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Social media usage is constantly changing. Due to an ever more conscious audience, activity is predominately happening behind closed doors in private groups and over messaging apps. This can already be seen through the huge growth in platforms such as WhatsApp and Snapchat. Change in social behaviour is going fundamentally change the way brands reach their audience.

The graph below from a Business Insider report illustrates how messaging apps have already surpassed the top 4 social networking apps in the last quarter of 2015.

This graph from a Business Insider report illustrates messaging apps have already surpassed the top 4 Social Networking Apps in the last quarter of 2015.

Business Insider Report

Business Insider Report

But how can you tap into this market?

Both WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have been rumoured to be toying with the idea of adverts. Snapchat is also in the midst of developing V3: a self-service platform with the help of a former Facebook exec, meaning drastic changes could be around the corner for the platform.

But this is just speculation and hearsay. What can you do now?

Some brands like Adidas are already trying to get ahead of the curve. The brand plans to test the capabilities of ‘Instant Messenger Marketing’ by sending content out through the likes of WhatsApp and FB Messenger. Those that have opted in will receive content before it hits the public eye, offer invites to events and access to Adidas’ ambassadors such as athletes to artists

In theory, private message marketing will physiologically feel more personal to an audience and help brands build closer relationships with current and potential consumers. That being said, brands will run the risk of being seen as intrusive if not careful. It will be interesting to find out how the Adidas campaign plays out, and whether engagement rates match those of public social activity.

So what else is there?

You have also probably heard about the announcement at Messenger Bots from the F8 Facebook conference. Facebook believes bots will help streamline communications between brands and their consumers.

Through the introduction of bots on messaging platforms, users will be able to perform the same functions they could through multiple apps, without the need to install them.

Everything from booking a cab, checking the time of a flight and making a complaint could all be done through messenger. But this is nothing new for those from China who are already using bots on WeChat.

What does this mean for marketers?

In order to use ‘Private Messenger Services’ in campaigns, public social activity will need to be used in order acquire opt-in audience, similar to ‘Email Marketing’.

So that instant messaging doesn’t suffer the same fate as many ‘Email Marketing Programmes’, content must be as personalised as possible and not seen as spam. This doesn’t mean individually messaging your audience – rather having a solid CRM or a brilliant messenger bot to achieve relevancy at scale.

I’m not saying that ‘Dark Social’ (buzzword alert) is going to take over traditional social, but if part of a well-planned social strategy, private marketing could help brands to leverage both their earned and owned media.

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