Think for a second about the apps on your phone. Take another second to think about the apps you use on your phone. We bet that one of the (very few) apps you’re using is an Instant Messaging one (IM or simply messaging app).
Most probably, it’s one of the apps you use the most, more than your social media apps (How many times a day do you open WhatsApp vs. how many times for Facebook?).
WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and QQ (China), LINE (Japan), KakakoTalk (South Korea), Kik and Telegram are all popular IM dedicated apps. But the phenomenon of instant messaging is alive and kicking on other platforms as well – Snapchat’s chat, Twitter’s DM (Direct Messaging) and Instagram’s Direct. Viber, Slack, Google Hangout and Skype are used to send and receive direct messages by hundreds of millions around the world every day.
Bigger than social media
In 2015 IM apps caught up on the amount of monthly active users (MAUs) with social networks. The gap is growing since then and although our intuition might imply something else, there are more users on IM apps than on social. The numbers, according to Business Insider (see below image) show 3 billion MAUs on the 4 most popular messaging apps vs. 2.5 billion MAUs on the 4 most popular social networks.
One to One communication
The answer to the question in the title could’ve been email*, and no doubt that email is still huge (and will be for a while…). However, it seems that IM is going to take over in the next few years. It’s enough to observe young people and their relationship with emails vs. direct messaging to understand.
*In general, what is called “dark social”, the category which to both direct messaging and direct emails belong is an interesting part of digital which we’d love to get into, but unfortunately, not in this article
One of the major differences between IM and communicating via a feed to a large audience is that IM is a completely direct communication, where you have the user’s full attention. Further more, as it’s private and personal, you can adjust your marketing messages according to the user viewing your message.
Bigger than text
The messaging apps’ foundations started with SMS – plain text messages but they evolved into so much more than that: audio, files, links, images, GIFs, contacts and videos all form part of what people send to each other every day via these apps.
If you spend some time with kids, you probably recognize the different pattern of the way they use messaging apps. WhatsApp for them is an actual social network. They’re members of many big groups and transferring huge amount of information among each other, whereas the rest of us manage their communication mainly via private conversations (one person) or small family/friends groups.
If you want a hint into the future of messaging apps, you don’t need a time machine, simply check out what WeChat can do – ordering food, recommending a service and paying online are a quick view into the app’s massive capabilities.
What it means for businesses
The trendiest word in the past 12 months or so, since Facebook opened its messenger app to chatbots is, well… bots. We talked a bit about bots and their 2017 context here but if to bring it into the messaging context: it’s not only about opening an easy way for clients/potential clients to communicate with the business. It’s also about enabling easy and fast financial transactions, improving customer satisfaction and increase sales by having a machine that solves problems, “knows” how to talk to users in a human way and can work nonstop.
You don’t need an app for this – one of the biggest advantages of chatbots is that they’re an added service. They can be integrated into existing platforms, saving the need in another (unused) app.
Further more – where there are users – there’s attention and where the attention is – there are ads. No more busy feeds, instead – direct and personal message. You’d probably be able to customize your personal message according to past interaction, interest and engagement. Client retention will be easily achieved, as it’s a one-on-one conversation and it’s saved on your chat inbox.
Direct messaging is definitely going to be one of the main ways to communicate with clients and as it’s a new territory from a business perspective – should be learnt, tested and then tested again, optimized and then optimized again… until the next best thing will come.
We’re curious to know where it all takes us.