The text message is dead, long live instant messaging

5 May
Instant Messaging could be the next big thing…

Instant Messaging could be the next big thing…

It’s about three months now since social media platform Facebook purchased instant messaging service WhatsApp for $16billion. The dust may have settled from the jaw dropping figure attached to the sale, but still we don’t think that was the big news about the purchase.

Before we get to that though, you might not be fully familiar with WhatsApp. So here are some facts:

  • WhatsApp was launched in 2009 as a free instant messaging service for iPhone users.
  • To avoid growing too fast it became a paid for app and was launched on Android, Blackberry and Windows phones.
  • As of November 2013 WhatsApp had 190 million monthly active users.
  • Over 10 billion messages and 400 million photos are shared across the service each day.

There has been speculation as to why Facebook paid such a large sum for the service. It has no advertising support and only charges users a tiny fee (about 75p) once they’ve been using the service for a year. Not a great business model on the face of it.

So why should we care? While this new service and its purchase by Facebook does not affect you directly, it gives us an excellent example of how fast new ways of communication are moving.

Looking back a few years fax machines were the must have office item. Then advertisers sold the idea that only successful people had pagers. These items today are now all but defunct. At the time it seemed they were the pinnacle of modern working, yet their use was relatively short-lived.

While many people still use text messaging it was reported earlier this year that for the first time in two decades, the number of texts being sent is falling, as low-cost services like WhatsApp grow in popularity.

It seems that just as we all get used to one way of working, another comes along and rewrites the rule book.

As the latest trends and technologies arrive, it’s dangerous to think “this is it, nothing else new will happen”. Modern ways of attracting new business are changing faster than ever before. The need to stay ahead of the curve and adapt quickly to the needs of your current and future customers is vitally important.

This seems like common sense for many. Yet still too many resist change, hoping the last time they upgraded or adapted was enough to see them through.

We’ve yet to see exactly what plans Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has for WhatsApp, but in five short years its creators have gone from unemployed dreamers to billionaires, because they’ve provided a new generation with what they want. If proof was ever needed that businesses need to move with the times, this is it.

This article, written by Paul Hutchinson, first appeared at Black Letter PR.

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