Perhaps it is because I have been hyper focused on “the age of the individual” and one-on-one communication platform growth this past week, that I’ve been trying to figure out the “why” behind the global growth in this area. The trend towards it happening is undeniable. For a really great summary of global trends in this area, THIS ARTICLE offers a lot of insights.
Although there is a lot of drill down content of interest, the bottom line is this: Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp dominate. Beyond that, depending on the country and often government restrictions, WeChat, Viber and others have high usage. WhatsApp has 1.5 billion users worldwide, and Facebook Messenger combined with WeChat also recent hit the 1 billion user mark. Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014, and although many in North America haven’t historically used it as much, growth has been steady fueled by the desire to communicate with other countries where the app dominates.
But back to the WHY.
I truly do believe the WHY behind this growth is being fueled by the desire to simplify, cut through the clutter of email and social media feeds, and frankly to be “more human.” Before I’m criticized for technology and apps not being human, I’d like to elaborate on HOW messaging apps are being used, and why the context and conversation style matters.
5 Reasons Messaging Apps are growing in the age of the individual
1. One-to-one communication. It’s one-to-one with a real person most times, and at the very least that’s the perception with some early adopters using AI route and auto bot responders at the top of the funnel before passing inquiries off to real humans in commerce applications.
2. Subject to messaging alerts, which get it noticed. Unlike things buried in email in boxes, or posts fighting for visibility in a social media feed, direct messages pop to attention.
3. Private communication. While the actual privacy can be debated, given the ownership of the platform, the perception is that it is single channel. Questions and inquiries are between two people only in a single channel.
4. Messages tend to be short and conversational. I think this might be key. We “talk” different in messaging apps. Inquiries tend to go back and forth like a conversation, rather than a longer inquiry that might be typical of email. Conversational tone tends to introduce personality. We feel like we get to know the person on the other side. Also, because messaging apps got their start connecting friends and family in fun ways, we tend to continue to use them that way, even applied to business.
5. Messaging is mobile based. This goes without saying, however as the internet is increasingly mobile use over desktop, the ability to communicate anytime, anywhere, in a time appropriate manner, one-to-one can only happen by mobile.
I’d like to share a personal story from this week to illustrate messaging within a commerce model. I had sent off emails to two different businesses last week – one to a scooter rental place in Hawaii, the other to a kite-surfing company in Noosa, Australia. I have business coming up over the next while that will see me being able to introduce a little fun mixed with work, so my inquiry was genuine. In both cases I hadn’t received a reply after a couple days, so I revisited their websites, from there clicked on their Facebook Page, and then went into Messenger and contacted them that way. I suspected I might well be dealing with a demographic age that was more alert to messaging then email, and I was right. Within a couple hours I had a response from both. It was back and forth, lively, fun and like talking to a new friend. We eventually changed the channel to email – partly because of the limits on sharing some materials, but that was to get more details. We continued to nurture the conversation on messenger, sharing photos and video, which was fun. I could highlight other examples with WhatsApp while in South and Central America, but the point being is, it’s the style of conversation and tone of it being personable which was so appealing. And it’s that personable approach which holds so much promise in bringing people further into the purchase funnel from a top line inquiry.
But my enthusiasm doesn’t come without some caution…
Communication via messaging apps means the platform owns the channel and content. In the case of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, that means Mark Zuckerberg. And you can bet, just like everything else he as has done with monetizing things, that eventually Messenger will also be a paid model – at least for business use, sort of like Pages is now to get your content seen, while personal profiles remain free. However, until that time, I think utilizing Messenger Apps is a great strategy, provided it is combined with a concerted effort to convert the contact to something that you can also “own” in the future at some point in the conversation. Capturing an email, would be a good example of that.
What do you think? Do you use Messenger or WhatsApp for personal or business purposes? What has been your experience? Leave a comment below or connect with me directly in a private channel: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Messenger @fiveminutemarketing
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