We are part of the next great social transition. As the world moved online, we heralded Social Media as the definitive wave, the war cry of a generation, the way we’d live life for another two decades.
So much so that we mocked, when in 2014 Facebook bought that pudgy little featureless messaging service called Whatsapp for $19 billion. $19 billion meant that Facebook valued the 55-employee startup, at the time, more than companies like Harley Davidson, American Airlines, Ralph Lauren, UnderArmour or Xerox.
“Like many an ‘overnight’ success, the industry’s popularity has actually been years in the making — coalescing in a period of high-profile acquisitions and IPOs. In addition to Facebook’s WhatsApp purchase, Rakuten just acquired Viber for $900 million (a relative bargain), South Korea’s KakaoTalk is getting ready for a $2 billion IPO, and there have been rumors of a 2014 LINE IPO.”
But three years down the line, the world has changed. Social Media is no longer the beast it used to be. The Big 4 Messaging Applications (Whatsapp, Messenger, WeChat and Viber) beat Social Media’s Big 4 (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn) in terms of monthly active users, according to this 2016 BI article.
Research shows that this is a part of a bigger culture shift, as we move away from phone calls to messaging. It makes sense, messaging is easier, more casual and most importantly, non intrusive. Your phone isn’t paralyzed because you got a text, you don’t have to put off taking a dump because someone got the wrong number, your favorite song doesn’t cut out just because you got ping’d.
Such is the love for messaging, that we’ve forgone social media to pursue it. Instagram and Twitter lauched DM services, till Snapchat took it one step further and introduced “disappearing direct messages” for the ultimate expression of conversational freedom.
Companies that fail to integrate messaging into their customer engagements and marketing campaigns will suffer, in the same way that companies who failed to implement social media suffered in the years prior.
Intrinsically, modern sales and marketing tools are based on tools from more than a decade ago. Emails, pop up notifications, cold calls, spam and hoardings, all made to annoy the customer, rather than attract. Companies forcing themselves into the view of their consumers, crowding their airspace and inbox was the war cry for marketers across the world.
But society has moved on, with the advent of social media and messaging applications, it isn’t about who screams the loudest anymore. Companies that talk to their consumers are the companies that get to walk with them.
The leading messaging apps are engaged in an all-out arms race for user acquisition. Each holds specific regional strongholds, with WhatsApp claiming the most truly global presence, but most are successfully pushing into new markets and growing at incredible speeds.
The best brandfriendly bets are Kik, with over 70 million US users, and Tango, with 66 million US users, as well as Snapchat and Viber. Other platforms like Japan’s LINE, China’s WeChat, and South Korea’s KakaoTalk are likely to build a sizable US audience in the coming years, and actually offer some of the best brand opportunities. LINE is a particularly formidable competitor, as it has over 400 million registered users and earnings that rival Twitter — in Q4 2014 net sales were $120M.
Taking advantage of this boom, are companies that tailor “bots” on messaging platforms. Powered by Artificial Intelligence, these companies promise to improve customer engagement, lead generation and automation. We’ll learn more about chatbots and its terminology, in a series called Chatbot 18.
2017 was the Year of the Chatbots, and we’ve only just begun.