Magdalena Jackiewicz
Editorial Expert

How to build a video sharing app like TikTok?

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TikTok, a video-sharing application, has seen a quick surge in popularity among users from all around the world just three years after it was created. People spend hours on the social media app, watching and creating audio and music video content.

The app’s success has inspired many entrepreneurs to explore the creation of their own social media platforms, providing users with the ability to upload and edit short form videos with a variety of effects and filters.

If you’re one of those entrepreneurs, this article is for you. We discuss everything you need to know to build a competitive application: essential and additional features, a comprehensive list of the technological components and a budget required to create a similar application.

How does TikTok work?

TikTok is a revolutionary video streaming social media platform created by ByteDance in 2016. Founded by Alex Zuhu, it combines video recording, editing, and social networking into one app, allowing users to capture short form videos (up to three minutes) and instantly share them with their social networks. Its main feature is the ability to add music to videos, either as a lip-sync or as background.

Additionally, TikTok is a great platform for showcasing talents and sharing knowledge with a wide audience. It even allows users to convert videos into live wallpapers. All of these features made the app extremely popular, especially among younger audiences. Just look at these stats!

  • TikTok reached 1 billion global users in 2021;
  • With over 310 million first-time downloads in Q1 2020, TikTok became the fastest growing non-gaming app;
  • An average user spends 52 minutes daily on TikTok.
  • The app is particularly popular among the younger generation - 41% of TikTok users are aged 16–24.

In-app purchases bring TikTok a revenue of $3.5 million per month, making it the primary revenue source.

TikTok’s “For You” algorithm

A big part of the app’s success is the “For You” algorithm. TikTok enables users to customize the content they view by analyzing a variety of factors such as user interactions, video information, device settings, and account preferences. By selecting categories of interest, users can ensure that the “For You” page is tailored to their individual interests, with the most popular videos being shown if no selections are made. Additionally, users can also indicate that they are not interested in a video by long-pressing on it and tapping “Not Interested”.

MVP features of a video-sharing app like TikTok

You should definitely plan ahead when creating any application and building a TikTok alternative isn’t any different. Starting by building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with basic features and then adding more advanced features is the right direction to follow in case of such a robust video editing app. Here are the basic features you’d have to include in an app similar to TikTok:

Registration & login

Users must register in order to be able to create and watch videos. It is recommended to provide various sign up methods, such as email, social media, and phone number.

Edit profile

Users should have the ability to personalize their profiles, for example, by changing their profile pictures, usernames, and adding a bio. Personalization options are always a great idea.

Upload videos

It is important to consider making the process for users to post music videos as quick and simple as possible in order to make a short form video app successful. If users find it troublesome to post videos, they will eventually abandon your app and look for an alternative.

Filters & effects

Filters and advanced effects will help to draw in more users who are interested in having access to unique editing options in their attempts to create viral videos.

Video editing tools

A TikTok alternative will not only allow users to shoot videos but also edit them within the app. TikTok even includes editing tools that allow to flip and speed up the music videos, create video loops, etc. Additionally, users can opt to turn on a “beauty” mode, which makes their skin appear smoother.

Hearts & commenting

TikTok offers users the option to like and comment on videos, similar to Instagram. Additionally, users can view their liked posts by accessing the designated tab.

Video sharing

You can increase your user base by offering the ability to share their content on other social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok. Additionally, users can link their profile to other social networks through TikTok.

Notifications

It is essential to add a push notification feature to keep users updated about comments, likes, and other updates related to their videos. This is typically done through Google Cloud Messaging (for Android) or Apple Push Notification Service (for iOS).

Location-based content

The app could offer content posted by other users based on the device's location. Users could also add their current location to their videos, allowing the app to take this data into account.

Admin panel

An admin panel can provide a variety of functions, such as managing users (e.g. editing, deleting, or blocking them), counting posts by individual users, and supplying data on new users. We’ve built a custom admin panel for our customer Trash using open source AdminJS.

Trash is a platform dedicated to artists and influencers who publish their original video content. The tool’s creators required a full-fledged content management system for both internal and external use. Using AdminJS was perfect for building a system that gave the Trash team full control over their platform. 

Features that contributed to TikTok’s success

It is not necessary to have a full suite of features when launching an app. However, as your user base grows, it is important to consider adding more advanced and unique functions. Here are some advanced features of TikTok that you could implement when developing your own app.

Video preview before registration

TikTok provides the option to view some of its more popular videos without having to sign up. However, in order to like or comment on these, users must create an account.

Real-time analytics

This feature enables you to observe the people currently watching and streaming on the graph, and also offers data on the quantity of comments and hearts.

AR filters

Augmented reality filters have become increasingly popular in recent times and offer a wide range of possibilities for users, from changing hair and eye color to adding virtual objects such as dog's ears or flowers over the head.

Stitch

Stitch, one of TikTok's most recent additions, is changing the way users can interact with other people's content. With this feature, users can take snippets of other people's videos, cut them out, and post them from their own accounts. This provides an opportunity for those who don't produce their own videos to gain attention by reworking other people's content.

Duets

This new TikTok feature is similar to Stitch in that it allows users to use other people's content in their publications. However, the difference lies in the fact that the other user's video is displayed alongside the user's own video, playing both clips simultaneously. This split-screen format creates a dialogue between content creators and increases audience engagement.

NFT

TikTok recently hit its first billion active users, and as part of their celebration, they integrated with NFTs, with the first wave of content coming from popular creators like Lil Nas X, Gary Weinerchuk, Grimes, and more.

What is the cost of building an app like TikTok?

Offering an exact price quote is impossible with this type of an application. Generally speaking, the cost of building a basic TikTok-like application can start from around $20,000 and go up to $200,000 for a more complex application with additional features. This cost includes the cost of the development team, UI/UX design, server setup, and other related costs. To build a TikTok alternative that allows users to create fun music videos, you will need to take into account several factors that can significantly influence the overall cost. The key elements include the below:

Platform

If you're looking to develop an app like TikTok, you'll need to create versions for both iOS and Android. However, if you're limited in resources, you may want to choose one platform based on the preferences of your target audience. For example, Instagram was initially released for iOS, and an Android version was released about a year and a half later. You can also benefit from cross-platform development which is also more cost effective than building two native apps. If you aren’t sure which option will better fit your needs, take a look at our article with comparison of native and cross-platform development approaches.

Design

Creating user-friendly and intuitive UI/UX design can be a challenge that requires a significant investment of both time and money. However, this investment can pay off in gaining the trust and loyalty of new users who expect a high level of usability in any application. If you’re unsure where to start, you can take a look at our ebook in which we explain how to build products that sell.

Features

Creating apps like TikTok requires careful thought and planning beforehand, as the number and complexity of features will be a major factor in the cost of development. To build a feature-rich app, developers will need to invest more time in the process. Here’s how much time would be required to build the following features:

  • Registration + login: 55h
  • Edit profile: 40h 
  • Upload video: 25h 
  • Filters + effects: 100+h
  • Video editing: 60h
  • Likes + comments: 60h
  • Notifications: 20h
  • Live sessions: 30h
  • Admin panel: 40h
  • Recommendations: 120h
  • Ads: 60h

In addition to developing the features, the process of creating a TikTok alternative will involve the following activities the cost of which will depend on the features and functionalities you decide to implement in your video sharing app:

  • framework and libraries integration,
  • UX/UI design,
  • quality assurance,
  • DevOps,
  • project management,
  • creating technical documentation,
  • testing and launch.

CCPA and GDPR Compliance

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are both laws that have been implemented to give consumers greater control over their personal data. GDPR applies to any company that operates in the EU, and failing to comply may result in hefty fines. CCPA, on the other hand, applies to businesses that operate in California and offers individuals more control over their data. Both of these regulations are important to consider if you are making software for either the EU or California markets.

6-step guide to creating apps like TikTok

Since TikTok is a video sharing application, it will have its specific considerations related to the architecture of this type of app. I’ve covered this topic in detail in one of my previous posts. Otherwise, the app development process doesn’t differ much from developing other kinds of apps. Here are the steps involved:

Step 1: Identify and research your target audience

Understanding your target audience is critical when developing a social media app like TikTok. It is important to recognize the age group that you wish to target, what is popular among this age group, what competitors are providing, and what features are of the most interest to users. Answering these questions will provide you with the necessary information to create an effective business model and an engaging product.

Step 2: Map out the business model

If you want to stand out from the competition in the social media market, you'll need to come up with something unique. Consider implementing innovative features that will appeal to your target audience. For example, if you are looking to attract young entrepreneurs, you could offer marketing tools that will help them reach a larger audience. Additionally, you can add product display options that offer store customization, direct links to shops, and more.

Apart from pinpointing your product’s unique value proposition, you’ll have to pick the best monetization strategy. We’ve written a separate article that should help you make the right choice - there are many different pricing options and you can certainly be creative here.

Users of TikTok can purchase in-app coins with real money, which can then be used to send virtual gifts to their favorite influencers. These gifts can be converted into real money by the influencers. The coins come in bundles of 100 to 1000, and are priced from 99 cents to 99.99 US dollars.

Step 3: Choose your tech stack

You’ll find our suggested tech stack for video sharing application development below, however, bear in mind that it will have to be adjusted to your specific requirements, features and more.

iOS app

Android app

Back-end

  • Programming language: Node.js, Java, Python
  • Framework: Express 4
  • Database: MongoDB, SQL, MySQL
  • Cloud: AWS or Azure
  • Storage: Amazon S3

Tools:

  • Notifications: Amazon SNS
  • Real-time analytics: Amazon Kinesis
  • AR-filters: Amazon Sumerian
  • Geolocation: Google Maps API, Mapbox.
  • Chat: Twilio, Socket.io

The tech stack will always have to be adjusted to the specific requirements of your product, so consult an experienced software development provider if you have doubts about these choices.

Step 4: Work on the UX

Creating a great user experience is essential for attracting and hooking users to your app. TikTok has a straightforward UX/UI that offers minimal distractions and encourages users to sign up and get started quickly. We recommend taking the same approach to your app’s design. Additionally, features such as an infinite autoplay feed and the ability to integrate user profiles with other social media can help promote user content and drive user engagement.

Source.

Step 5: Start the development process

If your budget allows, you may choose to hire an in-house team of developers or to outsource expert developers on either a part-time or permanent basis. Typically, outsourcing is a more economical option since it does not involve the need to hire staff on a permanent basis.

At RST, we encourage our developers to constantly hone their skills and therefore have a large pool of highly-qualified professionals available for hire on a full-time basis. We also provide management support and replacements in the event of any turnover. 

Step 6: Release and grow your application

Creating a successful marketing plan for your mobile app requires careful planning and preparation. It is advisable to use various advertising approaches or to hire a marketing specialist to help you reach your desired audience. Popular methods of advertising a mobile app include running paid ads, collaborating with bloggers and social media influencers, and promoting your app through the Google Play and Apple Store.

Developing a TikTok alternative with RST

Creating a TikTok alternative is not as difficult as it may seem when following the right guide. Taking the time to consider the desired features and understanding the development process will help you set realistic goals when it comes to budget and timeframe. Locating experienced video chat app developers will give you the assurance that any technical issues will be addressed effectively. With your vision and the technical skills of the developers, you can create an app that your audience will adore.

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