When I met my husband in 2008, our first connection was Facebook. Facebook chat was our way of staying in touch. A few months passed by and we upgraded to Google Chat – after all, Gmail was where the 20-something spent most of their day during the 9-5 block. I even found a way to sync G-chat to AIM and the opportunity to be lost in meaningless conversations surrounded my Internet presence.
Eventually, phone numbers were exchanged. Much to my dismay, he was an iPhone user and I was loyal Blackberry girl. I had hoped to continue the relationship over BBM, but SMS it was. Mobile messenger in some form or fashion became our preferred method of communication and the only time I heard his voice was IRL. The introduction of emojis made our relationship even stronger for now we could communicate without words…
Today, I’ll send him a Snap every now and then or an Instagram chat – if he would install Facebook Messenger on his phone already, we could get back to our roots.
Today, more than 2.1 billion people use a social messaging app such as WhatsApp or WeChat, according to Portio Research. In the United States alone, 29 percent of adults with Internet access and 36 percent of smartphone owners use at least one messaging app, according to recent data from the Pew Research Center. As a result, users send about 30 billion messages each day.
In fact, the total number of users of the top four messaging apps (Facebook Messenger, Viber, WeChat, and Whatsapp) is about the same as that of the top four social sites (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter).
But beyond making meaningful connections with your future soul mate, the mobile messenger landscape is rich with potential for consumer-brand marketing – some say it already is the future of marketing. And with every app experiencing exponential growth, its no wonder some brands are dipping their toes in this space.
The Indianapolis Colts became the first NFL team to reach its youngest audience. They took advantage of Kik Promoted Chats to launch a game that takes followers through seven levels of a choose-your-own adventure story about rising through the football ranks from high school player to the pros.
Hellmann’s tapped WhatsApp to connect with consumers in South America and help them tackle what to make for dinner. For ten days, Hellmann’s allowed consumers to register for WhatsCook on a dedicated website, and then receive one-on-one guidance on making a bespoke meal from a chef via WhatsApp.
Taco Bell uses Snapchat to announce new launches, promos and menu items with 80 percent of users opening the brand’s snaps and 90 percent of them watching a sent video in its entirety, even if a clip is 5 minutes.
Startups to help monetize messaging apps are gaining traction as well – let’s take Inmoji for instance, a software service that allows retailers to develop unique and interactive branded emojis for use in messaging platforms. Embedded with unique content selected by brands themselves, Inmojis can share mobile gifting, location-based offerings, loyalty programs, contests, mobile commerce and payments, as well as product discovery.
And as messaging apps outpace the original social network, we’re seeing Facebook invest heavily in this space. In the last few weeks, Facebook Messenger continues to rollout new features across the globe. They are testing Snapchat-like disappearing messages, introduced Photo Magic, which will scan photos added to your camera roll and suggests if you want to share it with your friends, and in September, they announced a way to monetize Messenger with a new ad-type called “Click to message” ads. Businesses will be able to design ads about their company or product, and then Facebook would place a little “Message” button at the bottom. If a person saw the ad and clicked the message button to send the business a question or comment, the business would pay for that ad click.
So if you’re considering a mobile messenger campaign (and you should, “Within the next three years, mobile messaging will grow faster than the Internet, adding another billion users, according to a new forecast from Activate chief executive Michael J. Wolf.), keep these five points in mind:
- Developing the right mobile messenger campaign can be challenging and the key is not be intrusive. As users allow you into their private space, they will be looking for value. Consider the right mix of content and contextual relevancy to achieve your desired level of engagement.
- If you’re trying to reach millenials, you’re in the right space. Sixty-three percent of 18-34 year olds are active mobile app users according to one recent survey. If you’re trying to reach Generation Z, even better. As Facebook and Twitter usage is practically non-existent for this group, consider messaging apps to deliver content and engage/immerse a young teen, tween audience in your content or brand. The good news is that they are receptive if approached the right way as chat offers seamless integration vs. disruption on their channel of choice.
- Do your research to ensure you’re activating the best platform to reach your goals. The popularity of messaging apps is tremendous across emerging global markets, yet still growing in the U.S.
- Consider how messenger will fit within your current content framework and communications ecosystem. Map out your channel mix to ensure the business value is present.
- Analytics and measurement is still a work in progress, so test-and-learn to gain a better understanding, but be mindful of how the KPIs will effect your bottom line this early in the game.
Last, but not least, think about it this way – as humans evolve and behaviors take shape based on the advancements around them, so should your consumer-brand marketing approach. Follow the lead of your target audience and make sure to show up in the right place at the right time with the right message to increase the probability of success.