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How to Build a Social Network Website from Scratch

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Social media platforms became an inseparable part of our lives. Let’s just be honest and admit that some of us cannot begin a new day without visiting at least three social network websites and scrolling through a newsfeed. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many more entered our lives long ago and gave birth to such phenomena as trendsetters and influencers. And since that time, what once was a platform for communication and connection transformed into a powerful business space. 

Nowadays, social network websites can be called a separate business model that is worth investing in. Such solutions have a vast growing and money-making potential, but only if they are built, considering all trends and using the latest technologies. So in this article, we will share with you crucial information regarding the types of social networks, their business potential, the features that now are a must-have. We’ll also describe how to develop a great social network website from scratch. Are you ready to dive into this topic? Then let’s get started right away!

Main types of social network websites 

To begin with, let’s clarify what defines a real social networking website. This online platform is all about connections. The users tend to register on such platforms to find other people with whom they have common interests. As a result, users of social networking websites build strong connections with people worldwide. The purposes of these connections can be different, so there are numerous social media platforms present on the market. 

So if you have a brilliant idea of your social networking, the first thing you should decide is what its primary purpose will be. This will help you identify what type of platform you need and what feature should be incorporated into it. To make everything clear, let’s look at the main types of social media websites trendy and widely used. 

Social media for communication 

Needless to say that social media changed the way people interact with each other. If previously we called or sent emails, today, we tend to write messages, send short videos, share pictures, and leave voice messages. With such a wide variety of communication methods, it’s no wonder that we need a platform to unite them and provide a convenient way to speak to each other and share the data. And that is precisely what all social media for communication are about. 

Everyone now has an account on Facebook or Twitter. And these two platforms are the most successful examples of social media websites that formed a particular business model that many startups try to recreate. 

The main idea behind any social network for communication is to offer users a convenient way to:

  • Share media (i.e., pictures, photos, videos, music),
  • Open dialogue in a second (you can send and receive direct messages), 
  • Exchange information and promote some goods or services (advertising is one way to monetize such solutions and attract more potential users). 
Based on the mentioned goals, it is easy to identify the main features that any social network for communication needs: newsfeed, likes and comments, built-in messenger, photo and video sharing, option to create groups and events, common and business profiles. 

We have already covered all the crucial features that social media websites should offer to become successful in the market and appreciated by users. Don’t miss a chance and read that information in this article.

Business/Professional Networks 

All businesses also turned under the influence of social media. Let’s take LinkedIn. It is a powerful web platform that helps numerous companies worldwide find and hire real professionals. On top of that, many people managed to build great resumes, develop their profiles, and find necessary connections and job posts. 

Apart from LinkedIn, there are many other great business networks on the market. You’ve probably heard something about Xing, Glassdoor, Meetup, opportunity, and many more. All those business platforms offer necessary tools for their users to:

  • Reach out to more companies or investors;
  • Make as many business-oriented connections as possible;
  • Change a career by finding a new job;
  • Select specialized headhunters (in case you own a company and need employees). 

When it comes to business networks, privacy and security stand in the first place, it is crucial to take good care of authentication methods, set some daily limitations on adding contacts, monitor profiles authenticity. And of course, you should not forget about the overall user experience, which should be intuitive because different age groups will use your business network. 

All business-centered social networks have some common features like registration, creation of a CV, option to send friends requests and to accept or decline them, recommendations (that are extremely important for both employers and job seekers), connection with other social networks, options to add posts and then share them.

Social networks for entertainment

This is one of the most popular types of social networks at the moment. Such solutions like Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest keep attracting millions of users who are eager to share their talents and hobbies, and who are continually looking for inspiration and creativity. The story of all those social media platforms is a real success example. Instagram started as a platform for instant photo and video sharing. Youtube once was just a place to post amateur videos, and Pinterest was just a solution for sharing and saving images. Now each of those platforms is a huge moneymaker and separate business industry. They earn lots of money from advertising that became common after all digital influencers and content creators appeared. And what is more important, each of those platforms has a living community that keeps growing. 

And now, let’s emphasize some key things that define social networks for entertainment:

  • Their primary purpose is to connect people according to interests.
  • They are used to post, share, and comment pictures and video content. 
  • They offer various ways of connection (via comments, direct messages, video calls). 
  • They unite ordinary users and influencers who turned their accounts into business profiles. 
Social media for entertainment should have way more features than other platforms because their main purpose is to engage people and keep them interested, like features for image and video editing and uploading, filters, and masks, built-in messenger, advanced search, option to add friends and group them, comments and reactions, business and common profiles, integration with other social media.

Socials for education & academic purposes 

Education now is more accessible than it has ever been thanks to social networks. Students and teachers can communicate not only in the classrooms, but they also have virtual space for discussing the learning process, tasks, researches, and other education-related activities. On top of that, students get a chance to make friends with other students and also ask them for help and advice. With such a holistic approach to education, learning becomes a pleasure, not a routine. 

If you think that the niche of educational socials is already taken, you are not correct. The main advantage of educational websites is that they can be local and replace even popular worldwide solutions. Among the successful examples of social networks for education, you can find The Student Room, the Math Forum, Otus and many more. They all unite teachers, students and their parents in an attempt to achieve better learning results. 

It is preferable to add: easy and safe registration, convenient chat with emojis and opportunity to arrange video calls and group conversations, option to add and share files of different formats (images, videos, e-books), advanced search for necessary classes, subjects or teachers. Also don’t forget about gamification options and entertaining elements.

The design also means a lot since your social media should be not only highly useful but also visually appealing and easy to understand. Check out the top social media design tips that our experts prepared for you. 

Speaking about academic, social networks, we’d like to provide a few examples that will explain how they differ from educational ones. We’ll name two websites – and ResearchGate. They are well-known platforms used worldwide by scientists, researchers and academy professors. On such platforms, people connect to discuss scientific questions, share some analysis data, interact about current and future events, or arrange some real-life conferences. 

Dating Networks 

In our fast-moving world even dating shifted to the online space. The demand for dating networks is huge and every year something new appears on the market. Some of the socials are worldwide and some are just local solutions, which means that if you are going to invest in developing a dating network you’ll have all chances to win your audience quickly. 

Among solutions you can draw inspiration from there are OkCupid,, and many more. One more advantage of dating socials (apart from the possibility to build a local app and outstand your competitors) is a variety of age groups. You can create a solution for students, or 30+ people, or singles under 50, etc. This will make your solution more niche and let you focus on making it more appealing with each release. 

The main options of a dating social is the ability to create a unique profile (with pictures, preferences and other), option for matching singles, convenient chat with voice messages, video messages and ability to share media files.  Add various membership options (free or paid one with extended functionality), feature to create communities and groups according to interests, newsfeed and commentaries.

Informational sites

People tend to Google numerous things rather than asking someone directly about them. And this factor lets informational sites get highly cherished. Reddit and Quora are receiving hundreds of questions and even more answers to them daily. But why do we add this type of site to social networks? Well, because they connect people. One user asks questions, others type answers. There are theme-related groups and the ability to start a conversation. What is it then if not a social network? 

The demand for such solutions is not so high compared to other types of networks we’ve mentioned. And it is also tough to outshine the competition. The existing sites are trusted and proved by years of use. However, if you have something new to offer to the users, then you are likely to succeed. After all you can create an informational site related to certain spheres and attract particular users. 

Your upcoming solution should offer: forum option, adjustable profiles, groups of interests, easy commenting and reactions that users can leave under the posts or answers. It is also preferable to let your users share media files via links or send files of a certain size to each other.

Why should you invest in social network development? 

Social networks have a massive potential in terms of being a real money-making business. They are overly popular and this tendency will not change soon. According to Statista, an average Internet user has 8,5 social media accounts. We can add that he or she probably actively uses those accounts daily or at least a monthly basis. Also, there is research conducted a couple of years ago that states that people spend 140+ minutes per day using their favorite social networks. This time varies among different age groups. Just take a look at the picture below to get a better understanding. 

social media usage time

Image source: Digital Information World

Although the graphic stops in 2018, we can say for sure that the time spent on using social networks in 2020 is no less than it used to be, maybe it even increased due to the appearance of the new solutions. 

It is also necessary to mention that these days all Internet activities are performed via mobile phones. So the statistics emphasize that about 45% of all social media users are mobile ones. If you want to dive deeper into the recent data, just check out the presentation that we’ve found here and looked at the picture with some crucial indexes we’ve extracted from that presentation. 

 social media popularity

Image source: Hootsuite 

We’ve mentioned all those figures not to impress you, but rather to show you that the influence of social media is significant and indisputable. If so many people are used to communicate via the Internet and applications, then a new solution can gain a user’s attention quite fast. This means that if you consider developing your solution from scratch, you will likely get a solid user base. And if your solution will be for both desktops and mobile devices, then you’ll reach out to even more potential users. By selecting a correct monetization method you’ll also be able to make use of your social network’s popularity and turn it into a real business. 

What makes Facebook-like socials so popular? 

Facebook appeared long ago, and yet it is still widely used all over the world. But what can explain that popularity phenomenon? Is there a so-called secret recipe for a successful social network website that you can make use of while building your solution? Well, it’s not about magic. It’s all about functionality and value. Users appreciate and keep spending days on certain social media websites because they help them to:

  • Always stay in touch with their friends, relatives and people from all over the world. Communication is crucial and social networks like Facebook are perfect for this purpose. It is easier than writing an email or making a call without knowing that a person can talk right now. You write a quick message and get an instant reply. Simple, easy,  and fast dialogue – that’s all that is needed for communication in our fast-moving world.
  • Share and discuss things. Social networks unite people with the same interests. If earlier people attended special clubs (like reading or gardening ones, etc.), now they can share pictures and news, discuss topics and hobbies without leaving the house. On top of that it became easier to spread crucial information in a couple of clicks. Do you need to help a local community? Or maybe you’d like to organize a charity event? Well, with Facebook it is easier than ever.
  • Create and promote brands. People who have hobbies that can become a potential money-making profession understood years ago how to use Facebook to start their brands. Now social networks not only a space for talking. They are business platforms. People promote their goods or services, grow their brands, or raise awareness among different age groups.

According to experts, Facebook influences more than 50% of all online shoppers. And that makes it perfect for brands of all sizes. It is hard to underestimate the power of social networks these days. And that is one more good reason to invest in the development of such solutions.

We have explored the statistics and found the picture showing the most popular social networks. Although those statistics were updated at the end of 2018, the situation did not change much.

Image source: Dreamgrow

How to build a social network: Step-by-step guide 

Many people who’ve decided to invest in the development of social networks get stuck at the initial stages because they do not know precisely how to proceed and what steps to follow. That is why we, as a team of professional software developers, decided to help you and provide our so-called guide on how to build a custom social media. So check out the crucial steps below. 

Explore your niche 

As you already know, there are many types of social networks and of course you cannot build all at once. So once you’ve selected your niche (informational, educational, entertainment, dating or else) you need to explore all its peculiarities. Discover your target audience, take a look at solutions of your competitors, explore their feature set and monetization strategy, identify your unique selling point. 

It is also preferable to consult with a professional Business Analyst since he can help you find your strengths, shape your idea, define project vision, and select the correct technology stack. The strategy means a lot, especially if your money, time, and success are at stake. 

Here are three crucial questions you need to think about before choosing your development company:

  • What idea is behind my social network? 
  • What value is my project going to offer its users?
  • What will distinguish my project from others available on the market? 

Think about your revenue

If you only have an awesome social network idea but need some investors to jump-start the development, it is high time to think about your revenue. Your solution should be able to bring you money; otherwise, why would someone invest in it?! That is why the monetization strategy means a lot. 

To help you with that, a software development company can offer you to complete the discovery phase. For example, here at Altamira, we pay special attention to it and help our clients to optimize their development costs, mitigate all possible future risks, predict outcomes, and create mockups, wireframes, and other technical documentation necessary to attract investors. 

Check out the full description of the discovery phase in our blog post. The Discovery phase will let you understand your project more and define how it can bring you money and gain a loyal user base. 

Hire the development team

You need a reliable team of experienced professionals to build your social network. So before hiring a team make sure that they’ve created solutions similar to yours and check out their Portfolio and reviews. There are many great software development companies, and while searching for the perfect fit, we’d recommend you to explore such websites as Clutch

As to the specialists that you will need, they are:

  • Front-end developers 
  • Back-end coders
  • UI/UX Designers
  • QA engineers 
  • Business Analyst
  • Software architect
  • Project Manager (Scrum Master) 

All these specialists have their hourly rate, so depending on your app complexity and feature set, the final development cost may differ. We’ve already specified some numbers in our other article related to social media solutions. So if you are interested, check it here.

Start the development

So let’s say you have a project vision document, enough money in your pocket and great software developers at your side. Then it is the right time to initiate the development process of your social network. The software building is a complex process that includes numerous steps. So it is crucial to be aware of all of them. To develop a social network you will need to:

  1. Come up with the app concept and select the necessary technology stack.
  2. Get well-written specifications with all necessary details related to your project. 
  3. Decide what look your solution should have and build a prototype. 
  4. Create designs and wireframes. 
  5. Develop all crucial functionality step-by-step.
  6. Perform quality, security and performance testing. 
  7. Proceed to the production stage.

As a client, you may be interested in figures because it is tough to understand how long the development may take based on only the description of processes. Therefore we’ve prepared a table for you demonstrating how many hours it may take to develop a social network website (MVP and full version). The provided numbers are general and may vary depending on your particular project feature set and its complexity.

Development stagesMVP (in hours)Full project (in hours)
Specifications 84128
Front-end development280349
PHP development413564
Manual Testing224378
Automated Testing86142
SM 194286

The best monetization method for social networks

It is not a secret that sooner or later social networks change their nature. Quite often, they transform from space for communication into platforms that let people create and grow brands. And all brands imply income. So not only your social media users can earn money, but you can be the major money maker. However, to make it possible, you should consider the best monetization strategy beforehand. Three main methods are the most effective for social networks. Let’s discuss them all.

Your social network website can offer various advertising opportunities. It can be a contextual or banner advertising, or else. The main advantage of this monetization method is that it is easy to implement. All you need to think about applying this method is the interface on your website. It should have space for ads, banners and recommendations,
Premium content
If your social network is going to offer video or audio sharing, or maybe it will be a content hosting platform, you can offer your users access to a better quality of that content or else for a certain price monthly.
Paid features
This monetization method is perfect for entertainment, educational, and business networks. You can offer your users paid access to some advanced features like some great filters or additional tools. This can be a one-time fee or a subscription. However, the features you are going to offer for additional payment should be worth it.


Our experience

Here at Altaira, we’ve worked on many great projects related to social networking, and we’d like to share the brightest solutions we’ve successfully developed and released. The experience we’ve gained during the development of those solutions is vast. So if you are thinking about building your social network but have some doubts about whether it is a good idea, you can contact us and get a consultation. And now, let’s take a closer look at our cases.

Let’s begin with Drophook. This is a powerful and engaging web and mobile social network. The idea behind this solution was to create a fishing community that can not only discuss professional matters but also take a look at the weather forecast (to discover the best fishing dates), share pictures and videos, exchange favorite fishing places, compare achievements and make in-app purchases of tackles and more. Drophook is a huge success and if you want to take a closer look at it and all features it offers, then check out our Portfolio.


One more interesting project we’ve worked upon is Auxyn – a social network for musicians. This type of socials is trendy right now. The idea of the client was to create a LinkedIn-like solution but for the professional musicians. However, as we’ve begun building this platform, it became much more interesting than the client expected. The color scheme, the unique set of features, and modern technologies make Auxyn a perfect social network. For more information about this platform, navigate to the Portfolio section on our website.


Bestyn is the new project that we are very proud of. This solution is made for neighbors. It helps to unite people and let them build a strong community. By using Bestyn neighbors can share and discuss local news, make sure that their surrounding is safe and nothing suspicious is taking place. It is also possible to create Business Profiles, build a brand, and raise awareness among neighborhoods. This social network has everything you need for staying in touch with the people nearby – messenger, newsfeed, options for sharing and commenting, notifications, and many more.


How to spice up your social network?

As you’ve understood, the market is full of brilliant social networks and the competition is rather taught. However, this should not make you put your app idea aside. Your solution can be no worse than any of the existing on the market. On the contrary, if you give it a good thought and incorporate some unique features or technologies, then you have all chances to become number one in the niche.

Of course, like in any other sphere, there are specific trends in building social networks that you should know of. Wondering what they are? Then let’s proceed to these trends right away!

  • Image recognition. This is convenient feature powered by machine learning and used in many apps. Thanks to image recognition, the users of your social network will be able to find necessary objects or places by scanning special codes, or selecting a part of the picture with an item and let the search engine find it and provide details.
  • Blockchain. It offers a higher level of privacy, security, and better control over the content users create and post. Basically, you have a social network with servers in different parts of the world, and they are connected and communicate with each other smoothly.
  • Smart newsfeed. This feature is used daily, and it needs alterations. If you use AI or machine learning, it will get easier to offer suggestions according to the interests of a separate user. This user-oriented approach makes social networks a convenient and interesting place to be in every day.


According to the latest research, the active users of social networks are people of 17-30 years. However, everything depends on the type of social media. F.e. academic ones can be used by older people.
The development time depends on the complexity of your future solution. In general, it may take 4-6 months to get a functioning solution.
We’ve provided some real numbers in this article so take a look at it to know what to expect. However, please pay attention that the total cost will depend on the type of your solution, its feature set and complexity.


Social networks are the leading products in the current digital market. People always wanted to enter some groups and be a part of a living community, share their thoughts and opinions, post pictures and videos, and of course, get real reactions. Communication became so much easier thanks to social networks and the features that they offer. Although there are many such solutions on the market, there is still a place for something new and exclusive. 

Due to a wide variety of social media types, it is possible to create a solution that will be appreciated by a particular group of people. Whatever social network you develop – an informational, dating, educational, or entertaining one, you need to make it unique and user friendly. And this can be done only if you have a professional developers team that can suggest the required technology stack, select the right feature set, implement all crucial options, create eye-catching and memorable designs and release your solution. IF you still doubt whether it’s a good idea to invest in social networks, we can say it is! Such solutions will pay itself off. 

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