Apr 9, 2019

What Does the Future Hold for Facebook and Messaging Apps?

Of the many recent developments catalyzed by the growth of social networking, personal messaging apps have cemented themselves as one of the world's most popular forms of mobile communication.

Facebook Messenger boasts over 1.2 billion monthly active users.  Moreover, in January 2019 alone, WhatsApp reported 1.5 billion active users, with WeChat, Q Q Mobile, Skype and Snapchat not lagging behind.

It’s clear that at present, there is a real hunger for social messaging apps, particularly among digitally-native cohorts including millennials and those from the gen Z population. Direct messaging apps like these offer marketers a wealth of opportunity to engage consumers and spark up meaningful conversations with their prospects. But as the landscape shifts, what does the social future hold for Facebook and other powerful messaging apps?

Let’s explore.

The major merger

In recent news, Facebook creator and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, revealed plans to transform online messaging by merging WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger into a single unified platform.

An ambitious project that’s expected to be completed by 2020, each of the platforms will work as stand-alone apps but the infrastructure itself will be united, bringing together a total of 2.6 billion users across the globe.

Facebook's statement suggests the company aims to incorporate an end-to-end encryption to provide a ‘fast, simple, reliable and private messaging system' for its users. Yet, while the project promises a safer, more enhanced user experience, concerns have been raised about cross-platform user privacy.

With Facebook at the helm, many experts fear that a great deal of autonomy will be stripped away from WhatsApp and Instagram, with developers forced to alter these popular platforms at their basic level.

Moreover, a lack of autonomy for platform developers could mean less autonomy for consumers: the fact that a person will have to share their information across applications they may not necessarily want to use may drive many into the arms of new messenger options that will no doubt emerge within the coming years.

At present, emerging millennial-driven messenger apps including Kik and Houseparty, which boast 300 million and one million users respectively, are making waves with innovative new functions and multiple chatting opportunities.

With the rise of this new breed of messenger apps comes a raft of novel promotional opportunities for brands and marketers looking to connect with new, highly-engaged audiences. So, keep your finger on the pulse.

Messaging apps: the future

Without a shadow of a doubt, the adoption of social messaging apps will continue to rise: in the digital age, people like to share their thoughts, feelings, recommendations, and opinions with their peers and these platforms offer an exciting, multi-functional and incredibly personal arena in which to do so.

An increase in marketing opportunities

At this point, it’s difficult to predict what the outcome of the Facebook merger will look like and indeed, whether it will hinder usability, privacy and ultimately cost Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram a significant portion of their users.

But, what’s clear is the fact that social messenger apps will become increasingly pivotal elements of a brand’s digital marketing strategy. In a time when the majority of consumers spend most of their web browsing time on mobile devices, brands that offer value and personalized content through direct chat mediums holds the key to commercial growth.

As new players enter the arena this year and beyond, as forward-thinking brands or markets, you can gain access to a wealth of invaluable marketing opportunities through social messaging apps and by selecting the right platforms for your niche and leveraging them before they become saturated.

A rise in messaging and ‘dark social’

It may sound somewhat menacing, but dark social is a potentially invaluable marketing platform that is primarily driven by consumers’ interactions on direct messenger platforms like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Snapchat.

Globally, 70% of all online referrals now come from dark social and by connecting with consumers through these platforms, you stand to expand your audience, exponentially.

The number of consumers sharing links or resources through private messaging apps, alongside traditional mediums including email or SMS, is rising. While these transactions are difficult to quantify, by tapping into dark social platforms, you stand to expand your reach and boost brand awareness, exponentially.

Take Clarks shoes for instance. In a bid to showcase its iconic desert boot to a modern audience, the brand leveraged the power of WhatsApp, which at the time (in 2016) reported over 600 million users, by launching its campaign, ‘From Rats to Rudeboys’.

Using the platform as a personal storytelling medium, Clarks shared the legendary journey of its desert boot, a tale that taps into three world-famous cultural movements. In addition to this, the storytelling recipients were personally invited to chat via WhatsApp with renowned historian Steve Barrows, reggae icon Major Stitch, and photographer Bruno Barbey to ask their own questions about the brand, its story, and its mission.

As a result of initiatives like this, Clarks has remained a relevant, competitive brand in the digital age and this creative, successful campaign is a testament to the storytelling power of messenger apps.

We will have to wait and see what effects the Facebook merger will have but whatever the outcome may be, messenger apps will continue to thrive and are most certainly worth your time and investment.

For more insights into marketing for messaging apps, explore our B2B guide on marketing and selling through social apps.

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Dan Hughes
Dan Hughes

Dan is a content writer specializing in digital marketing, emerging tech, music and looking after a toddler. You can find out more about him and his work by visiting his Catchy Space.

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