Bloomberg recently reported that Snapchat surpassed Twitter in daily active users. Kudos to Snapchat, which is only half as old as Twitter, but why do we keep comparing Snapchat to Twitter? Or to Instagram? The industry is desperate to neatly categorize Snapchat under social media, but I would argue that Snapchat is equal parts messaging app and social network, putting it in a class of its own.
Let's break it down:
Messaging apps are built on the premise of private conversation: 1 to 1 (yes, group chat exists, but it's contained). You send specific messages tailored to the individual recipient. See: WhatsApp, WeChat, Skype, Viber, LINE, Telegram, Kik. With the exception of Asia's sophisticated app hybrids, today's messaging apps are not intended for blanket broadcast messaging.
Traditional social networks are built on the premise of broadcasting: 1 to many. You build up a network of friends (and, in some cases, the general public) and you blanket spam them with your post. See: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest. While they accommodate private conversation (Facebook Messenger is its own rightful messaging app, Instagram's and Twitter's Direct Message, LinkedIn InMail), it is not their primary foundation.
Believe it or not, the first quarter of 2015 is officially complete. Between the snow accumulations (especially) in the Northeast, the subsequent melting process, and the ever-evolving social media landscape, we've been busy. One of my takeaways from the social world is that FOMO (fear of missing out) is alive and well across several audiences. Let me recap a few social highlights and share a bit more on my takeaways.
Snapchat carries a 15 billion dollar valuation and reportedly somewhere between 100 and 200 million active users. Is Snapchat for every brand? Most likely not, but it has a measure of appeal for a particular audience. This group doesn't want to miss out on anything and they also like things that are exclusive and momentary. That's probably the draw for Snapchat's massive Millennial audience.
Time spent on mobile is skyrocketing. Since about 80% of that time is spent on apps, many marketing leaders have quickly jumped to the conclusion that the only way to reach and engage their customers is through their own branded apps. Wrong! Here are five — often ignored — good reasons for marketing leaders to broaden their mobile approach beyond their own apps:
1. Branded apps are relevant. Yes, some of them (Starbucks, Nike, and many others) are success stories. But more often than not, branded apps don’t deliver real mobile benefits and engage only a small subset of customers. It's about time marketers connect their apps to their marketing and CRM systems to personalize and contextualize the brand experience. Marketers should launch fewer but smarter apps.
2. Apps offer real engagement opportunities. Yes, but only for a minority of apps, according to Forrester’s App Engagement Index. Several of the most engaging apps — Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter, and WhatsApp — either don’t have or only recently introduced mobile advertising offerings. Marketers must identify the overlap between the most engaging apps and the most popular apps among their brand’s customer base. Then they have to mix content and context to tell a story that is relevant to customers in their mobile moments. It will not be about ads but about sparking a conversation instead of broadcasting a marketing message. Marketers should select the most promising partners evolving their apps as marketing platforms.
Messaging apps have the potential either to become digital platforms or to significantly enhance the power of current platforms because they so clearly deliver the three things that determine digital platform power: frequent interactions, emotional connection, and convenience. WeChat is for example already morphing into a digital platform offering, thanks to the deep pockets of its parent company, the Chinese Internet giant Tencent.
While today’s opportunities are limited by consumers’ reluctance to engage with brands on such intimate channels and by immature marketing tools, it is definitely time for marketers to experiment and to anticipate the next steps.
Indeed, you’ve surely heard of the second-largest acquisition in tech history, Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp for $19 billion. However, you may not have heard of KakaoTalk, Kik, Line, Secret, Snapchat, Tango, Viber, or Whisper.
These messaging apps are the new face of social in a mobile context.
Contrary to social media that are generally public broadcast mechanisms that facilitate one-to-many communications, a messaging app is a typically private, one-to-one or one-to-few communication and media tool optimized for mobile. Such smartphone apps can access your address book, bypassing the need to rebuild your social graph on a new service. As Evan Spiegel, the CEO of Snapchat, puts it, “We no longer capture the real world and recreate it online – we simply live and communicate at the same time.”
By now, you've surely heard of the second-largest acquisition in tech history, with Facebook acquiring WhatsApp for $19 billion.
However, you may be less familiar with other messaging apps like LINE, KakaoTalk, KIK, Nimbuzz, SnapChat, Vibes, Whisper, and many others.
If you think messaging apps are just a free way to communicate, you’re missing their potential: They are Mobile’s Trojan horse, as explained by my colleague Julie Ask here.
Messaging apps are mushrooming.They illustrate perfectly the age of the customer, which Forrester defines as a new business era where your customers are now empowered through social, mobile, and other technologies giving them the power to disrupt your business. Why? Because they are mastering the four key market imperatives Forrester has identified as critical to differentiate in the age of the customer:
■ Transforming the customer experience over SMS and other messaging tools. Messaging apps offer differentiated and seamless experiences over SMS and other mobile communication tools. For example, they offer advanced group messaging functionalities, multimedia features, constant innovation, and ability to opt-in or follow brands at consumers’ convenience. They are now morphing into marketing platforms redefining social media.