How to Make a Social App & What Social Features do Popular Apps Use?

How to Make a Social App & What Social Features do Popular Apps Use?

Social Networking Apps Icon.png

What do popular applications like Instagram, Clash of Clans and Uber have in common? That’s right, these App Store and Google Play darlings all incorporate social features including comments, likes and ratings. In this article, I shall define top social features found in popular mobile apps based on the US App Store stats provided by App Annie and tell you how to make a successful social-enabled app.

Social features in mobile apps

Mobile apps with social features tend to perform better on the App Store and Google Play charts and boast higher user engagement rate. In a world where less than 0.01% of mobile apps are considered commercially successful by their developers, you should seize every opportunity to outperform your competitors.

Here’s a list of social features that top-grossing iOS apps including Tinder, Clash Royale and UberEATS use.

User profile

Customization and personalization are often cited as the key elements of a successful UX strategy. That’s why forward-thinking vendors gather user data and feedback to create tailored-made app experiences. A detailed user profile which features a user’s photo, lists his interests and location and stores data on his in-app activity (as well as payment data if your app makes use of in-app purchases or processes payment transactions via the back-end server) is an invaluable source of information.

All of the US App Store’s highest-performing applications including Netflix (#1 free and top-grossing entertainment app), Clash Royale (the top-grossing iOS game) and UberEATS (#1 free food and drinks app) do incorporate user profiles.

Does it mean you’ve got to include it in your app’s scope, too?

It depends. R-Style Lab, for example, has recently worked on an AR mobile app that uses neural networks to identify face parts in a photograph and performs complex facial transformations replicating the results of a plastic surgery. Since the app’s target audience (selfie girls of all types) only cares about the end result – that is, sharing enhanced pics on social media – the app can totally do without user profiles.

Therefore, you should consult an experienced mobile vendor before a single line of code is written to define what features would help your app meet user needs.

Social media login

Based on our mobile/social media app development experience, the r-stylelab.com team believes social media login is one of the key features of any consumer-oriented application. Guess why?

The average user has up to 60 apps installed on his smartphone and uses 30 of those at least once a month. It’s practically impossible to remember that many credentials (to say nothing of email verification, personal data and profile pics). That’s how social media sign-up and login have become ubiquitous and are now favored by 65% of app users.

The implementation of the social login function, however, threatens user privacy. Fast Company even compares social networks to Santa Claus who knows too much (if not all!) about us. Tinder (#1 free and highest-grossing lifestyle app), for instance, pulls a user’s interests from his or her Facebook profile, leaving folks few options to edit their personal data within the app!

And what if a user’s Facebook account gets hacked? Will the intruder gets permanent access to all the apps the user has signed up to via FB?

Major social networks including LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ do acknowledge the problem and allow users to review and revoke apps connected to their accounts. On Facebook, you can even see your app ID and ask app developers to remove your personal data from their servers.

If you want to create a successful social media-enabled app, you should conduct market research to make sure your target audience is comfortable with sharing their personal data and provide multiple login/sign-up options.

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Social sharing and “invite a friend” options

Recent studies show that 30% of app downloads originate from friend recommendations. Basically, it means that you should integrate social sharing options into your future app to let users spread the word.

What social media drive the most traffic?

  • The world’s most popular social network (over 2 billion monthly users) offers a plethora of social sharing options including the like button, share button and share to Messenger button. Although some 500 million users access the network on mobile devices only, the number of people who actually click on FB sharing button from inside the app or mobile browser is relatively small (0.2%; that’s 35% less often than they do on desktop);
  • 80% of Pinterest users access the network from mobile devices – and 75% of that traffic comes from mobile apps;
  • 85% of time users spend on Twitter actually happens on smartphones and tablets. 85% of Twitter’s ad revenue comes from mobile, too. What about social sharing? Branch, a company that specializes in deep linking, has recently allowed customers who placed an order via their app to share order details with their Twitter and Facebook followers and found out 27% of users are actually willing to do so!

With the growing adoption of messaging applications, forward-thinking vendors now enhance their apps with WhatsApp share buttons (WhatsApp shares have grown from under 1% in 2015 to 6% in mid-2017).

Also, popular apps like UberEATS and Amazon (#1 free shopping app on the App Store) often incorporate the elements of referral programs – that is, encourage users to invite friends and reward both parties with bonus points.

In-app currency

Whether we talk about mobile games or mobile-based customer loyalty programs, 50% of all Google Play/App Store entries that are monetized though in-app purchases (IAPs) use some form of in-app currency which can either be spent on artefacts and profile upgrades or physical products.

By the way, what’s social about virtual currency?

There’s seemingly nothing. But if we take a closer look at popular mobile app monetization strategies, we’ll see that many vendors take advantage of both paying and free users – and it’s non-payers who take the time to promote apps on social media by sharing their achievements and asking friends for resources. With in-app currency, app users can unlock further gameplay faster, send gifts to other users, personalize profiles, get unlimited number of daily swipes on Tinder or storage upgrades – and that’s where competitive spirit is rooted in.

Ratings and leadership boards

Still on the subject of competition, incorporating user ratings and leadership boards is a perfect way to gamify your app and increase user engagement. The strategy, for example, is implemented by Clash of Clans (whose Clash Royale spin-off currently tops the US App Store Top Grossing Apps chart). Clash Royale ranks players by their level and trophy count and updates its leaderboard on a regular basis.

So what?

Some of its fans spend thousands of bucks to get the top spot (one guy claims to have spent $ 30 thousand on Supercell’s games!) – and make their own business teaching newbies how to succeed in Clash of Clans.

Want to create a social app? There are hidden costs to consider

According to The Next Web, it will cost you around $ 500 thousand to build a Facebook clone. OK, we’re not talking about fully-fledged social networking applications right now, so it’ll be fair to cut the estimate by half.

Aspiring appreneurs, however, often take social features for granted and end up wondering where the “huge software estimates” come from.

How much does it cost to make your app social?

  • The development and deployment of the Friends function (including user search, invitation sending and notifications) takes up to 600 man-hours;
  • Likes and shares (as well as user activity tracking) will add another 300 man-hours to your estimate;
  • The implementation of a simple newsfeed and analytic algorithms will take another 600 man-hours.

Do not forget about app infrastructure supporting live chat and high performance (up to $ 10 thousand per month).

Oh, yeah. Social apps ARE pricey. Is the game actually worth the candle?

Yes, it is. There are several reasons why we love social media. Being able to interact with other users, get likes, search advice and participate in online activities – all of this gives us a sense of belonging to a greater community where members matter to each other, as well as multiple opportunities for personal fulfilment.

And that’s one of the major reasons why users spend up to 120 minutes a day on social media. Do you want to create a successful app? Make it social then!

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