If you wonder how to make a social media app like Instagram so that it can attract the attention of a mass audience, check out this post. In it, we provide a quick and easy-to-follow step-by-step guide of how to make a social media app that can easily get a lot of engaged followers and effectively spread your brand’s image online.

An Instagram-like social media app is an application that enables users to freely produce, disseminate and consume content delivered as a mixture of text, sound, videos, and pictures at any time of the day or night. No doubt, the social media landscape has changed drastically in recent years. Social media has evolved into a direct-to-consumer format where people are used to presenting and receiving personalized content. And today, this is easier to do than ever before.

Due to the recent phenomenal growth of mobile technology, users do not need to waste their time turning on their laptops. All they have to do is unlock their smartphones with Internet access and open a social media app. Instagram is a smartphone application that introduced a new mode of instantaneous visual communication back on October 5, 2010. Since then, it has become a significant social networking service and marked the rise of popular photography. So, why has it become such a success and how to develop an app like it?

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How Instagram started

Well, what can we say about Instagram leaving alone the subjective impressions? The first version of the app was launched free in the App Store. Later on, in April 2012, Instagram welcomed Android users to its community. In November 2012, the users got a sense of the new web experience. Two years after the launch of the application, the social app agreed to be acquired by Facebook. It was a non-survival, but it did not indicate failure. Indeed, exiting at a fair price is often viewed as the main objective of many startups. Instagram is an excellent example of non-survival success. Thus, Facebook acquired an 18-month-old company with 13 employees for roughly $1 billion in April 2012.

What are the key functional characteristics of Instagram?

When you intend to make a social media app, it is a good idea to do some research to evaluate your competition. These findings can become the guidelines for building your own product. Therefore, we suggest that determining the main features of Instagram, which is the pioneer in the field under discussion, should be the first step for you to take. These features are:

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  • authorization
  • editing profile
  • image customization
  • subscribing/ liking/ commenting
  • linking other social media accounts
  • adding multiple photo & video posts
  • adding posts, description, and geolocation
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  • paid partnership tool
  • Instagram Stories
  • Instagram Live
  • saving posts
  • messaging
  • search
  • polls

These features help the platform to serve its users better and ensure a high engagement rate.

How does Instagram work?

Instagram is a user-friendly application, it is easy to use, and its interface is visually appealing and intuitive. Moreover, the app wants to be liked and appreciated. For this purpose, the Instagram algorithm is counted for making you feel delighted at the content the app offers you. However, this algorithm has been changed recently and works in the following way now:

    1. You upload a post, and it is shown to a small percentage (≈10%) of your subscribers.
    2. The level of engagement is being measured (likes, comments, direct shares, and saves.)
    3. The data received is being compared to your previous posts.
    4. If the level of engagement is high enough, Instagram shows the post to the remaining percentage; if it is not, fewer people see your post and discover your page.

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How is Instagram monetized?

Taking advantage of the features Instagram has to offer, you are not only expressing your social and personal identity but also stand a chance of monetizing your content. Your account can represent you either as a business owner or as a content creator. Thus, businesses should adopt Instagram as an advertising platform where they can:

    • link to the homepage in their profiles
    • use targeted ads as a handy way to reach the target market
    • get people engaged in creating unique hashtags and discount codes
    • keep an eye on the industry and look for business partnership

The most lucrative source of income for content creators — i.e., bloggers, podcasters, and video creators — is advertising, which implies tagging the featured third-party product, brand, or business partner. Besides, they can sell their own goods and services and receive donations.

How much does it cost to develop a social media app?

Although most social networking services started with websites, people are apt to use their smartphones to keep in touch now. The core task of every social network, social media like Instagram inclusively, is connecting people; Android phones and Apple’s iPhones do the job of a mediator perfectly well. These personal communication devices with popular social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn on them have become a part of our daily routine. Thus, no wonder that emerging startups do their best ambitiously advancing their ideas in this area. If you happen to be the one who plans to create a social media app, then you should be aware of the estimated expenses you will incur.

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To begin with, there is no fixed price for building another app like Instagram. It all depends on who you hire to work with, the variety and complexity of implemented functionality, and the design of your product. However, you must keep in mind the following:

    • Cross-platform apps are bound to be cheaper. Nevertheless, using such apps is less convenient, and the range of features is then restricted. Besides, it depends on what you are aiming at, for such apps also have their disadvantages. For example, the UI becomes less intuitive and there are more software and hardware dependencies.
    • Load balancing is a great backend solution. Choosing a proper load balancer, you can get the incoming traffic distributed, capacity-optimized, and the costs reduced. An app like Instagram is a 24/7 service, so load balancing should be a must-have feature. Distributing the traffic across multiple backend servers, it is the key to maintaining a flawless and free-flowing app infrastructure.
    • The more features you need, the more it will cost you to make an app. In order to spend less, focus on the main features and use a minimum viable product approach (MVP) to test your product first. It’s easy to go through tons of ideas but it’s hard to test them all until you have built and deployed an MVP. You’ll learn a lot from doing so. By going through this prototyping phase, you can avoid the engineering issues and focus on the primary features of your app, which might turn out to be the winner.

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If you still want to know the figures as to the cost of social media app development, we can give you some. According to The Next Web, that is how much it will cost to build the next great social media app like:

    • Twitter: $50,000 to $250,000
    • Instagram: $100,000 to $300,000
    • Facebook: $500,000
    • Pinterest: $120,000
    • Tumblr: $1.65 million

How to make a social media application like Instagram

As an application for sharing photos and videos, an Instagram-like app is more complicated to build than any other type of a social media app. Let’s find out what key features you should take into account when developing an MVP of an Instagram clone.

1. Authorization. Thereby, users can create new accounts or sign in using credentials of the existing social media accounts. With this feature, the app will ensure that only the users that are logged in will be able to view or post their content.

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2. Editing profile: adding, removing, or changing personal data. Users will be able to add personal information about themselves including phone numbers, email addresses, birth dates, and other details.

3. Uploading pictures and videos. This is where you should think over how to handle heavy backend image loads. Extra options such as tagging and commenting are to be taken into consideration at this stage too.

4. Image customization. The easiest way is to copy ready source code into the project to get standard filters for users to apply. Otherwise, you can make your own filters and posting tools to improve the UI of the app.

5. Adjusting settings (language settings, enabling push notifications, etc.) Having the possibility to adjust settings, users can configure their experience to suit the situation they are in.

6. Messaging. This feature helps users send photos or videos to their friends via DMs. However, not to get the server overloaded, you should consider setting restricted access periods to it. This might involve a separation of sessions.

7. Geolocation features, which are implemented via location and maps services. These are crucial to ensure that your application delivers the best user experience. Specifically, location tagging can be used to provide localized information on pictures and videos, which improves engagement.

8. Search. Using keywords, users can search for accounts and content. A good focus here is to provide multiple language support. Then, everything on an app will be searchable and accessible through a single search bar.

Vilmate has experience in developing an Instagram-like app. Our team emphasized geolocation features when creating Shoutaway, a social media app for the Swedish mobile market. This application, designed for iOS, is intended to bring people together; thus, they could find one another scrolling through the feed and using GPS location data.


Now that we have found out what Instagram is and what its main features are, it has also become clearer what efforts it might take to create an app like Instagram. However, such an idea is doomed to failure if it lacks innovation and attractiveness for the target audience. So, learn from the pioneers of the industry and be creative!

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