Industry Challenges

  1. Fragmentation: The social media landscape is entering a period of hyper-fragmentation that may be a challenge to publishers: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram continue to loom large, but social media managers can now launch official channels on roughly 10 chat apps with over 50 million monthly, active users each.

    BuzzFeed, a perennial innovator in digital audience development, provides a great example of what it looks like to be on nearly all of these platforms. Starting with the launch of a share-to-WhatsApp button on mobile in February 2014, BuzzFeed has also built an official presence on seven additional major messengers, as seen in the timeline below.

  2. Analytics: For organizations accustomed to robust, real-time data, the lack of good analytics tools for messaging apps remains a major deterrent to adoption. The challenge is twofold: Strong analytics dashboards take time to build, and many messengers are privacy-centric by nature.

    The latter issue has led to an existential crisis for apps keen to remain true to their roots while also attracting brands and appeasing investors. To the far left, companies like WhatsApp and Telegram have made public promises to shun personal data collection and advertising. Closer to center, Snapchat and Kik collect basic information like age and location for ad targeting, but denounce “creepy,” hyper-targeted ads. Other platforms like Pinger seem more inclined to offer rich data collection and hyper-targeting of anonymized users. Specifically, Pinger leverages keyword data to let advertisers reach users based on their interests.

    Still, in a landscape increasingly driven by programmatic ambitions and data-centric decision making, chat apps currently deliver comparatively limited information in basic dashboards, or in some cases via analog reporting. Most are mobilizing to remedy the situation quickly, and a host of third party services are also beginning to create dashboard solutions based on the major apps' willingness to grant API access.

  3. Growing Pains: As messaging apps respond to the demands of spectacular growth, publisher partners we've spoken to have at times found it difficult to get consistent support or answers to questions about platform capabilities.

    Apps like Tango have also made large changes to their channel format for publishers— starting with a news feed that helped drive traffic to content, but transitioning to chat rooms geared toward discussion. While changes like this are understandable as part of a process for looking to find experiences that resonate with users, the volatility can be unsettling.

    Other platforms like WhatsApp currently have little interest altogether in providing tools for publishers. Their emphasis, for the time being, is purely on connecting users to friends and family. And while this may not technically qualify as a growing pain, it certainly poses logistical challenges for companies attempting to adapt the app to their needs.

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