Could Instant Messaging Apps Be the Next Big Thing in Your Marketing Plan?
Confession time. My first AOL screen name in middle school was MisterEMan83. Because…well I have no idea really. I lived a life of awkwardness then (and debatably now), not mystery. Regardless, my sweet (read: embarrassing) handle and I would spend hours hogging the phone line chatting with my friends.
Now at 32, I’m well on my way to being a kids-these-days… adult, so it’s tempting to look at instant messaging apps like Snapchat as just another young adult obsession. But then I look at the numbers.
At the height of AIM’s popularity the service reported 18 million simultaneous users. Respectable, but wildly eclipsed by today’s apps. SnapChat’s reportedly has more than 100 million monthly active users, WhatsApp has 800 million monthly active users and Facebook Messenger (who recently acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion) has 600 million monthly active users.
What’s the draw?
The Wall Street Journal wrote a fantastic piece on why messaging apps have taken off the way they have, noting its largely because one-to-one messaging more closely resembles how we normally communicate with each other. Whereas more established platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are more of a broadcasting model. The WSJ article also mentions that while platforms like Facebook may have more users, messaging apps like Snapchat are opened at a much higher frequency throughout the day.
What does this mean for me as a PR professional?
No, don’t abandon your Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn strategy in light of this news. But you do need to start asking yourself how your brand might be able to use instant messaging platforms, especially as each crystalizes its advertising partner strategy. Here are some examples of how you can use instant messaging to achieve your communication goals.
- Lead generation: It might sound weird, but vodka maker Absolut recently used WhatsApp to add contacts to its lead list by promoting an invite-only party where users had to message the doorman to gain entry.
- Customer service: Think about it, if people are gravitating toward messaging apps for direct, immediate communication, it makes sense to use it for customer services, where direct, immediate communication the top priority. This is one of the main benefits Facebook Messenger promotes on its business page.
- Promote content: Snapchat debatably is doing the best at providing brands an avenue to promote content to younger audiences on their mobile devices. If your customer skews younger, don’t dismiss as an option. Given its global audience, the Wall Street Journal also uses WhatsApp to share internationally focused stories to its expat channel.
I know, you finally got everyone in your company to see the business value in social media and now there’s this. But as platforms like Facebook get more crowded, it’s important to find new ways where your brand can directly reach your customers – and instant messaging might be just what you need.