Social messaging is instant messaging or chat applications created around social networks for communication on mobile phones with less limits and more features than traditional texting. They use the app’s interface and the internet to send messages rather than SMS service. Messaging apps are popular and have grown to over 5 billion monthly active users worldwide. Top apps pull in over one billion each such as WeChat (1.2 billion) and Facebook Messenger (1.2 billion), Kik (300 million), Viber (236 million), and Line (217 million).
A Nielson Messenger survey found various generations are using messaging from Millennials (65%) and Gen Xers (65%) to Boomers (63%) and say that messaging improves their lives and their relationships by making communication simpler (69%), more ongoing (65%), easier for groups (65%), and more frequent (63%). People are using messaging to stay up to date with friends and family (59%) and to extend their networks (54%). Over the next two years they expect to use messaging apps more for communicating one-to-one (50%), with groups (60%), and, the most increase, with businesses (67%). In fact, 53% said they would be more likely to shop with a business they could message directly.
People like social messaging for features such as text chats, group chats and notifications, but also social features like status updates, media sharing and stickers. With advanced features they can chat with friends, obtain customer service, make calls, play games, access content, and buy products. Messaging apps also let businesses use chatbots to for customer service, sending content to users, selling products and services and purchase advertising.
The most popular messaging apps vary by region. According to SimilarWeb, WhatsApp is the dominate messaging app across most of the world. Facebook Messenger has supplanted it as number one in countries like the US, Canada, Australia and select Western European countries. WeChat is dominant in China and smaller messaging apps are most popular in other regions like Line in Asian Pacific countries and Viber in Eastern European countries. The messaging app Kik is unique in that it is most popular among a demographic – younger users age 13 to 23. Another messaging app consideration for B2B is Slack, which is a main internal communications tool for many companies.
As with other social media platforms business and organizations should consider adding messenger apps to their marketing, advertising and public relations strategies because their customers are increasingly using them and are beginning to expect brands to be there as well. Messaging apps can provide access to direct sales, customer service and to extend the reach of brand content distribution in an area known as dark social, the —84 percent of online sharing through private channels without a referral source. Thus, it isn’t tracked as social shares or referral traffic.
Broadly there are three ways brands can interact with consumers via messaging apps. Content marketing in messaging apps can do more than share with engaging ways to tell stories, demonstrate products, create engaging quizzes, trivia and games. Special offers, sales, promotions and even direct sales can occur in messaging apps unlike social networks. Also, the real-time nature and privacy of conversations makes messaging an ideal environment deliver customer service.
Much of these attractive features are enabled by chatbots. Chatbots are computer programs that simulate human conversation for customer service or information acquisition and distribution. Chatbots can be used for customer service, but can also be used to make brand content fun and engaging. One of the best ways to fully understand the possibilities of using messaging apps for social strategy is to see what brands have done on various messaging platforms.
The NBA increased basketball fan engagement during the NBA Finals and the NBA Draft. NBA’s bot on Facebook Messenger provided fans with instant access to highlights resulting in over 350k interactions. Teen celebrity magazine J-14 used two bots to deliver content and customized quizzes on the messaging app Kik to build up a young consumer subscriber list of 500,000. Miller Lite created a football game day collection of branded digital stickers used in Kik and Viber. The campaign led to over 600,000 downloads and millions of sends.
The British fashion brand Burberry took a different approach reaching consumers in China with a culturally relevant campaign via WeChat. During the Chinese New Year Burberry sent users an image of a letter with a pink bow and told them to “Shake” to open the gift and send a personalized Burberry greeting to a friend and celebrate Lunar New Year. Users could shop their New Year collection within Burberry’s WeChat store and sign up to win limited edition Lunar New Year envelopes to be picked up in-store.
Two food brands have created messaging strategies to help consumers make meals built around their brand’s as ingredients. Hellman’s mayonnaise created the “whatscook” WhatsApp campaign in South America where by entering numbers on the website chefs would contact consumers in WhatsApp offering live cooking advice. Based on a picture of ingredients chefs provided recipes teaching users to cook with pictures and even videos. Average interactions were an amazing 65 minutes and the effort reach 5.5 million people. Knorr foods created a chatbot, Auntie, to answer the question “What’s for dinner?” for moms in Thailand using Line. Auntie provided personalized recipes for great family meals which were viewed over 1.6 million times resulting in an increase in Knorr stock cube consumption by 50%.
Macy’s has partnered with Viber to offer in-chat shopping where users can search and share Macy’s products in the messenger app. While purchases happen via a link, the messaging platform is working on full in-app ecommerce features for the future. Adidas has used WhatsApp to build hyper local brand communities in cities across the world. The brand has found messaging to be a great tool for fan engagement offering members first notice of news releases, invites to events and access to Adidas’ ambassadors. Finally, cosmetics brand Sephora has found a way to simplify their scheduling process in Facebook Messenger. Their reservation assistant makes it easy for users to book makeovers and that has helped increase in-store sales.
Like many other social platforms, social messaging apps have also moved to paid social with native advertising options. Facebook Messenger offers sponsored messages, Kik offers promoted chats and Viber offers sponsored content. Line sells in app ads and WeChat offers Moment ads. WhatsApp is still holding out and has not offered native advertising options for businesses and organizations.
Has your brand considered using social messaging apps? In what ways could your target consumers benefit from increased engagement in these platforms? For more insights into the big picture in social media strategy consider Social Media Strategy: Marketing and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution.