Messaging apps are on the rise. Earlier this year Facebook bought WhatsApp for $22 billion and the Chinese WeChat is seemingly poised for growth across the globe. More messages are now being sent on such apps than are sent by SMS globally. But messaging apps are challenging more than the humble SMS, they are changing the social media landscape.
Messaging apps are more than just SMS alternatives. They might also replace email, voice calls and also discussions that happen in public in social media. We are all becoming more conscious of what we are sharing with whom, and the best place for the discussions we want to have. Messaging apps enable the kind of discussions that we often want - bringing together a defined group of people to address a question, issue or topic - whether to arrange an event, discuss a TV show or ask advice on a purchase.
These small, and often fleeting, communities are often some of the most useful places for conversations and discussions. Rather than risk boring all our Facebook friends or Twitter followers with a discussion, we can have it in private. Mirroring how we often behave offline, messaging apps are allowing us to behave how we like to behave naturally.
This is a challenge to the traditional social media platforms and to brands that look to engage in and benefit from the discussions that happen publicly. In 2015 we will see an increasing volume of discussions in these private micro-communities as more people use apps such as WhatsApp. Locking brands out of these discussions but also preventing them from observing and learning from what we say to each other, how we discuss them and their products.
Following the lead of WeChat in China, brands will need to develop ways to engage with users within these apps. But they will also need to accept that the days where huge volumes of useful conversations are happening publicly are coming to an end.
Social media, and the way we all use it, is growing up. We are becoming more nuanced and we are adopting technologies that enable us to behave online in a way we are comfortable behaving offline. This makes it more difficult for brands to engage with people in social media and means they will need to work harder in 2015 to do so.
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