Build a Social Media App Like Instagram: Features, Costs

Over half a billion people use Instagram daily to post and edit videos and photos, share Stories, watch Reels and broadcasts, discover places, make purchases, and text with friends. Instagram could replace a search browser — that’s how good it is at satisfying user’s needs. And it's all in one mobile app. Today we will break down the how and why of this success. So if you're wondering how to make a social media app like Instagram, look no further.

This article is for entrepreneurs who are going to make an app like Instagram. We’ll look at best practices of similar apps, talk about essential and additional features, estimate social media app development cost, and share tips on promoting an app like Instagram.

Reading time: 15 minutes

Table of contents

Key takeaways

    • Instagram was so successful because it was launched at the right moment, implemented social features of other popular apps, and gave users great monetization opportunities
    • Essential features of an Instagram-like app are authorization, feed, content creation, editing, profile, search, notifications, DMs, and support
    • 6 steps of developing an app like Instagram: research, finding your USP, UI/UX design, develop, test, release, and support
    • MVP for an Instagram like app would cost around $74,000

Keys to Instagram’s success

The right moment. The time was right for Instagram founders. In 2010, they ran a social media app with a photo-editing feature for iPhone. Old Instagram had a feed, user profile, search, photo filters, and social features. There wasn’t an app with all of those in it at the moment. So Instagram broke through into the audience’s hearts and gained the first million installs in two months.

Feature adoption. Instagram famously implemented social features of other apps that were gaining popularity. The most notable are Snapchat Stories, Periscope broadcasts, and TikTok video feed. Instagram provides the user with every feature essential for social media in one app.

Monetization opportunities. There are a lot of ways to earn money on Instagram. These vary from paid subscriptions and badges to brand deals and commercial accounts. All manners of money-savvy users flock to Instagram in hopes of making an extra buck. So Instagram isn’t just a social media, it’s a multipurpose platform that allows people to make a living off of it.

Why should you go for social media app development in 2024?  

Over 61% of the world population is registered on social media platforms — around 4.95 billion active users on the market. Out of everyone connected to the Internet, over 90% are using Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, TikTok or other services. These numbers keep growing every month and will continue to increase in 2024.

Such a colossal and spread-out audience has its perks for startups with a social media app

No matter how crazy and innovative your ideas are, you will be able to find your niche and discover your target audience

In terms of investments, social media app development is a well-established industry with many previous experiences and statistics to rely on. What types of social media platforms do investors prefer? What funding round is usually most successful for social media platforms? Just look at the Crunchbase data to learn about key trends and investor behavior.

See also  To catch a fish, think like a fish: how to find investors for a startup in 2024

4 types of social media platforms 

It is impossible to review the intricacies of social media app development without a discussion about various types of platforms. As we have mentioned, there are thousands of social media apps on the market, but most of them gravitate toward these 4 categories.

Text-based social media 

Text-based platforms are the OGs of social media networks — everything started with blogging platforms (Open Diary, LiveJournal) and social media-like messengers (Yahoo, AQL, MSN Messenger), where users could post their thoughts, chat with friends, set fun statuses, and voice call. To this day, most social media platforms have text-based functionality in any form or shape: whether it is 280-character posts on Twitter or Threads or work updates on LinkedIn, it is ideal for quick updates, networking, and engaging with industry trends.

Main features: Microblogging, a news feed, hashtags, and following other social media users.

Examples: Threads, Twitter/X, LinkedIn

Screenshot of the official Facebook page

Facebook uses text posts as prompts to engage with the audience and spark discussions

Image-based social media 

These social media networks thrive on the power of images to engage users and tell compelling stories. Think of Instagram as a classical example of an image-based social media app, sure it has text too, but who reads the captions when photos speak louder than words? Visual-based platforms provide users with an opportunity to showcase their personality, connect with friends or a larger target audience, build a strong digital presence, and even make a career — for social media managers or influencers.

A screenshot of an Instagram Feed

Brands use image-based social media to strengthen their digital presence and showcase their visual identity

Main features: Photo and other media sharing, filters, editing tools, explore page.

Examples: Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr.

Video-based social media 

Video-based social media platforms prioritize video as the main form of content. Usually, these networks incorporate video creation and editing tools, as well as seamless integration of music and collaboration tools (such as replies or duets on TikTok) that can enhance the user experience. All of these tools and features require an intuitive and user-friendly interface that encourages creativity and guides active users through the social network app.

Main features: Videos, media sharing, music integration, duets, explore page.

Examples: TikTok, Vimeo.

Livestream social media 

Live streaming adds a real-time, interactive dimension to social media. The flow of such social networking apps is pretty intuitive: one user streams and others watch or join in. But to create a social media app like Twitch requires much more than just intuition. You will need a robust infrastructure for video streaming, chat functionalities, donation options, and subscriber perks to help users monetize content. Live streaming apps can be a powerful product for startups to engage with the audience in real time and create innovation on the market.

Main features: Live streaming, chat, donations/subscriptions, admin panel.

Examples: Twitch.

⚠️ Important note

These 4 types of social media apps are not a strict framework for each platform. Modern networks are a combination of several types at once. For example, Instagram has text features, images, videos, and live streaming. We propose to see these types as a spectrum where each social media app is leaning towards one side or another.

Essential features of an app like Instagram

It’s hard to imagine Instagram without such features as authorization, feed, content creation, editing, profile search, social features, and notifications. Let’s explain why.


A user creates an account to use a social media platform. They sign up via email, other social media apps, or a new login and password.

Most social media apps try to be as accessible as possible but there is a notable exception. Chat room app Clubhouse required the user to get an invitation from a friend. Otherwise, the user couldn’t get access. The air of exclusivity proved to be very enticing for users in 2023.

Clubhouse users can’t access the app without an invite

Wondering how much it costs to develop your social media app?
After 300+ completed projects, we can design an app in any niche — from social media to IoT. Contact us and get a free project estimation in 48 hours.
FInd out


This is where users interact with content. It’s an endless scroll of posts that embodies the core user experience.

To make the user spend more time in an app like Instagram, you can make a feed based on recommendations like TikTok. It takes into account the user’s behavior such as views, comments, and likes. The feed shows you the type of content that you’ll likely enjoy based on your previous activity.

TikTok feed

Content creation

Users not only watch other people’s content but can also create content themselves. Instagram allows you to take pictures and videos within the app or upload them from the library. The latter was originally unavailable for users, much to their dismay. The creators listened and added library uploads. You don’t need to repeat their mistake, allow this from the get-go.


Video and photo editing are critical for users who want to express their personality and style. You may implement video filters, with a preview of the result and customization settings. But at the same time, the list of options shouldn’t be too extensive. Otherwise, you are risking overwhelming your users with too many choices.

A good example of concise editing is VSCO. It’s an app like Instagram, where the user can apply custom presets, add visual effects, and adjust skin tone.


All the posted content and user info are on the profile. Some basics: a user avatar, bio, content feed, and contact button. The user should be able to customize their profile but, again, don’t overdo it.

Profile screen may become a home for some advanced features. For example, Twitter users can send donations by interacting with a button in a profile.

Profile on Twitter


This feature is perfect for finding friends and discovering new users. Users can search for posts, accounts, or anything that’s under a specific tag like “food” or “Kim Kardashian.”

Users may make typos, and it might prevent them from getting what they want. It could be alleviated with search suggestions, so the user flow is more better.

Search on YouTube

Social features

Like, comment, and share. Lots of photo-sharing apps have these buttons to interact with content and share it with followers. It’s impossible to develop and grow a social media app without it.

During the UI/UX design, make sure that the social buttons are convenient for a thumb so there is no strain. Because the more users are willing to tap on these buttons, the longer they will be on your app.

A geolocation-sharing app Zenly has many interaction buttons with vibration and sound effects


Remind users to respond to friends’ comments. Or use any other call to action that encourages opening of the app. This will increase user retention. It’s also convenient for your audience — they want to see their social updates in time.

BeReal went further and linked interaction with notifications to take and share new photos daily. The user has 2 minutes to take and share photos with both cameras at once.

BeReal notification

Additional features

That’s all for the essential features of your social media app. But there are still some less conventional features left for you to consider. Some of them aren’t implemented in Instagram yet, so they might give you a competitive edge.

All-new formats 

When you create an app like Instagram, you might think of a unique content format. It will highlight you from competitors’ apps.

To create a new experience, you could rely on emotions, limits, and combinations of new features. You could put some spin on photo masks like on Snapchat, new content challenges like on TikTok, or conversation rooms like on Clubhouse.

Direct messages (DMs)

Over time Instagram users began to feel that there was not enough communication in the comments, especially since it doesn’t allow content sharing. After that, developers introduced DMs to the app to provide a new communication space. Also, you may even add voice calls and video messages.


Expanding the application’s capabilities, users can use geolocation to find new places.

During the development process, it is crucial to consider whether users can mark that geolocation manually if the connection is weak. Constant tracking will also come in handy to offer relevant content depending on the location or track friends’ movements like on Zenly.


Sometimes users have some difficulties and need to contact support. It is best to make it one of the buttons in the settings where other essential features are located. The user can read the knowledge base or ask for help from the support manager.

If you launch your product internationally it is better to hire specialists who will answer users’ questions in shifts. This way you provide round-the-clock support for your social media app.

How to make an app like Instagram in 6 steps

Step 1. Conduct the research 

Run marketing and competitor research to determine the market size, the target audience’s portrait, and development forecasts.

See also  Mastering Market Research for Startup Success: A Comprehensive Guide

Step 2. Find your USP

To stand out from competitors and attract a potential audience, incorporate a unique selling point (USP) into the app. You can use the following questions that will help find the right USP:

  • What do users like and dislike?
  • Where are they? Who are they?
  • How to solve user’s pain points?
  • How do users interact with similar apps? Which features do they use the most?

After answering the questions, form an app concept. Ask yourself: how to ensure your vision meets the needs of the audience? To do this, ask friends or a focus group, and test your hypothesis.

Step 3. Create a unique UI/UX design

After research and USP, you’ll need to determine the functions of your social media app. Envision the app’s interaction logic before implementing the design of all the elements, icons, and texts on the screen.

This is when a UI/UX designer creates all the buttons, icons, text fields, and determines how they will interact. Here at Purrweb, this step results in ready-to-develop app layouts + UI-kit for developers.

Step 4. Development stage

Now it’s time to code your social media app. This step will require a proficient team of mobile developers if you want it to be of good quality and run quickly.

The platforms your app will work on affect this step drastically. You can develop for iOS and Android separately or you can opt for a cross-platform development process. This will save you time and money while slightly decreasing performance. If you want to reach a large audience and save your budget our React Native development team will help you accomplish just that.

Step 5. Fix bugs and smoothen performance

You need to test the application builds for all functions to work properly. To do this, the QA team will check the app for bugs and fix them.

Step 6. Release and support

Release an app and collect feedback. Find out what users like or dislike, and whether they will use the app.

You can plan further fixing and new feature updates based on this information. Your users will enjoy frequent updates and quality-of-life improvements.

Tech stack you need to make a social media app 

To create a social media app that will be engaging and attractive to users, you need a robust tech stack and versatile professionals on a team who know how to code with these tools.

Programming frameworks React Native, React.js, Node.js, Electron.js
Networking Alamofire
Database Redis, PostgreSQL, MySQL, MongoDB
Chat functionality Twilio, PubNub,
APIs Swagger, Postman.
Push notifications FCM.
Geolocation Google Maps.

For the Purrweb team, our modest yet versatile tech stack is our biggest advantage, as we know all the pitfalls and best practices of the Javascript world.

See also  How to find and hire a mobile app developer

Key efficiency indicators for social media

📈 Audience growth rate 

The key indicator to measure if your social media app is thriving is its audience growth rate. 

If new users don’t join you, it means your social networking platform urgently needs to change its course of action.

When you monitor how many new users join your platform and record these insights, over time you can understand the network’s popularity and relevance, and share this info with investors. For example, a steady and sustainable growth rate indicates that your app resonates with users and targets the right niche in the social media app market. 

As a startup owner, it is crucial to collaborate with developers who understand user behavior and engagement strategies. The goal is not just to create a social media app and attract users but to cultivate an active community that actively interacts with your platform.

See also  App engagement: what is it and how to increase it

🙋User activity

User activity is the beating heart of any social media app. Track metrics such as daily and monthly active users, session duration, and content interactions to get an honest snapshot of how users engage with your app.

If there is no active audience on your social network app, you can pronounce the product dead.

The more users interact with your social media app, the stronger its foundation for long-term success. High user activity signifies a vibrant community that attracts new audiences and investors. When you work with skilled developers to make a social media app, they will implement features that enhance user engagement, from intuitive interfaces to personalized content recommendations. 

💰Number of paying users

Monetization is a pivotal aspect of social media success, and the number of paying users is a key metric in this arena. Identify the proportion of users who are willing to pay for premium features, subscriptions, or exclusive content to project revenue potential when you present the idea to investors and create a social media app.

The number of paying users is directly related to how profitable and sustainable your social network app is.

Effective monetization strategies, seamless payment integrations, and clear value propositions for paid services contribute to a growing base of paying users. Collaborate with developers who understand how to incorporate premium offerings and establish secure and convenient payment features when they make a social media product.

📢 User feedback

User feedback serves as a compass if you need to redirect or pivot your social media platform. 

A user feedback analysis provides valuable insights into audience satisfaction, pain points, and feature requests. 

As a startup owner, choose the developers who prioritize user experience design and iterate based on user feedback. This development approach ensures that your platform will evolve in sync with user expectations.

6 popular monetization models  

When you make a social media app and bring it to investors, the very first question you will hear is “How will it make money?” To give you some ideas about profit-generating paths, we put together a list of 6 common monetization strategies for social media apps.

1. Social e-commerce 

The integration of social e-commerce features into your social network app connects users with brands or sellers. This model turns the platform into a marketplace where users can discover, share, purchase, or sell items. For a startup owner, collaboration with merchants or in app purchases can generate revenue. The key is to create a seamless and secure transaction experience with trusted payment gateways and several checkout options.

Screenshot of an order details from TikTok Shop

TikTok Shop helps users complete in app purchases and track orders in a few clicks

2. User-generated content

User-generated content (UGC) can be a game-changer for the revenue of your social media platforms. This model enables users to create and share valuable tips and advice, and then leverage these posts for monetization. For example, startups can explore partnerships, sponsored content, or even feature premium user-generated content, like Instagram Subscriptions. UGC fosters community engagement and opens up your social media app for brands and influencers to join and build user-created narratives.

3. Affiliate marketing

This strategy is a savvy way to monetize by partnering with brands. Integrate affiliate links or referral programs within your social network app, and earn a commission for every sale or user acquisition generated through these links. This model thrives on strategic partnerships with brands and businesses. This makes it a good option for social media apps that need additional revenue streams but don’t want to overwhelm users with intrusive ads or e-commerce features.

4. Subscription-based content

The subscription-based model offers premium content or features for a recurring fee. The perk of this strategy is that it is familiar to most users: they already pay for Netflix or Spotify subscriptions anyway, so they are warmed up to the idea of paying for a social media app. Startups can retain users with exclusive access, ad-free experiences, or advanced features that are available only through a paid subscription. This type of content can establish a steady revenue stream, but you will need to find the right balance between free and premium content to satisfy users.

5. Freemium

The freemium model blends free access with optional premium features. Startups can attract a broader user base with free basic services and offer users to upgrade for enhanced functionality. This approach allows the audience to experience the app’s core features first and they decide if they want to commit and pay. A tip for startup owners: offer clear and transparent incentives for the premium version to a smooth transition from free to paid services.

6. Ads

Advertising remains one of the main monetization avenues for social media platforms. Let users incorporate strategically placed ads, sponsored content, or native advertising and pay you a fee to customize posts on the admin panel and match them with the audience’s interests. The key is to find a balance between ad frequency and relevance in order to maintain user engagement.

Сost to make an app like Instagram

The cost of developing a social media app depends on several factors. For instance, the features, the complexity of the design, and the platforms you aim for. Be mindful of the time needed to implement special features. Also, remember that the cost of MVP will be much lower than full-fledged traditional development. Let’s see what we need to make a social media app.

Stage What we do Hours/weeks Weeks Cost ($)
Project analysis We analyze the idea of a social media app like Instagram, estimate the cost, and approximate development time. 12 1 0
UI/UX design We create a unique brand design in a single style, show the stages of production daily, and approve them based on the vision for the app. 142 6 5 300
App development We develop a high performed app on iOS and Android. It has clean code without kludge, and others developers could work with it based on thoughtful code review. 1 050 12 55 450
Testing (Quality Assurance) We find bugs and fix them. Users will get a well-working app. 360 7 200
Project management We make sure that the team keeps a single vision and manages to do tasks on time. 5 300

This is a basic assessment. If you want to evaluate your app idea accurately, we can prepare an individual assessment. To do this, fill out the form below.

How to promote and grow a social media app

Acquire an audience after launching an app.

Community building

You should captivate users with the app so they can recommend it to their friends. Consider your audience, adopt a suitable tone of voice, and endear yourself to your customers. Establish your brand in social media and help like-minded people find a sense of community over your app.

Situational marketing

Look for strange news, link it to the app, and share it on other social media apps. Boom, you’re topical!

For instance, if Instagram servers go down, it’s time to open Twitter and post about the cool features your app has and Instagram doesn’t. People will search for the info related to Instagram servers shutting down and likely will stumble onto your post.

Content branding

Add a logo to the content that users may share outside the app. This way, their followers will notice the app’s name and are more likely to install it. For example, Snapchat QR codes have their logo in the middle.

Creators program

Enlist creators with an existing fanbase on other social apps to make unique content on yours. They’ll share links to your platform with their fans. If everything goes right, their audience may gradually switch to your app to reach new social experiences.


For example you might promote a photo-sharing app with Instagram ads. Show you killer features in short videos to engage the target audiences so they download the new social media app.

Let’s start the social media app development process today!
We look forward to hearing from you. Contact us for a free project estimate within 48 hours.
Start now


A social media app like Instagram requires a unique feature. Users should like it so that they choose your application over more well-known competitors. If you’ve found that unique selling point — get a development team and follow your vision. Create, enhance, promote, and maybe your app will become the next social media titan.

Our experience

At Purrweb, we understand the nuances d dynamics of social media app development. Our expertise lies in technically sound platforms and user-centric interfaces that can define success in this competitive market. 

In the past, we have built an app to connect and party with friends, an independent ecosystem for nightclub owners and attendees, and a video content marketplace.

If you are going to build an app like Instagram, feel free to contact us. We are a full-cycle development team that will help make mobile, web, and desktop apps from idea to release. With us, you get access to over 200 specialists and we have been on the market for 9 years. So we will gladly provide our expertise to make your ideas a reality.

How useful was this post?

Rate this article!

8 ratings, аverage 4.5 out of 5.

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!