Part I: How to Build the Next Big Social Video App

Part I: How to Build the Next Big Social Video App

A Sit Down with CitrusBits Director of Product Management, Bradley Jefferson 

Social video apps have been on fire in recent years. We’ve witnessed how TikTok rose to prominence, supplanting Facebook, Instagram, and even Snapchat as the zeitgeist of generation Z. Even facing legal challenges and bans in certain countries, TikTok remains on a comfortable upward trajectory and continues to evolve society’s appetite for video content.

As a mobile app development agency that has worked on multiple social video apps, CitrusBits has accumulated a wealth of best practices and insights to share with businesses seeking to enter the social video space. For part one of this series, Bradley Jefferson, Director of Product Management at CitrusBits, answers key questions about how to approach building a new social video app.

1. What are a few key things to consider when planning to build a video app?

Bradley: Understanding your goals, target user base, and creating a budget and a timeline is crucial to the planning process. Because if you do not have a clear goal-oriented vision for your social video sharing app you will likely end up investing money, time, and resources on architecture and feature set that your app idea may not even need. 

And if you don’t have a clear understanding of your targeted audience, you will not be able to strategically provide unique value to your users.

Therefore, defining goals, objectives, and measurement markers for value, usability, viability, feasibility are critical for planning your minimal viable product (MVP).

2. When conducting research to build the app’s user personas, what are some crucial points to be kept in mind?

Bradley: You may have multiple personas where value objectives may be defined. Depending on the objectives of your app, you will need to prioritize that value and consider the value chain shared.

Especially, if social connection, social engagement, and social influencing marketing are core components. For example, a social media video-sharing app such as TikTok serves creators of content, consumers of content, and marketers of content. 

MVP features for those three different personas may be quite different but you will need to prioritize the features of your social media app to optimize the value chain amongst them. In this case, evidential-based decision-making in determining the value proposition for your users is highly recommended.

3. What are some common mistakes to avoid when planning to build a social video app? 

Bradley: It is pretty common to underestimate the complexity and costs of architecture needed to host, stream, and store video. Additionally, positioning a video app globally presents additional challenges for data, privacy, security, and IP licensing such as music. 

Age appropriateness and content moderation are also critical components of user-generated content that are frequently overlooked.

4. What are some winning strategies to attract and retain users? 

Bradley: Let’s not forget that promoting an app is just as important to its overall success as building the app is. If you are delivering value to your creators, influencers, and consumers, they will be the first foundation to promote the app to their friends and family. 

You will also need a solid promotion strategy starting with App Store Optimization. Consider other synergistic marketing strategies such as website, email, other social media platforms, and/or a public relations strategy. Building buzz is key and if you are seeing positive results in your target market consider globalization and localization of content for other markets.

5. What are the types of content moderation available and why are they important? 

Bradley: Content moderation is critical for the online safety of your users and helps ensure the mitigation of liability risks. Content moderation generally can be supported by the following models and is most successful when leveraged in a combination: 

  • user-reported moderation i.e. “report” or “flag” buttons on posts and comment sections to allow users to report 
  • AI/ML detected i.e hive moderation (content is automatically scored by AI/ML models for possible violations)
  • manual moderation i.e staff manually removes objectionable content
6. What are some of the App Store/Play Store guidelines that should be followed while creating content for these apps?

Bradley: Store guidelines are frequently updated so it is essential to be abreast of changes, but generally your app will need to follow these general categories

  • age appropriateness
  • moderation of objectionable content development compliance including ad networks, analytics services, and third-party SDKs
  • marketing compliance ensuring that your app operates as expected
7. What are some of the best practices for monetizing social video apps?

Bradley: TikTok typically employs the In-App Advertising mode. Youtube on the other hand makes money through both In-App and subscription model. Just because one model works for an app doesn’t mean it could work for yours the same way. It depends largely on your vision and business model.

 Let’s discuss each model separately.

  • One-time fee – it is a very popular model among many multimedia social apps. In order to implement this approach, publishers, however, need to have a trusted brand in the market and invest significantly in marketing initiatives and App Store Optimization. 
  • In-App Purchases – this model enables users to buy access to premium features, capabilities, game advantages, or streamlined user experiences such as no-advertising.
  • Subscriptions – are another proven monetization strategy as they can be conveniently auto-renewable and enable users to access continuously updated content or services. It is a common monetization strategy for music and streaming platforms but also requires brand trust or a significant marketing campaign to build trust.
  • In-App Advertisement – is one of the most popular and successful app monetization strategies. This model allows users to download apps for free and publishers to earn money by displaying ads in many different static, video, and audio formats either as part of an ad network or through direct sales.
  • Affiliate and Referral Marketing – can also be an effective monetization strategy are successful strategies that utilize revenue sharing by prompting users to perform a specific action for an incentive. 
8. Phones or Tablets/Landscape or Portrait mode? What delivers the best user experience and how to decide which one fits your app the best?

Bradley: It depends on your target customers. Designing an optimal user experience for different breakpoints may require supporting both landscapes, portraits, and larger screens.

9. How does licensing work if you want to add audio/music / 3rd party videos to your video app?

Bradley: Typically licensing music can be quite expensive depending on the catalog of music. Licensing music from the primary music catalogs such as Universal and Sony may also require implementing additional technology solutions such as audio recognition to report how the licensed music has been utilized.

Additionally, if you are planning to position your app globally some licensed content may need to be licensed separately for each country where it may be used.

10. What additional costs should be kept in mind when budgeting for a video app? 

Bradley: Costs for capabilities and infrastructure to support your video app will vary depending on the features you offer such as video recording, CDN, streaming, and storage. If you are focused on enabling powerful creative tools such as video editing, filter or sticker effects, and other features such as 2D or 3D augmentation then you might anticipate additional 3rd party SDK costs.

11. How much does it cost (on average) to stream videos?

Bradley: Depending on the quality of the video – 720P or 1080 – you may need to set a budget for streaming and recording by the minute, based on the volume. Costs typically range between $0.0010 and $0.002 per minute.

12. Advertisements or in-app purchases? How to decide what’s best for you?

Bradley: It depends on the business goals of your app, but if your brand is not well known and the value of your in-app purchases is not well defined then you may have challenges in launching a successful in-app purchase monetization strategy.

Tune in to Part 2 of our series to understand the answers to common technical questions in the world of social video apps.

Working on a Social Video App?

Building a successful social video app like TikTok can entail lots of potential pitfalls. Providing complex capabilities such as robust video streaming, real-time user interaction, and live streaming require experience implementing the relevant 3rd party services and tying them all together into a cohesive user experience. 

At CitrusBits, we’ve worked with industry leaders to build scalable social video apps for some of the most promising tech startups in the world. Contact us if you’d like to discuss your social media app and explore how Citrusbits can help.