Publishers are making a push toward messaging apps. After all, messaging platforms have overtaken social media in user count, and are helping media organizations across the globe improve their outreach and re-establish control over content delivery.
While the move to messaging is a necessary step for the industry, it is essential that publishers understand what messaging applications are available – and what each app can provide them – before moving forward.
Not every messaging platform offers tools that are equally as advanced or optimized for publishing as those of other messaging apps. Different platforms often grant companies different metrics and automation capacities. Messaging apps may also serve audiences of separate age groups and from distinct parts of the world. All of these elements may ultimately affect the ROI that media companies will see from this dark social outreach.
In this blog post, we have examined six different messaging platforms to give media organizations a must-have understanding of what each app has to offer in terms of publishing, content distribution, and audience reach.
1. Facebook Messenger
Facebook’s messaging platform was initially released as “Facebook Chat” in 2008. In the years that followed, the app was expanded into a stand-alone version that users could download to their smartphones, or even sign up for without having a Facebook account. One of the most widely used messaging apps worldwide, Facebook Messenger reported 1.3 billion active users as of July 2018.
Facebook Messenger offers a reasonable degree of flexibility and features for journalists. It has a fully featured Application Programming Interface (API), allowing publishers to implement chatbots and transactional messaging on this platform. As of 2017, Facebook Messenger has enabled augmented reality effects for developers, which lets users add effects to photos and videos. Although these effects aren’t inherently useful for publishers, they reflect a company that is on the lookout for new ways to connect businesses and customers.
WhatsApp is currently the largest global messaging app, with 1.5 billion active users. Its popularity attracted the attention of Facebook, which purchased the platform for over 19 billion dollars in 2014. Despite Facebook’s big business plans for its own messaging app, the company has been slow to monetize WhatsApp, citing the desire to avoid inundating its users with ads and other unwanted content.
Recently, WhatsApp seems to have petalled back on this intention. The company announced the release of its Business API, meaning that the company is opening up to chatbots and other features that were previously unavailable for publishers. Per WhatsApp’s monetization strategy, businesses can receive messages from users for free, as long as they reply within 24 hours after the message is received. If businesses fail to respond by then, they will be charged, making automation a good idea for this platform.
As of today, WhatsApp’s Business API allows developers to integrate with external software, but it is still not fully featured. The company is also still trying to be selective about its use case. As Mohammed Shareef writes for HackerNoon: “Anything that doesn’t fit into the idea of the customer to business communication is to be rejected.” Given the company’s progress as of late, it is likely that they will provide greater flexibility – and a more sophisticated API – in the future.
Telegram is another popular messaging app and is particularly predominant in Europe and Central Asia. While its user count is smaller than the bigger players (the messaging app last reported 200 million active users), Telegram is growing quickly. According to the company’s CEO, as of April 2017, Telegram’s annual growth rate was higher than 50%.
Telegram was created to be secure, and its end-to-end encryption has attracted users in countries like South Korea, where privacy has been a concern. The company has also received attention in countries like Russia for declining demands to facilitate government access to user data and communications (Russia has tried to block the app as a result – with little success so far). Even for users in countries without authoritarian governments, Telegram’s privacy features are particularly attractive after Facebook’s latest data scandal.
As far as journalism is concerned, Telegram has some of the most powerful capabilities for publishers on the market. Channels allow publishers to reach an unlimited number of subscribers, and chatbots automate engaging connections with users. Telegram’s platform also includes features such as inline bots, in-app payments, large file sharing, and more, all of which provide a rich experience to the end user.
LINE was developed in response to the damaged telecommunications infrastructure in Japan after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. LINE has 214 million active users, most of whom are located in Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, and Indonesia. Despite an attempt to grow its user-base in the United States and Europe in 2013, it has since refocused on regional growth opportunities.
LINE is known for being a pioneer in monetization and for being the first to roll out industry-changing features, like stickers. According to TechCrunch, “LINE currently has more than 35 apps available to download, including its core messaging app, to a light version for emerging markets, social games, a music streaming service in Japan and Thailand, an Uber rival in Japan and Webtoons, its cartoon app.”
LINE offers a publicly available API; however, it is limited.
WeChat’s Chinese name is “Weixin,” which means “micro-message.” According to research firm, China Skinny, “WeChat’s reach and influence are unrivaled in China’s online space. It touches everything from consumers communicating with their nearest and dearest, to sharing their most special moments, to buying everything from cinema tickets to taxi rides.”
Like LINE, WeChat has diversified features such as an in-app service channel, a social timeline, games, payments, and more. WeChat has had an evolving API and bot platform since 2013, making this a good platform for publishers interested in using chatbots to automate engagement with a Chinese user base.
Viber is a messaging platform that was created in Israel in 2010. It has a large user base in Eastern Europe, and several Middle Eastern and African countries. On Viber, businesses can communicate with consumers via public chat, private messaging, bots, and sponsored stickers.
Publishers can create “Public Accounts” on Viber, enabling them more easily connect with and be discovered by users. For publishers who wish to adopt chatbots, Viber has some rules, including that chatbot behavior must be as stated in the bot profile; the chatbot must be able to greet users who engage with it; chatbot response time must be less than 5 seconds; and the bot must be able to respond to all kinds of Viber message types.
Comparison of existing platforms by features.
Each messaging platform has its strengths and may be better suited for different organizations and end-goals.
Based on the capacities of each messaging platform, we recommend that publishers distribute content via Facebook Messenger and Telegram. These platforms provide a much more organic experience to their users and offer better tools and analytics to publishers. In the event that the publisher wishes to explore direct monetization, it is important to remember that both platforms support online payments.
Because of its high user count, we also recommend that publishers use WhatsApp. However, it is important to keep in mind the limitations that exist with the platform’s current initial API. While certain functions can be performed on WhatsApp, this platform lacks the features and functionality that exist for on other messaging apps. Fortunately for businesses, WhatsApp plans on updating their API every 45 days in their early phase of development. The frequent changes and updates that are coming for this platform make it worth watching.
For more information on what messaging apps can do for publishers, check out our blog post, 5 Important Reasons Why Publishers Need Chatbots on Messaging Apps.
This blog post can be found in our eBook, Streamlining Content Delivery with Messaging Bots. For a free download of this eBook, click here.
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