Messaging apps: The new social media

By Louis Eksteen


Messaging apps on mobile devices are the new social media platforms to watch. With the recent Naspers six-month results came the news that Tencent, in which the global South African media giant has a significant shareholding, is actively expanding its messaging app WeChat’s reach. Speculation is also rife that Tencent is making offers for SnapChat, the current darling of messaging apps.

All the recent hype about messaging apps is indicative of a changing mobile-dominated communication landscape. It’s amazing how quickly technology continues to change our lives. With trendsters already calling messaging apps to be the major marketing trend for 2014, social media all of a sudden seems a bit like yesterday’s news.

For people used to sending and receiving SMSes, messaging apps can seem a bit far removed from social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. But for the WhatsApp generation who grew up on BlackBerry’s once-ubiquitous BBM, the new wave of socially relevant messaging apps, epitomised by SnapChat, represent a short attention-span but high impact universe of constant engagement. Ten-second by 10-second image/video/post/message at a time. (Other popular new messaging apps include Kik and KakaoTalk.)

For marketers, messaging apps represent a completely new and different challenge to social media. Instant really means instant in the case of messaging apps. Interruption marketing, notorious for irritating everyone with senseless spam SMSes, cannot work in messaging app marketing at all. The trick is not to broadcast, interrupt, or otherwise inject your brand message into people’s personal message preferences.

No. The way to “market” brands and companies is to become just like real consumers, with a personality, way of doing things and, most importantly, a content stream that others find interesting for the content itself, not for the marketing messages buried within.

This naturally requires brave an enthusiastic messaging apps marketing that will surely be difficult to measure in our brave new big data marketing world. But just like you don’t measure your personal marketing ROI, brands will need to let go a bit and participate to become a force in messaging app marketing.

More conversation, less shouting out, I reckon.