approaches. If you don’t have one, you should hire a marketing specialist.

Some common ways to advertise a mobile app include:

  • Running paid ads on other social media platforms. You can use Google Adwords and partner with other apps for cross-promotion.
  • Onboarding bloggers and influencers to help. They market your app among their followers, and in return, you pay them.
  • Optimizing your social media app and promoting it on app stores like Google Play and Apple Store. App Store Optimization (ASO) is an effective way to get more downloads for your app by improving the app ranking. It includes:
    • Using a proper heading title;
    • Adding an interesting app description;
    • Creating an appealing app icon.

7. Collect user feedback and improve your app

Once your mobile app is in the market, you can start gauging users’ feedback. Users leave their reviews on the App Store.

Additionally, you can carry out surveys on your social media platform, etc. This will help you create the best possible end product that satisfies your audience.

Planning to Create a Social Media App?

Developing your own social media app today is a difficult task that requires lots of expertise if you wish to create an application that beats the competition.

With the right business idea, app design, and development experts, you can launch the next viral social media app.

If you have a creative app idea but are unsure about the technical aspects, reach out via this quick form to inquire about DevTeamSpace’s expert mobile app developers, who can help you convert your creative dream into the next global social networking app.

FAQs on How to Create a Social Media App

1. What is the actual cost of developing a social media app like TikTok?

Around 1000+ hours are required to create a social media site or app like TikTok. The social media application development cost starts from tens of thousands of US dollars and increases according to the app features. You get an accurate estimate for your own social network app by contacting a reputable mobile app development company like DevTeam.Space.

2. Why is TikTok banned in some countries?

The United States and India temporarily banned the app due to national security concerns. Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan temporarily banned TikTok, stating the content is not per their societal values. 

3. How do TikTokers make money?

TikTokers are making their career out of TikTok in several ways according to the user engagement on their profile. They convert virtual gifts from their followers to real money and collaborate with different brands for influencer marketing. TikTok has set aside $200 million as a Creator Fund. It is expected to reach $1 billion in three years. There are some demographic and content engagement conditions to fulfill before applying for a reward from the Creator fund. 


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