Showdown: Social Media vs. Messaging

Posted by
Yoav Barel
Head of Mobile
Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - 10:39

In April 2014, Facebook announced that folks would no longer be able to use its native chat feature to message friends and family. Instead, users who wanted this had to download a newer app: Facebook Messenger. You can guess the response: a lot of unhappy people — or, in Facebook lingo, one big “dislike.”

But the geniuses behind this decision had recognized the quick ascent of messaging and its potential to overtake social. Fast-forward to today, and Facebook Messenger is thriving. It has now been downloaded more times than Facebook’s primary app itself, according to Digital Trends. Plus, it’s constantly building more and more features and functionality, such as branded messaging, payments, and an all-in-one event calendar, into the platform.

With everything the network is up to (and, more importantly, with everything we’re up to on the network), The New Yorker asks if Facebook should be paying us.

The rise of messaging apps

While the “state of messaging apps” may be in flux, the constant is their insane popularity, which prompt them to continually evolve. They’re the consumer’s preferred channel for connecting. The latest study on mobile messaging from Pew Research Center tells us that 36% of all smartphone owners use messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Kik, or even iMessage. And this statistic skews higher for the younger adult demographic, of course. Leading the pack is WhatsApp, with 800 million monthly active users, Statista reports, followed by Facebook Messenger at 700 million. LINE and Kik fall somewhat lower on the list, with 211 and 200 million MAUs, respectively.

Check out the infographic below for more stats on messaging.

 The Social Showdown






































Need more convincing that the future of meaningful connections lies in messaging? Read my last post on the Connected Customer blog: “It’s Time to Message Up Your App.”

Are messaging apps the “new social”?

Social: adjective so·cial \ˈsō-shəl\

From Merriam-Webster: Relating to or involving activities in which people spend time talking to each other or doing enjoyable things with each other.

So we ask: Are messaging apps the new social? Based on the definition above, you could say so. But it really depends on how you use each network.

For most, messaging apps like Snapchat, Kik, and Messenger are for socializing with friends and family. Facebook, Twitter, and other more “traditional” social medias are for making connections, but they also have a heavy hand in publishing. Think of social media as a megaphone for distribution versus the two-way conversation that happens on dedicated messaging apps.

How do you consume information, update your network, and connect during conversations?

So back to the original debate: Is messaging the new social? Which will thrive, and which will burn out? Trick questions! Neither is replacing the other. People use each channel for different purposes.

When we want to catch up on the latest happenings and consume information, we turn to news outlets, industry blogs, or even our favorite TV hosts (like Stephen Colbert). We seek out information broadcasted and distributed over TV, radio, social media, RSS, and more.

Now, let’s say we have the news. Whether it’s a change in relationship status (“it’s complicated”), a baby announcement (“it’s a girl!”), or a Pinterest-worthy picture of lunch, people flock to more traditional social platforms to update their own networks.

For the current status on career developments and professional news, check LinkedIn; for recent photo albums and lifetime milestones, check Facebook; for quick, disappearing status updates, check Snapchat.

Another common use case and one more traditionally thought of regarding brands is customer service. Brands have been monitoring networks and review sites like Yelp and even Twitter for years in efforts to connect with people who are complaining as well as amplify praise from satisfied customers.

This leads straight into the next most common use case for social connections — conversations, where messaging apps are huge: They let consumers (and brands!) swap photos, videos, texts, messages, and more. Plus, consumers prefer the convenience of asynchronous messaging over voice. Relationships are made and sustained via one-on-one engagements, exchanged when it’s the right time for you to respond and not, necessarily, when a message is at the top of your newsfeed.

When messages are personal, they’re even more meaningful.

Some final thoughts...

It’s hard to ignore a giant like Facebook as it enters into the messaging space that companies (like LivePerson) have built a global, decades-long business around. As consumers continue to validate technologies like messaging and their preference for mobile, it becomes increasingly evident that brands need to get on board.

So, “social vs. messaging” isn’t the right question to ask, because messaging takes “social” to a whole new, more personalized level. Social facilitates information sharing, whereas messaging makes it easier for us to connect with the people that matter — ultimately bringing more meaningful connections to the social scene.

What are your thoughts on the future of social, messaging apps, and mobile connections? Which brands are getting it right? And what do you, as a consumer, expect in terms of brand engagement via your social and messaging platforms? I’m looking forward to your thoughts in the comments below!

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