How To Make An App Like TikTok: Development Guide

24 min read
How to Make an App Like TikTok

TikTok's user base has grown from zero to over a billion in just five years. 


The market valuation of ByteDance, the company standing behind TikTok app development, is around 140 billion USD.


The success of the app inspires many businesses to think about how to make an app like TikTok.


Wouldn’t it be great to repeat the success of such a famous application?


In this article, you’ll learn how to create an app like TikTok, as we’ve covered all ten main steps.


Here’s a quick look at the content waiting down for you:

  • How TikTok became popular
  • How we can help you create an app like TikTok
  • Define your target audience
  • Choose a revenue model
  • Come up with USP and strategy
  • Choose among TikTok app development options
  • Bring in the best technology stack
  • Decided on the basic and advanced features
  • Evolve on the process of app creation
  • Start the marketing strategy
  • Measure metrics and plan for improvements
  • Plan for ongoing development and support
  • How much does it cost to make an app like TikTok?


Let’s dive right in.



What Is the Secret Behind TikTok's Success?

What is TikTok?

  • TikTok app creator: ByteDance
  • Global CEO: Shou Zi Chew
  • Founding Year: 2016
  • Headquarter: Culver City, CA
  • Valuation: $140 billion 

TikTok is a relatively new social media platform that concentrates on short-format video sharing. Bytedance launched TikTok in China in 2016, which is known as Douyin on the home turf. The next year the company started conquering the world with the app’s international version.

Today TikTok is available in over 150 countries and has over a billion users worldwide. In the USA alone, the app has been downloaded over 200 million times.

If you still doubt the success of TikTok, take a look at some statistics that will dispel any of them:

  • TikTok has over 1 billion monthly active users
  • The TikTok app has reached over 4.1 billion installs globally across Google Play and the App Store
  • Consumer spending on TikTok has surpassed $2.5 billion globally
  • An average TikTok user spends around 95 minutes per day in the app. This equates to an average of 6.06 hours per week and 26 hours per month.

So, what is the secret behind TikTok’s popularity?

There are a few success factors that make TikTok popular:

  • Short-form content that performs better in the modern world of short-attention-span
  • Young target audience that are active users of social media applications
  • Celebrities and brands that boost engagement and brand awareness
  • Financial opportunities thanks to the ability to cooperate with brands, get gifts during live streams, and win content prizes

As you can see, TikTok app development has the potential of turning into a profitable business. All indications are that the popularity of short-form video will continue getting up steam.


Addevice's Experience in Development of Video Making Apps Like TikTok


We at Addevice know how to make an app like Tiktok and have broad experience in social media app development. Our team understands what it takes to create not just an app, but a solution that will get millions of users all over the world.


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Now let’s explore how to make a short video app like TikTok.


1. Define Your Target Audience


Do you know what all the successful apps have in common?


Their creators didn’t jump headfirst into app development. Thorough market research proceeded the development stage. Without knowing your competition, identifying your niche and target audience you won’t be able to create an app like TikTok.


Below are some of the steps that you need to go through to avoid making a costly mistake.


Search the market


Market research is the first step you should take.


This stage is essential in getting the first impression of the competition and available solutions out there. Take a look at the most popular apps, including TikTok, see how users are interacting with them, analyze their key features and Unique Value Proposition (UVP).


Pro tip: don’t try to copycat TikTok or any of the similar existing applications. Take them for example to come up with a unique app idea that will stand from the crowd.


Identify a niche


You already know that you want to create an app like TikTok.


But what will your niche be?


TikTok is a huge social media platform that serves all niches. For a new application, a better strategy might be starting with a single niche. For example, you can create an app where users will share their cooking videos or you can develop an app that will allow sharing fitness videos.


You should decide on the niche before you move on to TikTok app development.


Define the target audience


Who will be your target audience?


For example, if you decide to create a food video-sharing app, you might want to target a few audiences:

  • Professional cooks who might be interesting in self-promotion
  • Cooking enthusiasts who like cooking and want to share their recipes
  • Users who like cooking and are looking for inspiration within your app
  • Busy workers who want to know more recipes of fast-to-cook and healthy meals


Defining your target audience means identifying pain points and understanding how you can address them with your application.


As you are working on your user persona, you need to describe them with all the details:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Family
  • Occupation
  • Yearly income
  • Education level
  • Social media apps they use


The more precisely you identify the target audience, the more likely your app will hit them in the heart.



2. Choose the Best-Fitting Monetization Strategy




  • While you are exploring how to make an app like TikTok, don’t forget about the financial side of app development.


How will your app make money?


To answer the question, explore key monetization strategies that can be applied to a TikTok like application.


In-app purchases


In-app purchases are one of the ways TikTok makes money. The company offers in-app coins that users can donate to influences during live shows. But influencers only receive 50% of all the donated money. The rest goes to TikTok, the App Store, and Google Play, as they take a fee for all in-app purchases.


To leverage this monetization strategy, you’ll need to come up with a unique offering, such as in-app currency, special honorary badges, etc.




When exploring how to make an app like TikTok and repeat its financial success, you can’t ignore the fact that this app is a powerful advertisement platform. The ads platform brings TikTok a lion’s share of the revenue. The company draws around $1.3 billion in annual ad sales in the USA.


Today, TikTok relies on three advertisement models to generate revenue:

  • Cost per click – advertisers pay the platform for every click generated
  • Cost per view – payment is charged for every display of the ad on the platform
  • Cost per action – advertisers only pay when users perform a predefined action (install an app or purchase something)
  • Fundraiser – the initial funding of TikTok was around 3 billion dollars. No wonder the company could build a complex app that now has billions of users. You can start fundraising with only an app idea or engage this revenue model when you have a working prototype on your hands.


TikTok’s monetization strategies don’t end with the mentioned techniques. The company is actively adding eCommerce functionality that makes it even more attractive among online retailers and other Direct-to-Consumer companies.


3. Come Up with USP & Strategy


It’s time to come up with a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and identify how your solution will differ from competitors and what benefits it will bring.


SWOT analysis


SWOT analysis helps to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to business competition and project planning. During this stage, you’ll need to decide what problem your app will solve, what value it will bring, and whether it has a chance to stand out in the target market.


Business model canvas


Finalize your USP with a business model canvas, which will help you document your idea and business model. The business model canvas to create an app like TikTok will consist of nine blocks:

  • Key partners
  • Key activities
  • Value propositions’
  • Customer relationships
  • Customer segments
  • Key resources
  • Cost structure
  • Distribution channels
  • Revenue streams


Below you can see an example of how TikTok’s business model canvas might look like.


Key partnersKey activitiesValue propositionsCustomer relationshipsCustomer segments

- Who are your key partners/suppliers?

- Who are your key partners/suppliers?

- What key activities does your value proposition require?

- What activities are important the most in distribution channels, customer relationships, revenue stream…?

- What core value do you deliver to the customer?

- Which customer needs are you satisfying?

- What relationship that the target customer expects you to establish?

- How can you integrate that into your business in terms of cost and format?

- Which classes are you creating values for?

- Who is your most important customer?


Key resourcesDistribution channels

-What key resources does your value proposition require?

- What resources are important the most in distribution channels, customer relationships, revenue stream…?

- Through which channels that your customers want to be reached?

- Which channels work best? How much do they cost? How can they be integrated into your and your customers' routines?


Cost structureRevenue streams

- What are the most cost in your business?

- Which key resources/activities are most expensive?

- For what value are your customers willing to pay?

- What and how do they recently pay? How would they prefer to pay?

- How much does every revenue stream contribute to the overall revenues?


Marketing strategy


Marketing efforts can start long before the application launch. For example, one of the possible approaches is to create a landing page with the teaser of your future applications and collect emails of interested users and partners.


Here are a few marketing strategies that you can use

  • Paid ads
  • Influencer marketing
  • SMM (Social Media Marketing)
  • SEO and content marketing
  • Partnership promotions
  • Paid promotions


Launching a marketing campaign early is a sure way to get first users who’ll be interested in trying and testing your applications after the release.


4. Choose the Best TikTok App Development Option


There are a few options for how to make an app like TikTok. In most cases, startups don’t write the code. They concentrate on business tasks while choosing one of the following options.


Hire freelancers


From a financial point of view, such an approach to TikTok app development might be very attractive. Freelancers are usually cheaper to hire than hiring an app TikTok app development company. At the same time, this option hides a number of hidden rocks.


Making an app like TikTok is not a task of a single developer. You’ll probably need to find designers, developers, DevOps, QA engineers, and other specialists. You’ll need to build your development team yourself, find all the necessary experts, and organize them in a team. It might be challenging and take a lot of time. And you can’t forget about situations when freelancers disappear in the thin air without a goodbye and delivering their part of work.


Create an app yourself with an app builder 


There are hundreds of page builders out there that allow you to create an app like TikTok all for free. 


You get a drag-and-drop editor, move around a few blocks, change the colors of the interface and that’s it.


Well, at least that’s what their creators are trying to tell. In reality, the situation is quite different.


Creating an app is no easy task, especially the one that will process and store video content. Such tools offer few features and little to no customizations. With app builders, you’ll hit the ceiling all too fast and find yourself in a situation when the builder’s functionality won’t meet all your needs.


Hire an outsourcing company to create an app


Hiring a company that knows how to make an app like TikTok might not be the cheapest option at the start. But this option might be the most sufficient in the long run. Custom app development opens up unlimited customization capabilities in terms of design and functionality while putting no limit on scalability.


You can build a highly customized app that will meet all your business needs, will be extremely secure, and will scale together with your business. 



5. Choose Features to Create an App Like TikTok


While exploring ways on how to make an app like TikTok, it’s important to understand what TikTok features you’ll need to deal with. When it comes to creating video making apps like TikTok, there are basic and advanced features that you might want to consider.


Basic Features for TikTok App Development




  • Log in & sing up

Users should be able to register with your application. The best option is not to reinvent the wheel but to add the support of the signup option with email, phone number, and the most popular social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


  • User profile

After creating an account, users should be able to edit their personal information, change the profile picture, username, bio, change password, and so on.


  • Videos uploading

The most important feature of a TikTok like app is videos uploading. Users should be able to upload videos fast or even plan the publication of videos in advance.


  • Filters & effects

Want to know how to make an app like TikTok and turn it into a successful business? Add built-in filters and effects so that customers could be able to change their videos right inside your application.


  • Video editing

Video editing is a must-have feature. Think about going on with some basic options, such as cropping, flipping, or speeding up the video. At the same time, you might want to consider adding the beautification mode to make videos look even more attractive in just one click.


  • Likes & commenting

With an app like TikTok, users should be able to like videos and comment. You can also allow adding posts to the favorites tab.


  • Sharing

Connecting a user profile to other social media, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you will be able to increase the user base. Users will be glad to share their content across other social media they prefer.


  • Notifications

Push notifications help to keep users up to date with what’s happening inside their apps, such as new comments, likes, and other updates. To save time and money, you can use Google Cloud Messaging for Android and Apple Push Notification Service for iOS.


  • Search

The search option allows users to find new content that they’d like to watch. You can add the ability to search by keywords or even by hashtags.


  • Video feed

Video feed keeps up users with the latest content on the platform from the profiles they are following. The key to successful app development is not to forget about the News Feed Algorithm. TikTok learns what content users like and show them more of such content in the content feed.


That’s how to make an app like TikTok with the most basic feature set.


Advanced Features to Make an App Like TikTok




While you can start with a basic set of features, you might want to think about some exciting functionality later. These are some of the features that will add a special touch to your application.


  • Video preview without registration

Users love seeing what they are getting themselves into before signing up with an app. Allow users to view some of the most popular videos without the need to register. At the same time, if they want to like or comment on them, they’ll need to sign up.


  • Location-based content

Geolocation can be useful to provide users with location-based content. Users should also be able to add the location to the content they publish.


  • Real-time analytics

Adding such functionality might be a great idea if you plan to add the ability to create business profiles. Analytics provide insights into the number of views, comments, etc.


  • Live video streaming

Live video streaming is a nice-to-have feature that plays not the last part of TikTok’s popularity. Donation stickers allow making money while in a live broadcast.


  • AR filters

Augmented reality is another nice-to-have feature that allows you to change the color of hair or eyes, add AR filters with flowers, bunny’s ears, and so on.


These are just a few of the advanced features that you might want to consider. You might want to come with some unique functionality that will help you stand out. The best advice is to not copycat TikTok but to create a unique app. You’ll be able to do so if you work with a company that knows how to make an app like TikTok.



TikTok Admin Panel Features




During TikTok app development, you’ll also need to create the admin panel of the app. That’s the place where you’ll be able to moderate users and content, and so on.


  • Super admin

A user that has complete access to the whole system and its functionality. You might want to reserve this role for yourself, as it provides the whole control over the app.


  • Admin authorization

The ability to create new admin profiles for people who’ll be able to perform certain tasks. 


  • Admin management

You should be able to assign and configure user roles, add new admins or restrict access to existing ones.


  • Admin panels

Admin panel is the place where admins can manage users, get data on new and existing users and track in-app analytics.



6. Choose Tech Stack for TikTok App Development


As you decide how to make an app like Tiktok, you need to choose the technology for your application.


To give you a better idea of what it takes to create an app like TikTok, below you can see an example of a technology stack that you’ll need for TikTok.


Web Hosting

Google Cloud

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Digital Ocean

Database ManagementMongoDB, SQL, MySQL
Programming languages

Kotlin, Java (Android), Swift, Objective-C (iOS)

Flutter, Xamarin or React Native (hybrid app)

Backend programming languagesNode.js
AnalyticsAzure Stream Analytics, MixPanel, Google mobile app analytics

Google Cloud Messaging

Apple Push Notifications

AR filters face detection & recognition

ML Kit


StorageAmazon S3, Azure Server
GeolocationGoogle Map API for Android and MapKit/ Core location frameworks for iOS, Twilio


What is the TikTok Algorithm?



Tiktok’s algorithms are what make the app tick. The application relies on the recommendation system that determines which videos appear in your feed. The algorithm takes into account a number of factors to provide users with the most interesting content, such as:


  • Accounts users follow
  • Creators that users have hidden
  • Where users added comments
  • Videos liked or shared
  • Videos added to favorites
  • Videos marked as “not interesting”
  • Videos reported as inappropriate
  • What type of videos users interact the most with
  • Content users create


Analyzing these and many other algorithms, TikTok creates content recommendations. This algorithm is what makes the app so addictive among users, as they always have the content they like in their feed. You can create such a feature equipping your app with Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.



7. Evolve the Process of TikTok Like App Development


Let’s learn how to make an app like TikTok from the processes’ point of view.


App development is not something you can complete in a day. The process consists of different stages and phases designed. Usually, the process is divided between discovery and development stages.




Discovery stage

During the discovery stage, you will explore market opportunities, analyze competitors and create a project plan with features backlog and tech stack.


Aside from business analysis, the discovery stage covers UX/UI design. 

  • UX (user experience) defines how users will interact with your applications and how the interface elements will be placed on the screen. 
  • UI design defines what your application will look like for the end-users, including the design of on-screen elements, such as icons, buttons, and so on.


The end result of the discovery stage is the design prototype of the app that will be used during the next stage.


Development stage


This stage is dedicated to the creation of the codebase of the app – both front-end and back-end. At the early stage, the team defines the overall scope of work, project specifications, and development schedule.


During this stage, the development team works on the realization of functionality and integrations with third-party services. You can either opt to create an app for a single platform – iOS or Android – or target both platforms at once. The choice will directly influence the development timeline.


When the app’s code is ready, Quality Assurance Engineers perform unit, integration, functional, performance, and other types of software testing to make sure that the app works without a hitch and withstand the required loads. In the end, you’ll have an app that’s ready to hit the market.



8. Promote & Grow Your Video Sharing App


So, your TikTok like app is ready but the question is what is next?


You are at the place where you need to start actively promoting your app, using ASO and OUA.


If you don’t know what these abbreviations mean, take a look at the information below explaining each concept.




App stores have their own ranking algorithms that define what apps will be placed first in the search results. App Store Optimization (ASO) allows businesses to make their application more attractive to ranking algorithms. Just like SEO for Google, ASO includes the work on text and images. Take a look at a few strategies to improve the discoverability of your newly created application:

  • Optimizing the title with relevant keywords that have high search volume
  • Writing an engaging and optimized description
  • Designing a recognizable icon that will stand out
  • Adding eye-catching screenshots


Organic Mobile User Acquisition


Content marketing is a powerful tool when it comes to organizing user acquisition. If you have a website about your application, consider starting a blog with posts about your application, its features, benefits, and so on.


You can also create videos, post and promote them on YouTube.


Paid promotion


Paid advertising in social media and PPC campaigns are extremely useful in getting first users. You can also find partner apps to place your advertisements there. 


Aside from the mentioned strategies, don’t ignore the ones we discussed before, such as influencer marketing, SMM, etc.



9. Measure Metrics and Improve


Constant results measurement of all efforts is a key secret to continued app growth.


There are a few metrics that you should keep a close eye on.


Key Metrics




  • Acquisition – number of new downloads in a given timeframe (daily, weekly, monthly). You need to pay attention to channels that bring you the most users to optimize the spend and improve ROI.
  • Activation – the percentage of users who launched the app after downloading. An optimal result for activation rate is 85% or above. If the numbers are lower, consider optimizing strategies.
  • Retention – the longer you retain customers, the better for your business. Customer acquisition is much more costly than keeping existing ones. Around 25% of apps are uninstalled or never used again after the first launch.
  • Engagement – you need to measure and track how often and for how long users interact with your app and how many daily and monthly active users you have. This will help you understand the engagement level of your app and optimize it accordingly.
  • Uninstalls – how many users uninstall your app over some time period, such as daily or weekly. Compare the data to the number of installs to calculate the churn rate. If you have a problem with it, there might be some bugs or performance problems that make users drop your application.
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CLV) – Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is the cost you spend to attract a new customer, in your case – a new user. You can calculate the CAC by calculating all the expenses you spend on getting new customers and dividing the sum by the number of gained users. In 2020, the user acquisition cost was around $70 in North America.


The sum will be unique for every case but the goal here is to work on reducing the cost to acquire new users. As you work on new strategies and optimize approaches, you will be able to find the resource that brings your users at the lowest price. Once again, there is no strategy that fits all.


  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

CLV is the total worth to a business of a customer over the whole period of their relationship. Remember that customer retention is much cheaper than the acquisition of new ones. 


User Feedback

Once the app is launched, you need to start collecting user feedback. You can look at the reviews they are leaving on App stores or even carry out surveys, for example on social media platforms to learn how they interact with your app, what they like and not, and so on.



10. Plan for Ongoing Development & Support


The collected data helps to identify areas of improvement and future growth. After you’ve got the data, plan for further app improvement and ongoing development.


App development is a process that never stops. There is always a place for improvements and you can’t forget about adding new functionality to stay competitive.


How Much Does It Cost to Develop an App Like TikTok?


TikTok app development cost can start at around $60,000 for the simplest meaningful app version for a single platform. The development takes around 3-6 months. If you decide to add another platform, you will have to multiply the cost by two. The addition of more features will also cost you additional expenses.


The final cost of TikTok app development depends on numerous factors:

  • Size and location of the outsourcing company
  • App complexity and functionality
  • The number of connected APIs and third-party services
  • UX/UI design complexity
  • Number of targeted platforms (iOS, Android, or both)
  • Branding complexity - read more about product branding


Explore an average cost of app development and processes behind the calculation processes in our article How much does it cost to make an app for your business in 2024.



How to Make an App Like TikTok: Bottom Line


TikTok’s popularity doesn’t leave anyone indifferent. Even such social medial platforms as Instagram and YouTube envy its success. They even launched their own format of short videos – Reels and Short accordingly.


Short videos are actively gaining traction, inspiring everyone to think about how to make an app like TikTok. If you decide to pursue the idea, you will have to go through all 10 steps of TikTok app development:

  1. Define your target audience
  2. Chose a revenue model
  3. Define USP and strategy
  4. Decide on TikTok app development process
  5. Choose basic and advanced features
  6. Select tech stack
  7. Create an app like TikTok
  8. Promote and grow your app
  9. Measure metrics and improve
  10. Plan ongoing development and support

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The process to create an app like TikTok consists of different stages. First of all, you need to define your target audience, choose a revenue model and define USP. After that, you’ll need to choose an app development company, decide on the features set, and select the technology stack. After the development stage, you’ll need to work on app promotion and growth. 

TikTok app development cost starts around $60,000 for an app with a minimum set of features and support of a single platform. Additional features, support of two operating systems (iOS and Android) will add up to the final cost.

TikTok is a social media app that allows users to create and upload short 15-seconds long videos. Users can connect multiple clips and increase the maximum longevity to 60 seconds. The main secret of TikTok is its recommendation algorithm that always analyzes user behavior and offers the most relevant content.

TikTok is a huge app offering various features. When you look at the basic functionality, you can see such features as login and user account, video uploading and video editing, sharing, notifications, search capabilities, likes, and comments. But advanced functionality, such as AR filters and live video streaming is what makes TikTok tik.

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