Are messaging apps the new social media?

by Cate Morgan
31 Mar 2016
4 min read
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Are messaging apps the new social media?

It’s amazing to think that the Facebook Messenger App has been downloaded more times than Facebook’s primary app itself, and that six of the top 10 most used apps globally are messaging apps. As of Q1 of 2015 the top four messaging apps combined had just as many users as the top four social networks (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Viber have 2.125 billion monthly active users globally, all mobile users) compared to 2.125 billion monthly actives users of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram combined (both mobile and desktop).

...people are migrating from public social media networks to private networks for their day-to-day communication.

People are logging into messaging apps not only to chat with friends but also to interact with brands, peruse products and watch content. Companies are still spending more time, resources and monetary investments on social networks but that will change as messaging companies develop and expand their services, in turn providing more possibilities for connecting brands, publishers and advertisers with users. Apps like Line, WeChat and Facebook Messenger are already partway to building commerce on top of a simple chat interface, and brands that are ready to enter at the ground level will be the ones that capitalise on the huge potential of all-in-one messenger apps.

An increasing number of people are migrating from highly public social media networks like Facebook to private “micro-networks” for their day-to-day communication. This move is particularly prevalent in the younger demographic of 18 to 29 year-olds, of these smartphone owners 49% use messaging apps. These apps are increasing in popularity with older smartphone users too: 37% of 30 to 49 year olds and 24% of those aged 50 and older use messaging apps. 

The latest Australian social media reports show the number of users are declining across major social networks at pretty significant rates:
Twitter 39% decrease 
Facebook 18% decrease 
LinkedIn 13% decrease
Instagram 12% decrease 

Whilst messaging apps worldwide are showing significant growth figures:
LINE 57% growth
Facebook Messenger 54% growth,
Snapchat 45% growth
WhatsApp 37% growth 
WeChat 37% growth
Viber 29% growth.

As the Internet, mobile phones, and text messaging spread from a niche computer engineering demographic to the general public, people have become used to communicating with friends and groups of people via text from an electronic device. Not so long ago, messaging was divided: you either chatted on your computer or you texted on your phone. The upsurge in popularity of social networks and smartphones transformed that, merging online behaviour with continuous mobile access. Mobile chat apps rose to fame as low or no cost alternatives to texting, but over time many have developed into fully fledged media portals, recognising that media and content are central to how we now share and communicate in conversation.

The messaging space is disjointed, different apps can serve different purposes, so if you’re considering signing up there are a few key things to consider:

Audience; know who the brand wants to target, and what behaviours they are already demonstrating, on both messaging and social platforms.

Location; if audience size is critical, go with the app that is most used in the market, which is strongly linked to country when it comes to messaging apps.

Action; decide what you want the user to do, and find the app that best allows them to achieve that task.

Where once messaging apps may have seemed like a monetisation dead zone compared to the data goldmine presented by social media networks, that’s changing as brands see the chance to reach audiences who open their apps not 15 times a day, like they do Facebook, but 25-30 times a day, like they do on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Brands follow audiences. So, it’s no surprise that messaging apps’ explosive growth has attracted brand, media owner, and celebrity attention, but before jumping into the messaging ecosystem, determine where and how your brand can add to the dialogue. Consumers are looking for content that improves their experience, not spam on a new medium.

Make no mistake, messaging apps are just getting started!

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