Making a Great Social App

Creating a social app is a great way to get viral growth. If it’s done right, a social app will advertise itself when its users invite their friends. We scoured the Internet, combined it with our experience, and have put together a few tips for putting the “social” in “social app”.

I recently read a blog post called “5 Ways to Improve Social Engagement in Mobile Apps”. The five tips they gave were to be innately social, use Facebook Connect, respect your user’s privacy by not auto-posting to a user’s Facebook activity feed, promote social sharing in logical places, and foster in-app communication between friends.

I agree with most of the post, and would like to share my thoughts.

If you want to sell social, you have to be social, or just have the app done by someone who is. Social apps rely on friends using the app to provide something they like. Ask yourself if this is something that would help you and your friends connect. If the answer is “yes,” you’re on to something.

Until further notice, Facebook is the king of social apps. A Facebook Connect button, prominently displayed, will inspire a sense of trust and an expectation that the app will be something that you share, like on Facebook. It also allows developers to access “friend of a friend” data. Ultimately, Facebook is a social giant that can be crucial in helping an app developer get to the next level.

Sometimes, though, Facebook can go too far, as they do in the case of automatically posting one’s activities. If, for example, one gets caught up in a cyber-disagreement over a Yahoo story, the quotes that end up on his or her Facebook wall can make a user look bad to Facebook acquaintances due to a lack of context.

As for the next recommendation, fostering sharing to social sites is “going viral 101”. The post cites Instagram as a great place to share, and we agree. People love pictures, and by some estimates, Instagram is growing even faster than Facebook originally did.

The last tip, fostering in-app communication between friends, can turn your app users into a community. The more things that your community shares within the app, the more likely that app is off to being a success for years to come.

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