Decoding The 7 Core Features Of Successful Social Apps

It is no secret that integrating social features into an app, thereby letting the product become a network, can have an immense impact on retention and growth. Companies like Sport.com have experienced an after turning their app into a social network. We see impressive results amongst our customers, too. Also on an industry level social seems to be highly relevant to drive adoption and loyalty: Localytics - one of the World’s leading mobile analytics providers - reports that (together with weather apps).

For someone who attempts to create a more social experience around a product or who tries to build a social network from scratch, finding the right user experience and feature set might seem overwhelming. However, if you look more closely into a variety of social products you will notice that there are recurring UX patterns which are surprisingly similar.

To decode the success of social apps we have extracted the 7 most important features and took a closer look. We not only want to explain common patterns and why they are so impactful, but also give examples on what a successful implementation can look like.

1. Social Login

  • Accelerates signup process and decreases dropout rates during onboarding
  • Allows access to valuable user data such as email address, profile picture, interests, likes
  • Leverages existing social connections to grow the social graph rapidly
  • Facebook by far the most adopted social login alt

2. User Profiles

  • Improves individual identity and credibility with other users
  • Stores interests, preferences, personal data, etc.
  • Common information: profile picture, username, real name, short bio, preferences, location, number of followers/follows/friends, recent activity alt

3. Friends/Followers

  • Creates a user graph in your app
  • Two major models to establish connections: friends (private network) and following (public network)

4. Notification Feed

  • Makes activity of a user’s network visible in a single view
  • Drives content discovery through other users
  • Powerful for retention, especially when combined with push notifications, email and notification icons

5. News Feed

  • Constant stream of rich content from people or other sources a user is following
  • Can include user generated content (posts, pictures, videos)
  • Often includes like and comment functionality
  • Algorithms can serve as filters to achieve higher relevance
  • Content recommendations can harvest the data that is collected from the user network

6. Outbound Sharing

  • Sharing content to other, established social networks (one to many)
  • Potential to grow the user base organically
  • Prominent share buttons are important to drive adoption
  • Mostly used with native elements of the respective mobile platform

7. Invite Friends

  • Inviting specific people to start using an app (one to one)
  • Usually personal messaging (“Join me in this app?)
  • Deferred deep-linking should be leveraged to create a personalized experience for the invitee
  • Powerful tool for viral growth, when motivation/incentive to invite others is high enough
  • Common channels for invites are E-Mail, SMS, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger

A framework for creating social networks

When building a social experience into an app, it often might seem like a huge project with a lot of different paths one could take. However, if you analyze how successful companies have turned their product into a network you will notice a common feature set.

There are 7 core features that are the backbone of many social networks: social login, user profiles, friends/follower connections, notifications feed, news feed, outbound sharing and invite friends.

Plenty of successful products have proven how these features can be implemented successfully and at the same time how these features have had a massive impact on user retention, engagement and an app’s organic (or viral) growth. Therefore we consider this as the feature framework that everybody should look into when building a community into their products.