Move Over, Social Networks; The Age of Messaging Apps is Here

The last ten years can aptly be called the Age of Social Networks. Facebook stormed the stage on February 4, 2004; thereafter, the Twitters and LinkedIns of the world continued vying for our time and attention. But, to quote the legendary Bob Dylan, the times they are-a-changin’.

According to a report by Business Insider, the top four messaging apps now have more users than the top four social networks. Go figure! All this time it was messaging that we were really after! But when you think about it, it makes so much sense. We all use social networks for one reason or another, but I will bet you my last dollar that the majority of us use it to do what? Send messages to people we know!

Whether it’s uploading a video, sharing a picture or just telling people what we’re doing at this moment, it’s all about messaging – instant, multimedia communication to anyone with an Internet connection, to be exact. In other words, whether I’m using WhatsApp, WeChat, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger or any other “primarily mobile” application, what I’m looking for is to be able to connect with the people I know and the people I hope to get to know.

And that brings us to the numbers. Facebook boasts of 1.65 billion monthly active users; Twitter has 310 million; LinkedIn has 100 million. But now look at this:

  • WhatsApp – the premier messaging app – hosts a user base of over 1,000,000,000 users.
  • Facebook Messenger already has 900 million monthly actives.
  • QQMobile boasts of more than 800 million.
  • WeChat currently has 700 million.

So there are some heavy numbers coming in from messaging apps over social media apps – possibly one of the main reasons why Facebook pushed so hard to get its users to download the Messenger app – the same thing they’re doing with Moments.

As an aside, did you know Moments shot up from 60th place to Number One on Apple’s App Store after Facebook warned that users’ synced photos would be deleted forever if they didn’t download the app?

So, that now gives us two strategically brilliant acquisitions: Facebook buying WhatsApp and Microsoft buying LinkedIn. To think about it, paying $19 billion for an app that was not monetized in any way looked foolhardy, to say the least. Who’s laughing now, when estimates put WhatsApp projected revenues at $5 billion per year within the next five years?

What’s tilting things in favor of messaging apps is the amount of time we spent on them. According to a report by ComScore, we spent 91% of our mobile and web time on messaging apps. That pretty much says it all. That’s why Facebook shelled out all that money for WhatsApp.

If you think about it, one of the oldest technologies for messaging is email. Then came instant messaging, then file sharing, conference calling, video conferencing and a host of other services. Throughout all those technological innovations, the common factor was that we were spending most of our online time on them.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not going to wipe out social media by any stretch of the imagination. What it will do, however, is position companies like Facebook at the forefront of online social interaction. Anyone who jumps on this trend now is bound to benefit from it five-ten years down the road.

And that’s exactly what will turn Facebook and other messaging giants into forces to reckon with over the next few decades.