Mobile, mobile, mobile. It's on all the smart people's lists of things that are getting big in 2015. But what does that mean for comms people?
by Dave Briggs
The growth in popularity of messaging applications, such as Whatsapp, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Kik and others have caused a few communicators to start thinking about what the impact of these new channels might have on the way we engage with our communities.
However, it turns out that messaging is, in fact, the least interesting thing about messaging apps. You see, it’s all about the platform. To find out more, we must look east, and to the incredible rise of WeChat in China.
WeChat started out as a messaging application, and features huge numbers of active users - 438 million of them, in fact. It offers all the usual messaging app features - text, photos videos, voice calls, audio messages, emoji - it’s all there.
These days it does a whole lot more than just messaging though. WeChat is a fully-fledged platform, offering the ability to watch videos, listen to music, play games, buy stuff, send money to people, order a taxi or a takeaway, book a holiday and even apply for a mortgage.
With a WeChat account, a user can basically do anything.
THis links to the increasing eminence of the smartphone in computing. WeChat has taken off in such a big way in China because for the majority of people living there, the smartphone was their first experience of having a computer, and of using the internet. And if their first experience of smartphone was creating a WeChat account… well, it’s obvious.
A similar explosion is unlikely to happen in the West because most of us are already using computers and the net, and we’re sticking with our online banking and favourite e-commerce websites.
Looking forward though, there is a generation of people who have just been born for whom the connection between the internet and computers will have never existed. For them, phones and to a lesser extent tablets, will be what digital looks like to them.
This generation of users will likely make up the big users of messaging platforms in the future. The race for the big tech firms and the messaging platforms will be to get these users signed up to their accounts first, and lock them in.
This presents challenges and opportunities for communicators looking forward to what the medium of the future will be. It will be mobile, there’s no doubt about it - but what form will it take? It’s all up for grabs.