What can marketers do with social messaging apps?

Malaysians’ favourite WhatsApp messaging app has over 300 million users. Plus, they also have more daily active users than Twitter. But it is not just WhatsApp that has millions of users. Viber hit 200 million just a few months ago and WeChat has over 400 million users. Let’s just put it this way; looking at today’s usage, the mobile messaging platform has become somewhat attractive for marketers.

Apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Viber plans to use stickers, games, large clipart-style emoticons and text, to generate revenue. Most are hesitant to take the ad route fearing backlash from users. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see social apps companies monetize further the functions within that feature, like unlocking extra colors or drawing tools for a small fee.

The sheer amount of users and momentum in social messaging apps have given them such power and flexibility. They do not have to rely on monetization from ads. Moreover, marketers aren’t the only ones wanting a piece of the action. Mobile Network Operators, whether international ones like Virgin, or local ones such as Maxis and Celcom are always seeking ways to work with social apps, to recover the loss of revenue from declining SMS usage.

In short, there seems to be no room for marketers.

Or so it may seem. Recently, the top messaging apps in Asia, WeChat and Kakao Talk (mostly in Japan and Korea) paved a way for businesses that want to engage on these platforms.

In China, users can pay for purchases at McDonald’s directly within WeChat. One could just simply follow McDonald’s account in WeChat and discover an e-coupon for an afternoon tea deal. Coupled with online payment services offered by Chinese banks, users can just make payment without leaving WeChat. Other brands like Intel, Starbucks, Nike and Louis Vuitton are also seen on WeChat. As for Kakao Talk, brands who want to connect with users pay a special fee through the Plus Friends service.

Unless local banks take the cue soon and provide access to mobile payment within messaging apps, mobile selling remains a distant future. In short, marketers need to be creative in their partnership proposal with social messaging apps and step-up in their offering. Always keep in mind that user is king and interesting content is the only sustainable way to connect with them. Give out a free game, or sponsor a set of cute emoticons. Add real value in the usage of these social messaging apps. As long as we give users a choice, most will not mind to trade “ad-free” usage for a freebie. Social messaging apps can provide users with a choice of paying USD1.99 for a feature, or be exposed to your ad for 7 days.

Or we can start targeting WatsApp for message blasts instead of the traditional SMS. Knowing that it costs nothing for users to share videos, messages and audio notes through WatsApp, it makes more sense to concentrate all mobile message marketing efforts through WatsApp. However, for people to share them, the content needs to have creative or informative value. Marketers can craft creative messages during festive seasons, or send out information on latest promotions.

The future of mobile marketing is vast. Here and now, marketers have an unchartered territory to explore and own.

If they’re up for it.




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