Facebook future-proofs its business with WhatsApp! ‘Social Messaging gets stronger.

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My daughter had her 13th Birthday recently, which entailed me transporting her and a couple of her friends to the venue for her celebration. All three of them insisted in sitting in the back of the car to be chauffeured, with their Smartphones and taking selfie photos that were immediately uploaded to WhatsApp and shared amongst their friends – some of whom were travelling to the same venue in a different car.

I indeed also use WhatsApp to communicate with my daughter, to immediately share photos of her birthday, when I’m away travelling and sporting events (although not quite as intensely of course), and other friends and business contacts. It’s great for communicating with others across such a ubiquitous Wifi / 3G and platform-agnostic environment.

Instantaneous, fun, self-contained, easy, dynamic, in-the-moment, compulsive, useful – this is why Facebook spent an inordinate amount of money on a relatively new App, however one that has approaching 400 Million users.

Facebook has made a hugely strategic decision to buy WhatsApp for some very compelling reasons:

  1. The Facebook parent captures a broad youth audience, which reverses the recent trends that saw the brand being seen as a more mature social media / tech company, used by parents and grandparents.
  2. Facebook moves to the trend of Smartphone instant messaging, on a stable and burgeoning platform. It helps Facebook to keep social messaging on an open platform.
  3. WhatsApp provides control with regards to what is shared and with whom. The experience also provides a huge amount of emotional intimacy and attachment, which is a trend that will only become stronger.
  4. The commercial return is a longer-term play and continued WhatsApp autonomy – for a period at least. The importance being the community of users and the affinity and loyalty they have for a brand over a period of time. Monetisation over and above the 99 cents can wait for the moment.

A fascinating development by a technology giant that wants to become bigger AND more youthful, and cement its place in ‘social communications’. The interest will be to see what other key technology players do next!?

Andrew Ford, February 2014

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