The Message In Messaging Apps

Editor’s note: Owen Andrew is a journalist based in Southern California.

Text messaging is on a decline in favor of a new kind of social networking app seeing an increase in relevancy that is expected to continue. From Kik to Line to Viber to WhatsApp, social messaging apps could come to define social media for younger generations. Following the development of messaging apps will be key to staying relevant on social media.

Messaging Apps Are Standard In Asia

Line and WeChat are already hugely popular in China and other Asian countries. Accordingly, North American and European marketers shouldn’t be too far behind. TenCent’s WeChat, MiTalk (which recently released a significant update), EasyChat, Paltak (which recently purchased TinyChat), Hike and more are all some of the most popular and common ways of interacting via smartphones or other mobile devices in China, India and other parts of Asia.

These offer a rich market for consumers and advertisers alike. Mostly popular with the younger demographics, these apps reach the coveted next generation(s) of consumers, and the speed at which they are growing in popularity means that mobile messaging is hardly a category that any advertiser can ignore.

Free Apps = You’re Paying With Your Data

Most mobile apps are free – with the caveat that you’ll see ads specifically targeted to things like demographic and general interests–which are revealed by what you’re sending in the messages themselves. This paradigm allows advertisers to reach a relevant audience with their ads, and users a free and personalized experience – even if the personalization is for commercial purposes.

The streamlined, mobile-centric design even offers the possibility of a resurgence in relevance for a few old technologies. QR Codes, for example, are easy to integrate into text-and-picture-based services. Additionally, new developments in augmented reality and lots of buzzword-laden talk of the Internet of Things mean that, in a message-based, social-media landscape, social communication could be a large part of this new paradigm of connectedness.

Google Is Getting in on the Game

There are some serious rumors that Google is going to announce a standalone messaging app that won’t require a Google account. Granted, this is a major change for the company, considering that all of its other services require that you give up some data in exchange for using them. That said, Google is most likely going to be tracking users’ activities on this theoretical service – in order to improve their advertising, of course.

This may have been prompted by Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp. Or it may have been in the works all along. It will likely be free to use, which places it in direct competition with Line and even WhatsApp (which charges a small annual fee). Could Apple be far behind? After all, once these two behemoths square off, only the consumer wins. Especially if more personalized and customized social messaging services are the end result.

1 Billion Users

One billion users is probably just the beginning of the potential for Japanese-based Line, one of the most popular mobile messaging apps. So naturally, any smart marketer would want a piece of that audience – particularly if they want to reach teenagers and early twenty-somethings or even millennials.

Line is far from being the only popular messaging app, however. There are plenty of possibilities depending on the demographic and general audience that you’re targeting. And as a user, there

But remember – people go where their friends and family already are — especially when it comes to social messaging and social media in general.

The Next Steps…

So how does an individual or company get started with mobile messaging or social media-centric messaging? It starts with understanding a new paradigm of communication involving not just text speak, acronyms, emoji and other digital shorthand methods of communication, but also stickers, which are sometimes-moving, sometimes-static images, generally in a consistent art style, that are being integrated into most of these services.

While messaging apps are both popular and still very much in development (Snapchat, which has seen many significant developments in 2014, could arguably be lumped into this same category) paying attention to their rise in relevancy is key to moving into the social networking landscape of the new year.