Falling for mobile chat apps

  • Business
  • Saturday, 07 Dec 2013

“WHOA, what happened to Facebook messenger and why does it feel like I’m talking to you on my iChat?” That was the first thing my friend told me few weeks ago when we were chatting on Facebook (not during working hours ... of course).

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed few subtle changes to Facebook’s messaging service, especially for its mobile app, from being alerted to incoming messages via a floating bubble of your friend’s profile picture, (on a sidenote, I think flicking my friends floating profile picture around my mobile screen is more amusing than candy crush) to cuter animated emoticons.

In its most recent change in layout, I can’t help but agree with my friend that the look and feel of the messenging app is quite similar to the iPhone messaging app. With more users turning to their smartphones and tablets to access their accounts, its only natural for popular brands such as Facebook to tailor make their products to fit the mobile consumer.

In an interview with India-based news portal The Financial Express, product manager for Messenger at Facebook Peter Martinazzi said a lot of emphasis was given to the “performance and snappiness” with the upgraded service.

There has been several reports in the past month stating how Facebook has lost its relevance among its younger users, most of them turned off by the fact that more of their family members were joining the social networking site, leaving them to hide most of their “social” activities.

I even read an online report last week of how Malaysian youths preferred turning to mobile chat apps such as WhatsApp, WeChat, Line and KakaoTalk over Facebook, to connect with one another.

The report came as no surprise to me. The competition between mobile chatting apps and Facebook was backed by a recent survey done by UK-based research company, OnDevice Research. According to the company’s survey, which was done among 3,759 Android and iOS smartphone users, WhatsApp is the most popular social messaging service, followed by Facebook and WeChat coming in third.

Specifically the survey showed that in five key countries – the United States, China, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia – 44% of participants use WhatsApp at least once a week, 35% use Facebook messenger and 28% used WeChat.

I find this to be quite true. I was recently speaking to a friend who asked me if I saw her Line profile picture that was taken on her recent birthday. Line, if you are not already familiar with, is a free mobile messaging app which according to TechCrunch has over 300 million users. Now, personally, I prefer to use WhatsApp and Viber for mobile messaging. However, more of my friends are opting to use services such as Line and WeChat to communicate as they are attracted to the cute animated emoticons that they can send to one another.

I asked my friend why was she uploading new pictures of her’s on a chat app when there was Facebook.

“I rather share personal moments like this with people I actually have conversations with on a daily basis instead of those I only talk to when their birthday comes along”, was what she told me.

Though the main function of app’s such as Line is messaging, the ecosystem within the app is similar to that of a social network, where users are able to play games, post pictures and videos and even follow their favourite celebrities on their “official Line accounts.”

Celebrities such as Paul McCartney has an official Line account, which he launched with the release of his “new” album. The account provided fan’s with news on his latest releases, tour dates and more. Through his account launch, Paul even released a series of animated emoticons of himself to be used by Line users.

But its not only celebrities who are turning to messaging apps as new marketing platform. Homegrown brand Chatime partnered with WeChat a few months ago to enable its users to purchase over one million cups of Chatime, worth RM6mil through digital coupons. When I first heard of this campaign, I thought it was brave of the brand to venture into new platforms to engage with their consumers directly.

As more platforms grow and evolve, so will the options we as consumers have to engage with one another. While Facebook might still be the main website many of us log on to when turning on our browser, it will be interesting to see if the case is still the same three-five years from now.

  • Former journalist Malati Siniah used to cover news in the Ad&Marketing world, she now lives and breathes it through the running of a new online youth portal that she’s part of. Connect with her on Twitter at @mala_tee and let her know how often do you use Facebook vs mobile messaging apps.

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Business , messaging apps , facebook , competition


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