Are Messaging Apps Taking Over The World?
WhatsApp. Facebook Messenger. WeChat. QQ Mobile. Skype. SnapChat. In this digital age, you’re really living under a rock if you’ve never heard of at least two of these apps. Messaging apps, such as the ones listed above, are dominating every aspect of our lives. You text your friends on WhatsApp. You video call your family on Skype. You’re sending life updates to your friends through short video messages on SnapChat.
To a certain extent, we spend more time on messaging apps than on social media platforms. We use messaging apps and social media platforms for two very distinct reasons––messaging apps to connect with others, social media to create and share interesting content. That’s the main reason why messaging apps are seen as separate from social media platforms.
According to Statista, the number of monthly active users on WhatsApp, currently the most downloaded messaging app in the world, has reached 1.6 billion. (1) WhatsApp is now right below Facebook and YouTube among the world’s most popular social networks, with other messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and QQ Mobile not far behind.
This shows you the sheer power messaging apps have, so much so that with the number of all their active users combined, they’ve well surpassed the numbers of those on social media platforms.
The reason behind this growth?
Recently, there’s been a major, ongoing shift of traffic from traditional social media platforms to messaging apps. More and more social media users are transitioning from publicly sharing their opinions and content on their profiles to doing so on messaging apps and private groups.
This change has a strong correlation with the loss of user privacy on social media platforms, which was a eye-opening phenomenon in 2018. Users realised that these platforms have access to whatever private information they choose to share, and most are using the information collected to market products and services to their interests.
Users withdraw to their messaging apps and private groups, most of which provide end-to-end encryption, meaning that they automatically prevent unauthorised access into users’ chats and conversations. (2) On these private platforms, they feel much more safer knowing who they’re sharing information with. So far, users continue to trust messaging apps because they have maintained a privacy boundary with users.
How to engage with consumers through Messaging Apps.
Messaging apps might not seem like they could offer much that would benefit brands. However, there is a side to messaging apps which brands are able to take advantage of.
Brands are used to advertising on social media platforms, and have done so for years. However, displaying ads on messaging apps is completely new territory for them. Brands can’t implement their social media strategy on messaging apps.
Messaging apps require a whole new advertising strategy that, most importantly, doesn’t cross privacy boundaries. On messaging apps, consumers expect their privacy to be respected. Messaging apps provide private interaction, most of them providing end-to-end encryption, formulated to prevent other parties to acquire their private information. Therefore, brands have to closely consider privacy standards on messaging apps, and ensure their ads don’t cross the line.
With that said, brands have a better chance at reaching their customers on a more personal level by advertising on messaging apps than on social media platforms. Their customers feel as though the ads are targeted specifically to them without crossing the line. This prompts them to act on the advertisements, or at least are more likely to consider doing so.
Facebook Messenger recognised that there was a demand for ads on its platform, and opened up an avenue for brands to create their own ads. Messenger would then automatically share the created ads with the brand’s followers, displayed through the Messenger Inbox or in Messenger Stories. (Brands whose target audience is frequently on Facebook Messenger might want to take notes.)
According to MarTechSeries, social media platforms are useful to drive “impulse purchases” with consumers. This means that the impact of selling products works mainly for short-term, spontaneous decisions by consumers.
Brands have the upper hand on social media platforms because they’re able to collect public information regarding customers’ interests from their searches and general activity on social media. Brands are then able to use that information to market specific products or services to serve customers’ current wants. That increases the chance of purchasing those products or services.
What messaging apps are instead able to offer brands is the ability to improve and extend the e-commerce experience for their customers. Brands are able to interact more with their consumers, improving brand loyalty by developing longer term relationships with their consumers.
Through messaging apps, brands can send follow-up messages to customers after they’ve purchased a product, offering a discount or a coupon to encourage them to make their next purchase. Brands can send updates to their customers regarding recent product launches. Small actions like these show consumers that brands care about their consumers and are more willing to continue supporting the brand in the long term.
3. Customer Service
The main dilemma brands run into on social media platforms is that they can’t find a way to properly engage with their consumers if and when a problem arises. On social media, customers are hesitant to share their more personal questions in public. Brands are only able to answer general or common questions that customers have.
When facing this issue, brands start to recognise the need to switch to third-party apps, which their customers are much more active on, in order to provide customer support. This is where messaging apps come in.
A good example of a messaging app that brands are leveraging is Facebook Messenger. Brands such as Sephora, SnapTravel, and UNICEF have started providing customer support through FB Messenger, using a combination of chatbots and live agents to provide services for customers, such as booking appointments and hotel reservations.
Through messaging apps, brands can handle customers’ inquiries on a case-by-case basis. By creating personalised conversations with customers, it helps them to be more confident about opening up about their problems, enabling brands to answer more in depth and specific questions they might have.
This promotes user engagement, spreads brand awareness, and increases trust between the customers and the brand. By having a presence on the apps that customers spend most of their time on, it creates an image of reliability for the brands, that they’ll always be there when customers need them.
Through messaging apps, brands are able to reach their customers in ways that they previously couldn’t through social media platforms. The public is increasingly demanding for more privacy, and messaging apps are growing exponentially because they are providing just that.
Will messaging apps take over social media? Never, because they are ultimately used for very different purposes. No matter how much people distance themselves from social media, complaining about the lack of privacy, they will ultimately come back to it albeit being more guarded.
But will messaging apps take over in terms of appealing to customers and promoting user engagement? Absolutely.
By Ng Li Wei @popconfest