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How Much Does it Cost to Make a Social Network App?

The best strategy to learn about the new stuff is to base your assumptions around the familiar elements.

You do know the likes of Instagram, Vine and Snapchat?

Good, now let’s take a look how much money the social network development company possibly earned.


How Much Did That Hottest Social Networks Cost To Develop?

To break down the project pricing you need to look into three key factors:

  • Technology stack used.
  • Hours spent on the project.
  • Hourly rates of the hired social network app developers.

The Next Web made the following cost estimates for the top social networks:

  • Twitter-like app: $50,000 to $250,000
  • Instagram clone: $100,000 to $300,000
  • Whatsup messenger: $125.000 to $150.000
  • Pinterest: around $120,000
  • Vine: $125,000 and $175,000
  • Snapchat: $75,000 – $150,000

Feeling slightly discouraged by the six-figure numbers? Well, we are talking about unicorn startups here, so obviously they heavily invested in hiring a dream team of developers with six-figure salaries, backed up by seed investment.

If you are considering to make a social networking app for a more refined audience with less complex features and load, for instance a business networking app for entrepreneurs with some cool location-based features and sleek design, the development costs will range from $25.000 to $150.000.


Questions to Ask Yourself Before Building a Social Network Application

The final cost estimate of your project largely depends on the purpose of your app. Before you start approaching social network app development companies for custom quotes, make sure you’ve made up your mind on the following:

What is The Target Market (Age, Demography, Location)?

Understanding the needs of your end users is essential for creating an accurate project estimate. We suggest running a few market researches and surveys among the audience you plan to target, rather than relying solely on your personal assumptions.

Once you know your user and what they need, you can apply the user-story based approach to identifying the cost to develop a social networking app.

User-stories are short working summaries defining what the user expects from your app and what does he need to do. For instance: “As a user I want to add cool custom filers to my photos and edit saturation/contracts/clarity etc.”

The easiest way is to follow the 5-W approach and create your stories as answers to the next questions:

  • What
  • Who
  • Where
  • When
  • Why

An app development company you’ll choose to work with should help you jotting down the exact ideas. Obviously, the more there are stories to solve – the higher the development price tag will be.

That’s exactly why you need to understand the features your users want, opposed to those you think they need.


Do I Need any Type of Localization or Multi-Language Support?

Again, that depends on your target market. Unless you are already backed up with a hefty check from a VC fund, releasing multi-language supporting within your MVP isn’t really necessary.

English is spoken globally, so you can still plan your world conquer.

However, if you are aiming at more specific large local market e.g. China, Russia or Japan, you’ll probably have to cash out for a localized version to ensure hire adoption rates.

Which Platform Should You Aim For?

The first common dilemma is – do I need a website or a mobile app? The next quuestion is – should I pursue iPhone or Android users.

Social networks these days are equally successful both as mobile-only apps and web applications, but if you’d like to keep the development costs at bay, opt for a sleek mobile app at first just like Instagram did.

The mobile platform you choose also depends on your target audience and their gadget preferences. iPhone users are the majority in Northern America, Western Europe and Oceania, while Android dominates in the rest of the world.

In terms of development costs, Android app development often turns out to take more time (= money) and requires additional troubleshooting. iOS app developers may charge you more, yet manage to finish the project faster and with less post-hassle involved.


What Are My Traffic Estimates?

Sure, you secretly crave to be the next Instagram in terms of growth, but lets keep things real here. How many users will you be able to get on board during the first 12-24 months? Talk with your marketing team and ask for their estimates.

Why does it matter? Well, because high-load dynamic social applications capable of sustaining huge traffic surges will likely cost you more than an MVP product with a room to scale. On the other hand, if you know you have the guts to make your product the next big thing, a weak non-scalable database built on cheap will become a frustrating bottleneck.

The rule of thumb is to start with a well-supported MySQL or PostgresSQL database for structured data – that’s what Facebook, Twitter and the likes use for some their data. For a more quick and robust solution capable of processing huge number of in-app relationships and dynamic data, consider a noSQL database e.g. MongoDB. In any case, your best bet is to consult with the app developers you’ll choose to hire.

What Key Features Do You Plan To Integrate?

Based on the user stories you’ve created earlier you can pretty accurately predict the exact features and modules your app should have.

In general, a social networking app should have the following components:

  • Profiles
  • Interactive news/content feed to steer interactions
  • Content delivery network to avoid duplicates
  • In-app messaging and content sharing functionality
  • Different ways to establish connections
  • Various search and contact integration options
  • Some cool twists that make your product unique e.g. location-based contacts, anonymous messaging, unique added in-app content or photo filters.

The most time-consuming and pricey elements are:

  • Third-party API integrations.
  • Billing integrations (if necessary).
  • Database encryption
  • Advanced admin panel with powerful analytics and numerous functions.
  • Custom interaction mechanics between users (the exact case with social networks).

Here’s a great cost break down proposed by


Now, each feature implies some backend and frontend coding and requires a dedicated pro to do the job. Here’s what a sample team may look like:

  • Two Middle/Senior iOS/Android Developers
  • Senior UX Designer
  • Senior UI Designer
  • Project Manager to keep the project on firm track
  • Q&A Ninja
  • Front-end & Back-end developers if you want to create a web admin panel and promo website.


Now, ask yourself – do you plan to hire these people in-house or outsource the whole project to an app development company?

As we are having money talks here, lets take a look at the numbers.

What’s the average salary of a developer in your place? You can easily get the exact numbers from Payscale or Glassdoor. Top that up with an additional 20%-30% that will account for interviewing, onboarding, training and related overheads. In US, you’ll probably end up with something close to $250.000-$500.000 annually. Now compare that to a custom project quote from an outsourcing company.

Surely, cheaper does not always stand for better in terms of product quality. In another guide, we’ve talked about how to find a reliable app development company.

If time zone differences and possible miscommunication bothers you, here’s another great guide on how to build effective communication funnel within a remote team.

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