We Are Social released some findings from a report on social media use around Asia. One of the report’s biggest findings is around the growing adoption of mobile chat or group messaging applications.
Group messaging apps allow users to send messages back-and-forth between groups of friends or coworkers or people with a shared interest. For example, I can set up a private group chat between my former college roommates to stay in touch instead of connecting with them on a network like Facebook. It’s a private, niche community of only my friends communicating as needed using text, photos, videos and even digital art called stickers.
Instead of Facebook dominating the Asian market, apps including KakaoTalk and Line have more users than both Facebook and microblogs. There’s also WeChat, which has 15% more users in Asia than Facebook.
This is important. Asia often offers a glimpse into what we can expect to see in the United States. Many countries in Asia typically see faster adoption rates among consumers when it comes to digital technology and social networking behavior than we see in the United States. With that in mind, these findings matter, whether you’re a global, national or local business.
The Rise of Group Messaging
Group messaging is not new in the United States, however. The app GroupMe allows groups of friends or colleagues to build a group within the mobile app and then send messages back-and-forth. WhatsApp allows users to send messages to friends in the form of text, audio and video without using SMS. Other apps like Fast Society, Kik and Glassboard offer similar functionality.
The major technology players have taken notice as well. Facebook launched its standalone Messenger app to easily send messages to your Facebook friends through this mobile app solely dedicated for that purpose. Google+ allows users to send messages to people within a Google+ circle.
People are looking for more private, more intimate ways to connect with the people they care about and have a shared interest with. Users are often connected to so many people on major social networks like Facebook and Twitter that having intimate conversations with their closest friends is often difficult. There’s also the issue of privacy. The ability to have private conversations with select groups of people on Twitter, for example, is often difficult or even impossible. This is of particular concern in countries in which the government is monitoring public conversations.
Where this is Going
Users are optimizing their social behaviors to get more out of their digital lives. One group, in particular, has a propensity to use group messaging apps. That group is teens. They already text regularly. Group messaging apps appeal to SMS users while bringing features not available through typical SMS. Teens are the future of social media and marketing. Their behavior is what marketers will soon need to contend with.
So where could this lead us?
- More Fragmented, More Closed – Consumers are creating their own mini social networks of smaller groups they want to communicate with such as friends, coworkers and family. This means a more fragmented social landscape with many micro social networks limited to a certain number of individuals.
- More Niche – People can create micro networks limited to people with a shared interest or passion. Instead of all passions being on one large network, people can create small networks limited to a single topic.
- More Private – Group messaging means users can limit who is part of the conversation and who isn’t. This may mean a brand’s ability to be part of a conversation is limited as well.
- More Mobile – Group messaging apps are mobile to the core. These apps are mobile in nature, which means they continue to drive the trend of social networking moving away from the desktop to mobile devices.