Head shot of account manager and blogger, Alex

By Account Manager, Alessandra De Santis.

While companies are getting to grips with Facebook as an integrated marketing and communications tool, there’s a new breed of digital channel that brand managers shouldn’t ignore.

Worldwide, six of the top ten most used apps are instant messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Line, Viber and WeChat. One of the most popular is WhatsApp, especially since its acquisition by Facebook in 2014. With reportedly around 500 million monthly active users, its footprint is vast.

The appeal of instant messaging is obvious: it’s free, immediate and it helps groups communicate easily. In fact, according to a recent Juniper report, instant messaging will supersede SMS, accounting for 75% of all mobile messaging traffic by 2018.

Statistics show that mobile devices are the fastest-growing way of interacting online. With few channels offering such a large mobile reach, messaging apps are definitely worth exploring. There are already success stories from companies like Clarks, the BBC, Hellmann’s and Coca-Cola to learn from.

While social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are effective for building communities, messaging apps are perfect for one-to-ones, like dealing with a customer query, offering help and advice and selling. Messaging apps by definition support dialogue – the key ingredient for creating meaningful customer relationships – and provide a personalised service in a digital world.

These apps are evolving fast, with some offering more than just messaging. A few are becoming ‘platforms’ in their own right, with access to content, ticketing and gaming. For example, Line offers games and stickers, while WeChat aims to generate revenues by offering brands official pages, enabling them to set up stores within the app.

The array of apps available might seem bewildering; but the place to start is to understand how and when your consumers use them. It’s important to differentiate between the specifics of each messaging app. It’s essential to deliver meaningful value to your consumers, which integrates seamlessly with your brand.

Marketing through these channels may be in its infancy, but many brand managers are spotting opportunities to experiment and get ahead of the curve. For those targeting Generation Z, there’ll be strategic benefit in leapfrogging companies who use Facebook. If not, there’s a chance they’ll be left behind.

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