Why Messaging Apps Are the Future of Marketing

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With smartphone touchscreen keyboards, more people are sending text-based messages than ever before, and not just over SMS. There has been an explosion of messaging apps, from well-established social brands and upstarts nudging their way into this growing aspect of the social universe.

Messaging apps - suddenly, they’re all the rage. Here’s a look at the top 10 major players in this space and how they might monetize themselves in the future, what opportunities they present to marketers now, and how the messaging apps themselves might change the nature of marketing in the future.

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WeChat

The Chinese-developed WeChat claims to have 70 million users outside China and 300 million users inside China, making it the fifth most used smartphone app worldwide. Despite its large user base, marketing applications could be limited by Chinese government censorship. Luckily for Xiaomi, the Chinese government doesn’t have anything against this Chinese smartphone maker, which used WeChat to sell 150,000 smartphones in under ten minutes.

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Snapchat

Snapchat proved how valuable it is to the new world we live in by being the target of a serious hack attack. While it lost a bunch of subscriber phone numbers (4.6 million of them, to be exact) in a “data scraping” attack, which isn’t great. Maybe its founder should have taken that $3 billion offer when it was on the table. If the service survives this round of bad news, the marketing applications of Snapchat could continue to expand, like Taco Bell using the service to send coupons to its customers.

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WhatsApp

Midway through last year, WhatsApp announced it was processing 27 billion messages a day, prompting the FT to conclude that the app had done to text messaging what Skype did to phone calls. Brands like Absolut Vodka are beginning to use WhatsApp to engage with consumers.

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Kik

Yet another messaging platform that gets text from user to user while bypassing the SMS network and the charges. The big difference here is that it’s designed by Canadians. With 50 million users since last April and adding 200,000 users per day, that’s a lot of Canadians. With its new Cards venture, Kik is positioning itself as a true messaging platform, allowing developers (including marketers) to create their own Cards inside the Kik space.

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Nimbuzz

With 150 million users in 200 countries, Dutch-based Nimbuzz is no also-ran; it’s a real player, even if only 9 million of those users are in the United States. With in-app purchases available through it’s N-World store, there is all sorts of opportunities for marketers to connect with Nimbuzz users.

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LINE

The Japanese-based chat service, LINE, had over 200 million downloads by mid-2013, with 45 million of them in Japan. LINE allows users to buy “stickers,” which users can then use in their chats as oversized emoticons, generating a certain amount of revenue through these in-app purchases. But where LINE has really distinguished itself is with its WeChat-style flash sales: selling out of iPhone cases in 25 minutes and selling out of Maybelline make-up in only five minutes.

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Couple

Formerly called Pair, Couple is the app for boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses and partners who just LUV each other SO SO MUCH. Share text messages, to-do lists and maps with each other before “thumb kissing” each other? Marketers can sell these people anything, as long as it comes in pairs. With over a million downloads, there are hundreds of thousands of couples out there who need to know about your flower-delivery, vacation-planning or candy-gram business.

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Instagram Direct

Just last month, Instagram announced its new feature: Instagram Direct. Think of it as Snapchats that don’t get deleted. Since plenty of brands have added Instagram as part of their overall social media presence, this development gives those brands the ability to send private photos to followers and non-followers alike. Potentially a very big deal.

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Twitter Direct

Until recently, Twitter users’ direct message (DM) inboxes were usually home to spam with phishing links sent by people whose crappy passwords have been hacked. However, last month Twitter announced that users can now send photos via DM. This has the potential to seriously liven up the existing relationships between marketing teams using Twitter and their customer base.

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Facebook Messenger

Good news for marketers: Facebook is scanning users’ private messages to make them easier to market to. Bad news for everyone else: the same thing. Worse news for Facebook is that the whole practice of scanning private Facebook message content is becoming public through a lawsuit filed in early 2014 in federal court in California. The Facebook Messenger app, which is a successful spin-off of the mothership, could be affected by the attention the lawsuit receives and all of us should be watching closely.