In March 2015, Business Insider reported that Whats App, Facebook Messenger, We Chat and Viber reached a combined total of 2.125 billion active monthly users globally. This figure reflected mobile users only and matched the number of users on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin including desktop. It’s no surprise then that in January 2016 the big 4 messaging apps surpassed the big four social networks in terms of users.

This shift in the social network world as we know it is interesting as we know many networks have come and gone.

But why do social networks decline?

There are many reasons. Often, when the time and effort associated with being a member of a particular social network outweighs the benefits, a decline in users is likely. In this instant, real time landscape, often when one person leaves, their friends are not far behind and a rapid decline in demand is the result.

Messenger Is Rising

The way many of us use social media to share and interact is fundamentally changing. The shift that’s occurring in mobile technologies means less social activity will take place in 2016 in public and more will take place in private chats and groups.

According to the deck, “Mobile ate the world”, by 2020, 5 billion people on our planet will have a smartphone and over half of that 5 billion will have messaging apps.

Three factors to consider:

Ubiquity

Cost efficiency, cheaper data and improved features. For the younger generations, mobile apps became increasingly popular because they were a free alternative to texting.

Mobile Innovation

Take We Chat as an example. WeChat recently tipped 700 million active monthly users. However, it’s more than just a messaging app. You can order a taxi, buy food, reserve movie tickets, check in for flights, play games, download music, watch films and the list goes on.

Changing Consumer Behaviours

Younger generations are transitioning out of broadcast social media like Facebook and Twitter and switching to more private communication tools like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Why the shift though? If we look at our personas, we have a public and a private self. It seems this younger generation are using social media more strategically, not posting their entire lives online but curating content for their public profiles and saving their real selves for platforms like SnapChat.  

Whats App

The Future

It’s no wonder Mark Zuckerburg is so interested in the Chinese market, their messaging apps are much more than basic messaging. While primarily, they are there to enable one to one interaction, the real opportunity here is to remove barriers to other digital transactions and provide significant commercial capabilities too.  This is evident in recent Facebook Messenger updates and developments.

Messenger announced a partnership with KLM which now allows users to receive statues updates and resolve customer service issues within the app e.g. rebooking a flight.

All of this points to a new type of commerce, a social or conversational commerce, whereby not only can the user can do everything from one interface, but through a chat, messaging or other natural language interface to interact with people, services or brands.

Ultimately, you and I will be talking to companies over WhatsApp, Messenger and other messaging services, sooner than you think.

For Brands

It’s important that brands and businesses start to consider messenger apps as part of the social media eco system or as an additional component of your overall mobile marketing strategy.

Messaging offers us the opportunity to engage with people in many interactions at the right times, and in interesting ways. There are many benefits of using chat and messenger apps in your advertising – consider simple SMS – where the open rate is 98% vs 22% with email. It’s no wonder that Coca-Cola says it spends 75% of its mobile budget on SMS marketing.

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