There are almost 4.5 billion social media users. Figure out why the social media market is one of the most favorable niches to enter.
Explore the Facebook business model and learn more about ways to monetize your social media website.
Use our comprehensive step-by-step guide to gain an in-depth understanding of how to create your own social network like Facebook.
Proper rendering, enhanced security, performance, content size optimization, and many other aspects should be considered during back-end development. Discover best practices that our Solutions Architect shares.
Learn more about Aimprosoft experience in social networking website development and find out what aspects affect cost and time estimation necessary to build a social networking site.
Is it possible to repeat Facebook’s phenomenal success and build your own social networking site? Well, there is nothing impossible since this top-ranked platform was a simple experimental website accessible only to Harvard students. Inspirational, isn’t it?
The human desire to socialize via the latest innovative tools is constantly evolving, making this field rather fruitful. Hence, continue reading this article, and we will explore the online networking phenomenon and answer your question of how to make a social media website.
Some facts and statistics about social media platforms
MySpace marked a milestone in the era of social media websites in 2004. Since then, the number of active social network web users has reached almost 4.5 billion people, according to the statistics overview in 2021.
Another fact shows that the time spent by 45% of the global population on social media ranges from 2 — 4 hours per day, which signifies that the relevance of this segment is higher than ever. In turn, the main revenue on the social media channels is mainly obtained from advertising: according to the Hootsuite report, it accounts for $50.8 billion in 2021. Such an indicator makes social media the third largest advertising channel, besides television and paid search.
The statistics are striking, aren’t they? To figure out what niche to choose when you plan to start a social network, let’s consider the types of existing digital networks.
Types of social network sites
The success behind any prosperous social network can be explained by the ability to meet its users’ needs. By following our list of the most prominent types of social networking channels, you will see what user requirements can be converted into a business opportunity.
|Type of social network||What user needs you can convert into profit||Popular examples|
|Social networking sites (also known as interest-based networks)||You can cover the needs not only of the Internet users to share and create content, keep in touch with friends, find like-minded people with similar interests but also of brands that can reach their potential buyers.||Facebook, Instagram|
|Consumer review sites||Consumers’ desire to access businesses online, use their products and services, and leave corresponding reviews can be used to build a social media website that will ultimately bring high revenue.||Yelp|
|Discussion forums & Publishing platforms||Such social networking websites may be best suited to cover users’ needs to exploit a high-quality knowledge base where they can ask questions, discuss them, and publish engaging textual content.||Reddit, Quora, Medium, Academia|
|Entertaining networks for multimedia sharing||The concept of diverse video and audio content sharing can be the core idea of your future social media hosting website. Its great potential to gather revenue from ad selling, brands’ promotions, and premium subscriptions are the defining reason to opt for this segment.||Youtube, Flickr, Vimeo|
|Content curation sites||This type of website is a perfect ground to convert human desire to sort and share collected content according to specific topics into an impressive platform.|
|Relationship networks||The insatiable desire of people to meet the right person can be used as a perfect business opportunity to build a social network website from scratch.||PlentyOfFish, Bumble, Tinder|
|Professional social networks||You can build a social website to help job seekers and companies match, provide businesses with tools that can assist them to improve their brand recognition, and satisfy the needs of users in professional networking.|
After this field overview, we suggest considering our vision on the reasons for social media platform development despite all this plethora of social media websites.
Why do you need to build your own Facebook-like site?
What can be more convincing than dry statistics showing the real state of affairs? The graphs below will significantly help you answer why exactly you should make a social networking website like Facebook.
The growing revenue and the number of users, whose number reached 2.7 billion in 2020, strikes. The only way to obtain these numbers is to let people socialize via the website’s unique functionality, which the Facebook web app once successfully provided.
The idea to make a social networking website like Facebook is rather appealing because of the following business model: users are constantly looking for new networking sites they can trust, brands, in turn, are looking for potential consumers. You become the one who may benefit from such needs and develop a unified portal that will meet the requirements of both sides.
However, if you want to create a social network like Facebook, it’s desirable to identify its weaknesses and exclude them during the development of your product. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a good example reminding social networking web app creators to constantly strengthen the systems that equally ensure data security and data privacy.
Once you are settled with the idea to start your own social network similar to Facebook, the perfect time comes to talk about its monetization.
How to make money on a social media website
There is a strong correlation between what segment of online social channels you want to enter and the choice of monetization strategy. So, let’s dive right in and look at the three most effective ways to make money from developing a social media website.
Renting ad space
By choosing this strategy, you may either provide your users with self-serve advertising that allows placing their ads in the form of the banners on the “sidebar” of the page or letting brands use special tools, similar to Facebook’s Dynamic Ads. The latter one is called targeted advertising, which is a rather mindful approach in marketing as it displays only those ads that are relevant to the users.
This type of monetization is best-suited for publishing platforms (like Medium) or media hosting websites (like Youtube). In case you want to charge a fee for access to specific high-quality content or paid features, then this strategy will suit your network perfectly.
It is one of the fastest ways to obtain higher ROI over the short term. The core of such monetization is to promote on your social media website the product/brand you choose, letting your users click on the affiliate link and make a purchase. If the transaction is successful, you will split the sale price, which is a rather effective way in case your website has just been launched.
Now when we have explored the most widely used monetization strategies, let’s take a look at the business model that made Facebook such a lucrative platform.
Facebook business model overview
Facebook’s striking fame is explained by its successful business approach. It’s highly functioning due to the following formula: users’ data + AI/Ml algorithms processing this data + advertisers = major part of Facebook’s revenue.
With this pattern and by following advertising strategies, Facebook managed to gain 93% of its total revenue for the first quarter of 2019:
- promoted posts & boosted posts (paid option allowing users “boost” particular content in the newsfeed);
- sidebar ads (let advertisers customize their ads and place them in the right-hand column on desktop);
- sponsored stories (advertising option to reach the audience only connected to a page; won’t be shown to other users).
The website’s business model is also formed with the help of users’ payments that they make within the platform. Facebook placed a great diversity of its products, mainly games (e.g., Candy Crush game, Zynga Poker), to offer users not only sponsored products but also native engaging ones.
Facebook’s business model wouldn’t have succeeded if the platform hadn’t been so user-oriented. Such an approach has been highly functioning for 15 years already and continues evolving according to the latest tendencies and growing demands of the users which should be considered when you plan to create your own social network like Facebook.
Features that social networking website needs
When starting social media platform development, we recommend integrating not only inherent to any social network one-size-fits-all features that are listed below but also innovative ones to stand out from your market competitors.
Profile creation and editing
To enable your users to exploit the full functionality of this feature, make sure you provide them with an easy single-click login (Facebook SDK, Twitter SDK, Google Sign-in, etc.) and the ability to create and customize personal profiles with the help of a diverse toolkit. It’s also desirable to integrate an option that will allow hiding certain data from the rest of the users if such a need appears.
To convert your potential users into loyal ones, make sure you provide them with all necessary and engaging tools for content creation and publishing. One of the most popular options to add are various editorial tools for textual posts, free and premium templates that users may customize to create unique posts design, etc.
Like, comment, and share options
Like, comment and share are certainly three pillars of any social media website. The human desire to become famous is what you may convert into a beneficial business model. You may offer your users to bonost their content, which will attract great influencers and bloggers to your social network willing to pay for their promotion.
It’s vital to make the UX of the activity stream, also known as a newsfeed, simple and intuitively understandable. People should be able to easily understand how to share posts, upload content, and adjust unwanted posts in the settings. Don’t forget to make your platform UGC-oriented (user-generated content-oriented) to reduce users’ churn.
Secure messaging via chat
The heart of most types of social media networks is chat. By integrating the messaging tool during social network creation, it is desirable to enable secure data exchange between your potential users that may be surely guaranteed by the integration of correctly set up TLS/SSL protocols.
The search for specialists who will be able to implement your product’s functionality just the way you intend is quite a meticulous and time-consuming process. Check our in-depth overview of the dedicated team model and its benefits that will help you out with this question.
How to create a social media website like Facebook: crucial steps
When the target audience is defined, the social media segment is chosen, and the striking web app’s name is created, the time comes to proceed to the actual software solution design and development. Explore those steps that are necessary to how to create a social network like Facebook.
Idea feasibility check
Once you come up with a clear concept, it’s vital to check the idea’s viability to build a social media platform from scratch successfully. Normally, this is performed as a part of the business analysis (BA) stage, unless you decide to skip this phase which is quite undesirable. You can conduct an idea feasibility check yourself in the course of BA. However, this is a time-consuming task. So it may be wise to turn to the services of a business analytics company or the full cycle development company like Aimprosoft that has an established scheme and expertise in idea assessment and elimination of possible risks.
Market and target audience analysis
The customer is at the heart of any social media website. So to make weight tactical and strategic decisions to satisfy your customers’ needs best and reduce extra costs on your software development, detailed market and competitive research are required. It’s usually conducted by a business analyst along with the idea feasibility check; hence, it’s highly important to engage such a specialist when creating a social media website in order to succeed.
With a clear overview of the niche you are planning to enter, the needs, expectations, pains, and other key aspects related to the target audience can be identified more precisely. The in-depth analysis of the TA is the key to a prosperous social network and higher ROI accordingly. Once such comprehensive research is performed, it’s desirable to proceed to the creation of a strategy for your product’s development.
Strategy and planning
The data collected from previous stages is the basis of your product strategy. To complete it, consider the following aspects:
design an overall concept of the product with a full set of desirable features;
form a vision of potential growth of the website, in terms of the revenue and audience;
it’s desirable to plan the expansion on other platforms beforehand, such as Google Play or Apple Store, in case you want to create Android and iOS-based mobile apps additionally, or cover more geographical zones and market segments, etc.
If a social media mobile app creation is something you’ve been thinking about, explore our comprehensive guide to social networking development to figure out the best way to start this journey.
Based on the formed documentation, chosen software vendor develops SoW (Statement of Work) and technical specifications. We at Aimprosoft, for instance, carefully drew it up during 1 — 2 weeks, depending on the size and complexity of the project.
After this, a road mapping approach is applied. It helps mark all milestones of the website development schematically. It also assists in setting time frames for each feature realization and prioritizing task implementation. The most crucial benefit of a roadmap is that it’s dynamic and allows adjusting changes in the course of building a social network website. It eases the working process for the developers and is rather time-saving in terms of project creation.
It’s desirable to opt for a comprehensive approach to the social media platform design by creating wireframes and prototypes first. The wireframe is either a low or high-fidelity static overview of your product’s interface, focusing on the basic structure of the layout, space allocation, and key interface elements. The prototype displays everything to you interactively, fully depicting the website’s functionality. These design tools help you minimize the following business risks:
- reduce the time spent by the designers on fixing uncoordinated aspects;
- analyze the overview of the final product before its actual development;
- obtain a cost-saving way to make adjustments in the early stage of product development.
To avoid frequently occurring mistakes related to social media platform design, we suggest following the tips we gathered in the table below:
|adhere to unified philosophy of the color (chosen color scheme should appeal to certain users’ emotions)||thoughtful Information Architecture (all parts of website’s content are arranged understandably)|
|simplicity in terms of colors||user-friendly navigation|
|vivid call-to-action buttons||intelligibility in website’s functionality|
|appealing layout||moderate customization|
|color consistency on user’s interface||minimalistic distractions (reduce popups, auto-play content, etc.)|
Finally, keep in mind that both UI and UX have complementary nature. It’s impossible to build your own social media platform that will succeed if it has an appealing design, however poor in usability and vice versa. However, if you have a problem with a choice of appropriate design for your social media network, our specialists will help you opt for a proper solution.
Technology stack necessary for the social media website development
The choice of the appropriate tech stack to program a social network normally depends on the best-suited solution to the set requirements, the complexity of the project, and the technical skills and expertise of software developers. Let’s consider the most popular options of technologies that can be used for client-side and server-side development of a social media website.
|Category||Most popular examples|
|SQL databases||MySQL, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, MS SQL, Oracle|
|NoSQL databases||MongoDB, Cassandra, DynamoDB|
|Programming languages||Java, PHP, Python|
|Search engines||Apache Solr, Elasticsearch|
– Spring stack for Java
– Laravel, Symfony for PHP
– Django, Flask, Tornado for Python
|Front-end frameworks and technologies||React.js, Vue.js, Angular|
|DevOps||GitLab CI, TeamCity, GoCD Jenkins, WS CodeBuild, Terraform|
Crucial aspects to consider when developing back-end of your social network
If you build a social media platform from scratch, you want to make it work seamlessly and lower the percentage of users’ churn. Hence, it’s crucial to consider the following aspects during back-end development.
server-side rendering (SSR)
This is a more traditional and static way of website’s content rendering that may provide delayed page load up to a couple of seconds. If you are creating blogging or publishing social media platforms, such an option is the one for you as it doesn’t require a fast and immediate response between subsequent page loads.
A rendering approach is performed by back-end developers in collaboration with or without HTML/CSS-coder, with the help of either Spring framework, Velocity library, or other efficient Java technologies. Also, mind that unlike CSR (client-side rendering), microservices back-end architecture is not applicable for SSR; hence opt for monolith architecture.
client-side rendering (CSR)
If you want to make a website like Facebook, this type of data displaying is more suitable. Such an approach is more dynamic and responsive and allows creating a network that will provide you with fast website rendering after the initial first load.
Structured Query Language (SQL) injection prevention
Your users’ sensitive data, such as authentication details and credit card information, may be vulnerable to SQL injections in case of insufficient security. To prevent such malicious attacks, make sure you place a secure Java database driver with a prepared statement feature that sends the query and data to the database server separately, avoiding the intervention of such an attack into the records inside the database.
PHP database driver, for instance, doesn’t provide such protections, so developers must protect it using escape input data or some other technology.
As you can see, the choice of programming language and/or framework influence the stack of the tools that secure your product, which, in turn, should be used correctly.
protection from Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks
If your social media network doesn’t have properly secured input data validation, your website is open to XSS attacks. In this case, consider integrating input data filtration upon its arrival or encode your data on the output.
To make sure that your users’ data is securely stored, it’s desirable to opt for reliable, top-ranked cloud web hosting providers, such as AWS, A2 Hosting, HostGator, or InMotion.
The integration of SSL type of data encryption is considered one of the most effective and obligatory security measures when you aim to create your own social media website. It prevents hackers from obtaining your users’ sensitive data while it is in transit.
The security of numerous websites is often compromised due to outdated software components. Always make sure that all parts of your programs are updated, whether it’s the latest version of the plugin or CMS, so that there will be no open website’s vulnerabilities for attacks.
This is one of the most vital tools for the moderation of any social media website that can not be overlooked. It’s a full-fledged application that interoperates with your website and aims to enhance the capabilities of your business by:
- providing insight into the user-related functions (user’s behavior);
- detecting the violation of website’s regulations and policy;
- displaying business metrics (KPIs).
The more famous your network becomes, the more concurrent workloads are running within the website. In such a case, the maintenance of horizontal scalability is a must when you aim to create a social media platform like Facebook, which can be achieved by your vendor’s right choice of load balancers.
Content delivery network
In case you aim to popularize your network not only in one particular geographical location but globally, you may boost your website performance by using CDN (content delivery network). Such a solution provides faster delivery of the content to your end-users who are located far from the hosted server by utilizing nearest or local edge servers.
Content size optimization
To optimize the work of your website, you may require software that compresses audio, video, textual, and other types of files. You may use a Gzip application that compresses and decompresses files either statically or dynamically, both improving website’s page load by almost 15%. Moreover, it’s better to store compressed files than compress them on the frontend side every time the request comes.
Making website fault-tolerant
Numerous factors may negatively affect the functioning of your website. Fault tolerance is one of the most vital aspects to consider when you plan to create a social networking site, which helps to counteract such intrusions. It may be provided with the help of such preventive measures:
enable clustering, the process which helps replicate the actions of the server in case of its sudden failure to function;
make sure you have a fault-tolerant database, which will take over the work of the main one in case of its outage;
integrate reliable communication channels which will ensure a secure and consistent exchange of data and reduce risks of connection loss;
provide database backup to eliminate the possibility of sensitive data loss;
ensure disaster recovery procedures. Such procedures will depend on whether you choose cloud computing or on-premises. In the case of the former one, you will have to enable cloud migration of data to the other region. If you choose the latter option, make sure you have a backup provider or data center in the other geographical area. Also, if you use an on-premises environment, you may switch to cloud computing in this case;
Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Deployments (CD) are indispensable practices during social media web development that enable an efficient and flexible workflow that eventually leads to faster and bugless deployment. DevOps engineers are those who provide and maintain a correctly functioning process of CI/CD setup into the development lifecycle. By opting for this approach to the development of your social media website, you may obtain:
- minimized bug emergence when you launch the website as regressions are caught earlier during iterative automated tests (CI);
- reduced costs for post-development testing because CI server performs numerous tests automatically;
- faster release as CI/CD pipeline constantly merges the code and deploys it to production after the automated testing, hence always maintaining it release-ready.
QA and testing
The maintenance of a high load on the website, responsibility for the security of users’ data, and their payments within the network are those factors that define extreme importance to approach the testing stage thoughtfully.
Testing is conducted to guarantee that all client’s requirements are understood accurately by the software vendor. They also enable both the customer, stakeholders, and testers to track the changes within the project eliminating possible misunderstandings among the parties. Normally the following types of testing are desirable to be performed when you develop a social network:
- functional testing — helps to ensure all functions of your network operate in accordance with the requirement specification. By performing it, the QA engineering team pays attention to various aspects, such as the website’s core functionality, interoperability of different functional modules, etc.;
- security testing — it’s conducted to make sure your social media website doesn’t contain any threats and security gaps that may damage your users’ sensitive data;
- performance testing — while conducting it, the readiness of the website to sustain possible load is tested;
- interface testing — helps ensure data correct transmission from the server-side and rendering at the client-side;
- usability testing — QA/QC engineers test whether there are any weaknesses in the client-side part of the website.
The QA department of Aimprosoft applies the most complex approach to the choice of the appropriate type of testing set, depending on the complexity of the product and your requirements. By integrating the work of the QA team from the very beginning of the project, you potentially reduce development costs, ensure seamless work of your network, and boost its capabilities.
Testing is one of the most important aspects to consider when it comes to social media website development. Get to know the approach of our QA department towards the testing stage.
Release and promotion
To program a social network, a cycle of iterative testing procedures precedes the website’s final release. After this, we at Aimprosoft freeze code and continue fixing bugs for 2-3 weeks without amending the product. To prevent possible business risks related to the release, it’s also desirable to:
- test all URLs for proper functioning;
- check whether your website is browser and mobile-friendly;
- verify whether your HTML/CSS code is errorless;
- double-check your website’s security constituent and make sure your social network has a backup.
Once your social network is approved for the actual release, it’s time to implement the marketing strategy for promoting your website. It may include:
- advertise your product via other popular social networks if their concept differs from yours;
- promote it on Quora by answering the questions in related topics and attaching the link to the website;
- promotion with the help of popular influencers;
- invest in search engine marketing to appear on the first page of search results.
Once you have launched your website, it’s crucial to monitor its performance and your users’ behavior to update it further accordingly.
Having reviewed the major points that should be considered in the course of such product development, let’s figure out how much does it actually cost to code a social networking site from scratch.
Social networking site development cost estimation
To define an approximate cost that is required to start your own social network, let’s consider a similar product that we created called Chattlez.
Chattlez included basic features inherent to a standard social media website; we also put special emphasis on the responsiveness of its design, which was not that common back in 2013. The concept of Chattlez was to combine a product aggregator with a social media network and convert them into a marketplace enabling people to communicate and make purchases. It took almost 5 months to develop a social network like this, and it allowed us to come up with a rough formula to estimate both time and cost for the creation of social media websites.
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When you build your own social networking site, it’s necessary to develop an MVP first to identify the product’s weaknesses and exact enhancements to invest further. The following core for any social media network features was implemented into Chattlez:
- User registration;
- User authentication;
- User’s profile;
- Content sharing option;
- Content publishing;
The following team stack is normally required if you decide to create an MVP first:
- 1 Project Manager;
- 1 UI/UX engineer;
- 1 Backend developer;
- 1 frontend developer;
- 1 QA engineer;
- 1 DevOps engineer.
Once MVP goes through the first wave of critical testing by your potential audience and the feedback is obtained, you may proceed to the development of the full product with the following additional features that were included in Chattlez as well:
- Admin panel;
- Linking with other social media platforms;
- Content moderation;
- Advanced search;
- Customization of user’s profile.
If you opt for the creation of a full product straight away, you will need such an approximate stack of software developers to code a social networking site from scratch. It may vary depending on the project’s complexity and the launch date:
- 1 Business Analyst;
- 1 Project manager;
- 1 UI/UX engineer;
- 1+ Backend developer(s);
- 1+ Frontend developer;
- 1+ QA engineer(s);
- 1 Architect (Optional);
- 1 DevOps engineer.
We used our expertise of Chattlez creation to prepare a comparative table below of approximate time spent to start a social media platform, both MVP and full-fledged version of the product.
~ 875 — 1065
|Full product hours
~ 1540 — 1800
|Business analysis + UX strategy||50 — 80||120 — 140|
|Technical specification||35 — 45||55 — 65|
|UI/UX||100 — 140||150 —180|
|Frontend + Backend development||470 — 520||850 — 950|
|QA||90 — 100||175 — 225|
|Product architecture||30 — 40||50 — 60|
|CI/CD||100 — 140||140 — 180|
The above-mentioned estimated time that is necessary to code a social media platform may vary if you conduct a business analysis, all mockups and prototypes yourself, and then turn to the full-cycle development company. Regarding backend development, the most time-consuming and complex parts are related to the creation of the Admin panel and integrated Analytics, requiring approximately 200 hours each.
In the table below, we have calculated the cost to create your social network website that varies between software vendors from different parts of the world.
|Country||Average hourly rate||MVP
~875 — 1065
~ 1540 — 1800
|USA||$80||$70 000 — 85 200||$123 200 — 144 000|
|Western Europe (Germany)||$65||$56 875 — 69 225||$100 110 — 117 000|
|UK||$70||$61 250 — 74 550||$107 800 — 126 000|
|Eastern Europe (Ukraine)||$40||$35 000 — 42 600||$61 600 — 72 000|
You may see that depending on geographical area, the average rate of the developers may significantly differ. Thus, for example, the whole development cost to create a social website in Eastern Europe (Ukraine) forms only 40% of the same cost in the USA.
The growth of users and their demands, the growing impact of social media websites on human life, and the variety of possible niches to enter are those reasons why it’s worth building a site like FB. In order to gain benefits from such a promising industry, you need to have a feasible idea, a bit of courage, and a dedicated software partner to implement the most complex features.
If you want to discuss questions about how to create a social media website, contact us, and Aimprosoft will thoroughly assist with your startup endeavor.
Is the development of social media websites still relevant nowadays?
More than 3.81 billion people use social media currently. It means that the demand for such types of websites is higher than ever before. The deep-rooted social media websites struggle to meet the constantly growing demands of the users. Hence, the progressive vision of newly-comers can significantly contribute to the development of this sphere.
Is there a particular set of technologies that you can recommend using to make a social media platform?
The appropriate feature stack varies depending on the complexity of the project, set of the desired features, and budget. Since there are different types of social media websites, the functionality may significantly differ. Once you identify those features that you want to include, we advise consulting with the chosen software vendor regarding the recommended technologies. The vendor should provide you with options and their comparison and then choose the most suitable software tools.
How to choose the right feature set to start a social media site? Any tips to follow?
It’s always better to define what challenges may face your potential users when dealing with such a platform and what expectations they have based on their previous experience with similar websites. This will help you identify the necessary tools to satisfy your target audience’s needs and exclude unnecessary features. Also, conduct thorough research of your competitors. Identify what features help them succeed and what weaknesses they have so that you can improve them and transform them into your advantages.
How can I ensure the highest level of security for my social media website?
One of the most important security rules to follow when you build a social media platform from scratch is that all the application’s layers should be protected from security risks identified by OWASP. Secondly, integrate into your app’s infrastructure a WAF (web application firewall). It will secure your app from outside attacks, such as SQL injections, XSS (Cross-Site Scripting) attacks, file inclusion, etc.
Another useful website security measure to follow when you aim to make a social networking site is to regularly conduct security audits of a web application code and timely updates of all software components of the website, including updates of the frameworks and libraries that were leveraged in the course of the development. Overall, these are just some of the possible ways to strengthen the security of the social media website. Generally, the Software Architect or Tech Lead working on your project designs the corresponding strategy and selects security tools and practices appropriate for your product.