In 2020, the world has gone mobile. According to Statista, smartphones are the daily companions of 3.5 billion people worldwide. Just 200 thousands shy of half of the world’s current population use their phones to surf the Internet, play games, and, most importantly, communicate with other people. Targeted mobile apps have already revolutionized the development field and caused a surge in social media usage across the globe.
The extremely high demand for great social media apps results in dozens of new products being launched onto the market daily. This competition, together with the presence of the industry giants like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, forces startups to seek creative solutions and constantly struggle to keep up with the latest trends to win potential customers’ loyalty.
In this article, we’ll discuss the 2020 social media app development trends that have the most solid foundation and are unlikely to fluctuate much in the coming years. We’ll also take a brief look at the statistics to determine what factors companies should consider when making their development decisions.
Development Trends of 2020
To build a social media app that will be competitive on the market, you need to equip it with trendy features that users have used to. These design choices and technologies are becoming a necessity if you want your app to stand out in the crow of millions of social media apps and gain loyalty of its users in the long run.
Messengers Beat Websites and Desktop-Oriented Platforms
In 2020, the adaptive design of social media websites is not enough to cut it anymore. Communication resides in messengers—rapid, mobile, focused around a single specific feature that distinguishes each one from all other similar apps. Although a desktop version of your application will find its audience, the focus should be shifted towards rounding the corners of your mobile version.
Depending on the structure and your business goals, a progressive web application (PWA) can present a better alternative to native development. PWAs work through a browser, meaning they take up significantly less space on the user’s device, and they are cross-platform by default. These apps also don’t need to be installed through an app store, making it easier for potential users to try them out.
Virtual Social Platforms
Virtual and augmented reality features in mobile apps used to be unfathomable. In 2020, with the release of the new ARCore for Android and ARKit, app developers got an awesome opportunity to introduce virtual elements into their apps. In social media, the demand for these functionalities is increasing each day, but there is a lot of space for innovation since these technologies are still relatively young.
Virtual social platforms are another point of interest that is yet to be implemented on a large scale with any success. Currently, AR and VR social apps are more common in the gaming and entertainment industries. However, with significant advancements in AR & VR fields, businesses started to apply these innovations to address their challenges. Currently, these pieces of software aim to provide a conferencing environment rather than a social space where everybody can interact freely and meet new people.
A virtual platform choosing social media users as the primary audience would need to redefine our understanding of this phenomenon and how we can interact with others online. While creating such a platform is a huge feat, incorporating VR into your app in new ways that can improve customer experience is likely to result in better engagement and client retainment.
Online payment systems are now being integrated into virtually all other pieces of software due to their convenience. A social media app might seem like the least likely place to benefit from it, but peer-to-peer payments are an incredibly handy feature to have when you expect your users to interact with other people. Facebook Messenger, Skype, and Snapchat are already using the technology, with WhatsApp and many other platforms planning to incorporate P2P payments soon.
A good P2P payment system should allow your audience to connect their bank cards to their accounts and conduct money transfers to other users without leaving the app. In addition to developing this functionality, you also need to take special care of the app’s security, both to protect your customers’ funds and reassure your clients that it is safe to use your app for payments. Also, always make sure that the policies regarding your peer-to-peer payment system adhere to the laws in the regions where you’re planning to launch the app.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence can improve user experience as well as reduce the expenses for companies and improve analytics. In social media applications, these technologies are the most useful in chatbots, technical support, and several features relying on facial recognition.
Chatbots are great to react to users’ messages quickly, particularly when these queries often turn out to be generic. Facial recognition is used primarily for entertainment and to help users find connections. For instance, the widely known masks on Instagram and TikTok use facial recognition algorithms to fit the picture correctly to each person’s face. Facebook uses A.I. to identify people on photos, among other things.
Native development has its advantages, but it also comes with numerous issues and significant expenses that many businesses can avoid by opting for cross-platform development. Unless you wish your application to be tailored specifically to a particular platform, research React Native, Flutter, Xamarin, and other tools for cross-platform mobile development to see if they can suit your needs.
These technologies make the development faster and cheaper without sacrificing the quality of the app. In some cases, you may encounter issues with speed or a limited access to some of the native features, but it is frequently possible to overcome the obstacles.
If your budget allows it, it’s also a good idea to consider developing for wearable devices like smartwatches and fitness trackers. With the Internet of Things growing each day, apps that account for these platforms are likely to rise to the top soon.
Content With a Short Lifecycle
The attention span people have on social media keeps decreasing each year. Debates regarding how detrimental this tendency can be aside, you need to account for this fact when creating your social media app. This applies both to how large a piece of content is and how long it is available for viewing.
Twitter posts and 15-second TikTok videos demonstrate how extremely short media that users create can command the most attention and rapidly gain popularity. Instagram stories, on the other hand, represent the type of content that expires quickly and does a great job of creating urgency. You can also use the short-lived content approach to improve users’ privacy, similarly to how Snapchat operates.
The ability to stream videos in real time is the functionality that many users expect to have on a social media app. It can be particularly appealing to bloggers and other people who will use your app for self-promotion or expanding the reach of their businesses. Live streams help creators get closer to their communities, engage with people directly, and maintain interest in their activity.
Functionality for Business Accounts
Content marketing in 2020 is a must, and businesses learn to use all available social media platforms to promote their products. Therefore, apps that account for this necessity are more likely to win a broader audience and gain loyalty points from a particular group of customers.
Business functionality can vary depending on the type of a social media app you offer. Ultimately, give your users sufficient tools for tracking and analytics of their likes, reblogs, visits, and other actions inherent to your platform.
Miscellaneous Must-Have Features
A simple design for the UI. Minimalistic decisions are the signature of mobile app design in 2020. Focus on making the UI simple and personalized. Enable users to search for content and settings easily. Also, make sure that profiles have a personal touch by adding a field for bio or status, and give your customers the ability to edit the profile information.
Notifications. Notifications help users stay engaged with the app when they’re away and receive better experience while they are using it. It’s an essential feature that every social media app needs for good functioning. Think about what types of notifications your app needs and give users the ability to turn them off easily. Also, make sure to reduce the number of service notifications if you can to avoid annoying your customers.
The ability to add content. The majority of social media platforms now focus on a specific type of content. For instance, Instagram dominates the world of photo-driven storytelling, Facebook remains dedicated to text posts, and the popularity of TikTok is skyrocketing as the source of the new vine culture. Even if the primary purpose of your app is communication, enable users to add content in some form to enrich their experience.
News feed. Not every social media app needs a classic news feed; however, if sharing content is a big part of your application’s purpose, a convenient news feed is simply irreplaceable. You can include the content posted by a user’s friends, as well as add the options of search by tag or topic.
Messaging functionality. It may seem like social media app developers cannot get this point wrong, but many messengers within such apps severely lack in convenience. Make sure that your users will be able to not only send each other messages but edit them, delete them for everyone in the conversation, add emojis and stickers, as well as attach files of various types.
The ability to add and remove friends. It’s up to you to determine how people on your app will interact, but, most frequently, users will be able to add friends or follow others. Besides enabling people to connect, this mechanic also helps shape a relevant and personalized news feed for each user.
Commenting and liking functionality. Standard comments and likes won’t work for all possible types of apps, but you need to come up with their equivalents to bring your users both the functionality and the sense of familiarity when they first install your application.
The ability to share content to other media. Sharing content to other media platforms can be painful if not downright impossible—and it reduces customer satisfaction dramatically. Granting people the ability to share any piece of content they encounter on your app with just a press of a button is going to boost the loyalty of your existing users and attract new potential clients as well.
Social Media App Development Statistics
Statista reports that there are approximately 3.6 billion users of various social media platforms in 2020. Nearly 2.6 billion remain active users of Facebook, which is currently the most widely adopted platform for social interactions, beating Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Despite its status as the market’s giant, however, Facebook in 2020 mainly gains members of the older generation as new users, while losing younger customers.
Gen Z seems to prefer instant messengers like Snapchat and WhatsApp to more expansive platforms like Facebook. They also favor YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok as the means to connect to creators and find a community that shares their interests. TikTok, in particular, took off in 2016, but its explosive growth occurred in 2019, with the rise of Gen Z users’ activity. With 800 million active users, TikTok is currently well ahead of Reddit, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Twitter.
This statistic is hopeful for startups because it demonstrates how a correct targeting approach can help your app grow despite having such a cutthroat competition. A creative and timely idea always has a chance to find its audience when great execution and comprehensive marketing strategies are applied.
Social Media App Trends: Recap
Social media apps are on the rise in 2020. The mobile revolution, together with the ever-expanding reach of technology, is still significantly increasing the demand for new online social spaces. With almost 3.6 billion people already using some social media platforms, it’s crucial for new businesses to keep an eye on the current trends and adjust their offers accordingly.
The key points for building a successful social media app in 2020 are simplicity, purpose, and smooth performance. General platforms are receding, while novel, targeted applications continue to thrive. As the world moves towards cloud technology and IoT networks, cross-platform and VR-friendly social apps will steadily gain an edge over less flexible solutions.