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To live in society and enjoy the companionship of other is an elementary way of describing the term “social”. Whereas telephones made it unnecessary for individuals to be physically present to enjoy a social interaction with the others and melted the boundaries of geography, Internet did much to push the envelope further by making real time interaction possible, even while viewing a person or persons on a 5-inch screen of a smartphone.
Social networking websites created a society in the virtual world where individuals can socialise on the screen of a single webpage. Over the years, as more competitors stepped in and the ways of socialising online varied, different kinds of social networking sites have cropped.
There is Facebook, which has the highest market share and caters to all aspects of social networking. Websites such as Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr etc., came later and grabbed the market with their own unique offerings such as photo sharing or limited word count updates.
With the growth of smart devices, social networks moved from laptops and desktops to the comforts of an Internet enabled mobile device that the user can refer to even when they are travelling to work and keep their “social network” updated about things they find interesting or have an opinion about. In 2016, as per a Staista study, globally, social networking sites crossed 2 billion users with 1.15 billion mobile only users. As of 2017, worldwide, people are spending 15 minutes/day on an average on social media.
The key to success in social media is a bold interface with a defining statement. Every aspect must create a brand identity that the user will feel proud to flaunt and want to be part of.
The purpose of the social networking app should not be to only connect people and provide them with a platform to interact, but also to create an experience that will entice users to contribute and create a whole society in the digital space. It is about creating a meaningful experience.
Engagement on social media applications is created through newsfeeds where users can update their status by sharing their personal news, thoughts, events and much more and view what other people in their social circle are doing.
Through these activities a whole reel of conversation is generated and social interactions stem. Some of the features of a social media app for creating engagement include –
Newsfeed (Personal) – here user can update their news in the form of text, videos, images or audio clips. They can share news items or events and share their opinion on the same. The newsfeed will also display similar activities of members who are part of the user’s “friends” group.
Online messaging – sometimes, a conversation may be a personal note or it might be happening at a faster pace than the time it takes to post a message on a newsfeed. Online messaging adds an inter-personal conversation extension.
Video, audio and images – visuals are an essential aspect of social networking and entire applications are designed simply on the foundation of sharing images and videos. As the saying goes, “a picture speaks a thousand words”.
Many social media app users find posting images and videos more convenient than writing a long post on their experience. Video, audio and images can be integrated as an aspect of all types of social media apps.
Newsreel – users like to share news and also view news on their social media app. It acts as a one-point stop for all their needs. So, flashing headlines in the areas of interest of the user or on the basis of their geography or subscriptions will be an added advantage.
Users can post their opinions on discussion forums and discuss the news item with friends on a common platform.
Discussion Forum – Discussion forums are groups that are formed by people with common interests around their area of interest. For instance, die-hard Led Zeppelin music band or author PG Wodehouse fans can form a club or a group and discuss their interest in the band or author’s novel. These are avenues for users to meet new people and expand their social circle.
User interests – User interests are related to fan pages and user groups, that is they are based on user’s hobbies, whether it is to read, write poems or to play football. User can list this in their interests and even join groups and tag friends of similar interests, forming a network.
Value added elements – quirky smileys, GIFs, wordplays within the app will make conversations livelier and present an added attraction for user.
The social media can also be an enabler in creating groups through fun interactive activities that will spur users to entertain themselves in different ways on the social media.
User can take personality tests, horoscope-based quizzes and play online games with the social media members. There is no limit to the type of fun interactive activities that can be conceptualized and integrated into the social media app.
The technologies that the app must have integrated with its interface include –
GPS and map– so that location-based services such as tagging places in newsfeed posts, reviewing places that have been visited and sharing location with friends in groups or on instant messages can be done
Camera – to post live video clips or take photos to post from the app itself. It can also be used to scan barcodes and upload information on the social media app
Mobile’s photo album – if the user wants to upload a picture or video from their mobile’s photo album
Beacons – this can be done to smartly push notifications for promoting sponsor sales or informing the user about offers in a place they recently shopped or liked the meal when they are close by.
Powerful database – a large amount of data is exchanged every minute on social media and it is important to have a powerful database to store the content and make it available to the user within fractions of seconds to ensure a seamless experience.
Designing the app – create an outline based what type of social media app we are aiming for (product promotions, contests or sweepstakes, games, hubs or messaging) and then design the app structure.
Prototyping – a prototype is created to showcase the living and breathing application based on the designs on the paper
Developing the app – based on latest rends, the platform for which the app is designed and approved prototype, the application will enter the development phase.
Market test – a trial run among controlled groups will give opportunity to match user expectation to app development goals
QA and Testing – to test the apps functions and finalise its market readiness
App marketing and launch – the app must be marketed on all the channels where the target audience will be found. Promotional videos, user guides and effective description will help make the app discoverable in the app store
Knowledge of human behaviour and statistics are the two factors that will enable the social media app succeed. And application that can start a conversation, have items that will go viral and give the user memorable experience will grow, though the task of creating a social media app may sound insurmountable. This is an area that requires creativity and technical knowledge for growth.
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