Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on Reddit0Share on LinkedIn0Tweet about this on Twitter

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, right?

Good. Now let’s take break those down into small components to understand what goes into social media app development, along with the costs involved.

How To Make A Social Media App: The Basics

Before you start approaching social network app development companies for custom price quotes, you’ll have to give your product idea a shape.

In simple words – decide on the app’s key features.

We’ve lined up some simple questions you should be asking yourself to nail those down.

Do You Know Your Target Market?

Fact. Understanding the needs of your end users is essential for creating an accurate list of product requirements.

Here’s a quick example.

Teens got tired of Facebook as their parents hang out there. They wanted more anonymity and less public shaming…and that’s exactly what an app with disappearing messages (aka Snapchat) promised.

We also broke down how to build an app like Snapchat in another post!

Instagram emerged on the premises that people did not fancy how photo sharing worked on Facebook and the way photo albums were displayed.

So, you get the picture?

Discover the common audience’s frustrations and needs and dwell on those.

Alty suggests conducting a market research and a couple of direct surveys first to get a better picture. Relying solely on your personal assumptions won’t help you build a market ready product.

Moving on.

Once you know your user and what they need, you can apply the user-story based approach to identifying the preliminary 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 filters to my photos and edit saturation/contracts/clarity etc.”

Simple, right?

But the process can get overwhelming quickly.

Here’s a quick tip from our UX design team.

Alling user stories with specific feature names.

Account Registration – “As a new user, I want to be able to register with Twitter/Facebook accounts and/or email/password. In any case, I will be required to provide my email.”

Privacy – As a user I can chose between private and public account. I can pre-approve who can see my shared content and block/report people I do not want to engage with”

And the list goes on.

Next, you’ll pass down this list to an app development company and they will base their cost estimate quote on it.

Which Platform Should You Aim For?

Common question: Do I need a web app or a mobile app Or both?

And the next one is – “Should I pursue iPhone or Android users?”

There’s no right or wrong answer to these questions. You’ll just need to ponder over this a bit.

Successful social networks got started both as mobile-only apps and web applications, Android and iOS-only. Though, to be fair in most cases iOS apps were released earlier.

But think about this for a moment.

Web applications take more time (= budgets) to develop. Same goes for building two app versions at a time even if you chose cross-platform app development.

The mobile platform you’ll choose to pursue first should match your target market preferences. iPhone users are the majority in Northern America, Western Europe and Oceania, while Android dominates in the rest of the world.

What Key Product Features Do You Plan To Integrate?

In general, all social networking apps share following components.

Simple Ways To Get Registered

Allowing registration using existing social media profiles is a good way to start.

Two key reasons for that:

  • Registration should be seamless and fast to encourage faster adoption.
  • No social media is fun without connections.
Bonus point if you can create a viral sign-up mechanism. For instance, offer to unlock beta functionality if a new users invites 5-10 contacts to the app.

Next, incorporating registration with exciting social media accounts will allow new users to automatically import their profile data from other networks. Again, less steps in your customer onboarding means faster adoption.

Tools for Self-Expression

snapchatTo create a social media app that is addictive, you need to wow and excite your users straight off the bat.

What are the cool things they can do and show to others?

– Share augmented photos.

– Live stream events.

– Exchange anonymous messages.

These are the “big” features that make your app delightful.

But small things count even more.

Think about some basic customization features that would help users create truly personal profiles.

Those are:

  • Profile photo/Avatar – possibly with some cool editing tools.
  • Profile look – background image, colors, information layout etc.
  • Name or nickname and profile URL.

Tools For Building a Network

Users can invite/get connected with their exciting friends from other networks. That’s option one.

Next, you should create specific mechanisms to help them discover even more users:

  • One-click invite/contact import
  • Search bar and algorithm, which runs searches based around names/nicknames; hashtags; random words; location etc.
  • Options to categorize their friends/following.
  • Curated selections of new users to connect with.
  • Private messaging.


Social networks, where nothing is happening are no fun.

In fact, the large fraction of all social media success stories is attributed to creating great user retention mechanisms.

Most of those rely on FOMO and encourage us to access the app as frequently as possible to check back on the new stuff. Hence, think about your push and notifications strategy from day one.

Here’s what makes an awesome social media network newsfeed:

  • Different types of updates (text, photo, video, long form writing, links etc).
  • Powerful content delivery network to streamline that content and filter duplicate entries.
  • Ways to interact with the newsfeed content (like, share, comment, save etc.)
  • Means to report inappropriate postings.
  • Bonus: Network-wide newsfeed featuring trending/most popular updates from top users.

These are the bare essentials for your social media networking app.

Of course you will want to add your “secret sauce” that would make your app stand out from the competition.

Now, let’s get back to a few more quick considerations.

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 higher user adoption rates.

We’ve addressed all sorts of app localization questions in this post.

What Are My Traffic Estimates?

Sure, you secretly crave to be the next Instagram in terms of growth, but let’s 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 product 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 a more quick and robust solution capable of processing huge number of in-app relationships and dynamic data, consider a noSQL database such as MongoDB.

In any case, your best bet is to consult with the app developers you’ll choose to hire.

Now, let’s move on to the big ask.

That is the cost to develop a social media networking app.

How Much Did That Hottest Social Networks Cost To Develop?

First, here’s some great cost estimates from The Next Web experts:

  • 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 those 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 round(s).

If you are just about to pitch your product, fret not.

You can still make a social networking app that stands a chance with the early users. For instance, an MVP business networking app with some cool location-based functionality can cost you around $35.000-$50.000.

CityHour app developed by Alty

To give you some further price guidance, here’s a great app development cost breakdown, courtesy of


Now, each feature implies some backend and frontend coding and requires a dedicated pro to do the job. Here’s what a sample development 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, let’s 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 like Alty!

We can beat the price tag without compromising the product quality.

Rate the article
[Average: 3.6]
Want to Get our Digest to Your Inbox?
Great, You are Now Subscribed!
App Solutions
How Much Does It Cost to Develop an App Like SnapChat?

Cost estimates for the popular Snapchat features such as disappearing messages, stories, lenses and more!

Leonid Gorev
App Solutions
How to Make a Music Streaming App like Spotify?

Consumption of audio streams has increased by 93% in the US in 2016 and it will get even bigger globally.

Slava Bushtruk
App Solutions
How To Make a Fitness Application

Get to know what’s hot in fitness add development – market insights, new technologies and development costs outlined.

Leonid Gorev