Snapchat is apparently reaching ‘critical mass’, whether it’s a success metric we find useful or not, and the popularity of the platform has not gone unnoticed by brands. Indeed, the surge in usage of private and group messaging apps is something every brand marketer is keen to get involved in over the coming year, and we can only assume this will be a long-running trend. As such, the second in our series of Social Media Trends for 2015 is Messaging Apps.

Throughout this series we hope to highlight the practices, techniques and platforms that we see taking off throughout the year – each of them another rung on the ever-evolving ladder of social media innovation.

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2) Messaging apps

Remember when MSN messenger was a godsend and suddenly we didn’t have to call our friends on the phone and suffer the embarrassing (and anxious) ordeal of asking their parents if you could speak with them? No? Maybe we’re showing our age… But the point is, MSN messenger changed everything. Conversation became easier, there was longer to consider questions, emoticons helped us show exactly what we were trying to say even if we didn’t quite have the words for it, and best of all nobody could overhear you! Texting soon became the norm and you wouldn’t even have to worry about over-the-shoulder glimpses – you could chat away wherever you were, whatever you were doing. And for a long time text messages ruled the roost.

Social media came along and people became proud of themselves, proud of their achievements, their views, their knowledge and their friends. Everyone shared everything, from images to locations to videos, and gradually people became less enamoured with the act of sharing. So much was shared that none of it felt personal anymore, conversations had dried up. Content spoke the obvious and monosyllabic acknowledgments were all it took to feel recognised. But that personal friendship, the one-to-one interaction was beginning to erode. Until, that is, Smartphones brought social media usage to mobile.

Around 50% of social media networks are used via mobile so it’s no surprise that the ability to share and the ability to converse, having been brought together to the same device, began to merge across social platforms too. Twitter and Instagram DMs rocketed – you could share and chat at the same time. Suddenly everything became more relevant and the personal connections with friends began to flourish. But there was still a missing element – usual face-to-face interaction between friends couldn’t be completely mimicked in the virtual environment. WhatsApp recognised that friends like to converse in groups and throughout 2013/4 has grown its user base substantially as a result. Facebook were forced to further develop its Messenger app and new platforms like Snapchat allowed for increasingly new and exciting ways for people to interact on a one-to-one basis.

And it’s this direct one-to-one engagement which appeals so much to marketers. Social had already impressed the need, more than ever, for a brand identity. All social brands have found they need a message and a specific tone of voice to run throughout their content. But to bring this brand to life in a way which can place conversation and interaction at the forefront the experience allows for an always-on direct line to consumers. The potential for developing long-term relationships with an audience is colossal and some marketing teams have already started looking at this as a serious channel. In many ways, as text message marketing briefly managed five years ago, the advent of messaging apps and the ability for brands to communicate directly with segmented audiences signals a possible challenger for email marketing.

The potential for use with customer services queries is perhaps the most obvious but additional options for group feedback or tactical marketing campaigns stand out as options for the year ahead. Platforms with more innovative forms of delivery such as Snapchat allow for greater creativity. For example, the MTV Music Awards released teaser images and video to their Snapchat audience in the build up to the announcement of each award. Not only was this delivering exclusive content, but it delivered the content directly to its audience in a very persona way. As you can imagine, as fans reacted to each of the teaser posts and discussed their thoughts on who had or hadn’t won it created a considerable buzz around the awards which spanned all social channels and reached audiences who were previously unaware and unengaged. Certainly something we’ll see more of in 2015, whether it’s an increase in campaigns via messaging or an increase in the integration of messaging in to everyday business functions, the direct nature of its engagement can only be beneficial.

Image Credit, Flickr, Sam Azgor

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