The first time I heard about the messenger app “WhatsApp” was back in 2009. I was in college, and some of my classmates who lived abroad used it to keep in touch with friends back home to avoid costly data charges. I thought it was a smart idea, and was slightly annoyed that it wasn’t invented a year earlier when I studied abroad and relied on “old school” email to communicate.

Fast forward to 2016 and messenger apps have evolved far beyond their early days of sticking it to the phone carriers while out of network. They have become engrained in our daily lives. Think I’m exaggerating? Take a look at the below sentences:

  1. “Did you get my Snap from Friday night?”
  2. “I’ll Slack you as soon as it’s done.”
  3. “Facebook message me the details.”

When people start freely using your app’s name as a verb in sentences, you know you’ve made it to the big leagues. If that’s not compelling enough, these statistics should be:

Over 40% of UK, US, & Australian teens are using SnapChat

A staggering 68% of 25-44-year-old internet users in China use WeChat

6 of the top 10 most used apps globally are messaging apps

Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp both have 1 billion users

77% of Fortune 100 Companies use Slack

Now that you see the numbers, it’s crystal clear that messenger apps are here to stay. But what exactly does this mean for apps as a whole?

Messenger State of Mind

In 2014 Facebook rocked the tech world by acquiring WhatsApp for a whopping $19 billion a mere 5 years after it’s birth. And while a seemingly bold move, it makes sense if you’ve been paying attention to the messaging trends. Zuckerberg realized that the time being spent using messenger apps was detracting from time spent on his social platforms (Facebook & Instagram). And when Facebook Messenger was unable to surpass the popularity of WhatsApp, he took a, “If you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em” approach.

Facebook isn’t the only social platform investing heavily in messenger capabilities. SnapChat’s entire premise is based on the idea of messaging your friends, and it’s proven to be wildly successful. Not only is it the most popular social media platform with teens, but according to Gizmodo, it now has more daily active users than Twitter, at 150 million.


SnapChat’s success is due to the fact that, at its core, it is an app messaging platform. It grants users the ability to remain private (if they want), and only share certain snaps with whom they choose. This is inherently different than traditional social networks like Facebook and Twitter, since your only option is to broadcast every message out to your entire network. Having control over who sees your snap undoubtedly boosts usage, especially amongst teens. Combine this sense of privacy with fun features like filters to stickers, and it’s clear why SnapChat is a homerun.

Carriers Are Taking Cues


Clearly, we’re not the only ones who’ve noticed how much messenger apps have been dominating. Both Google and Apple continue to make frequent updates to their own messenger apps. Apple has announced a slew of new updates to Messenger coming with iOS 10 this fall, from predictive emojis, to full-screen image effects and more. Google has also added more image features to its messenger app, including a GIF generator to its keyboard.

Apple and Google realize that their once dominant messenger apps are no longer, and face a major threat as competitors continue to move in and beat them at their own game. Both tech giants treated their messenger apps as an afterthought, and missed cues from social media trends to make them more interactive. As a result, they’re scrambling to keep up as more people turn towards better options.

What Can All Mobile Marketers Learn From Messenger Apps?

So what does all of this mean for mobile marketers? Simply, don’t overlook the power of messaging capabilities within your app. We are innately social creatures, and thanks to modern technology, with each generation the urge to share becomes stronger.

FitBit, for example, does a great job at tapping into messenger features to encourage more app sessions. They not only have a leaderboard showcasing which of your friends is most active, but also give you the ability to challenge friends, cheer them on, or message them. This undoubtedly boosts app sessions, and users feel a sense of community within FitBit. They’re able to stay motivated by connecting with other friends with similar fitness goals:

Spotify is another great example of an app taking advantage of messaging. Found a new great song? You can share it other Spotify friends directly within the app, or even message it to people outside of Spotify. This boosts discoverability, increases app sessions and even encourages new users to join:

Incorporating messaging components within your app allows users to remain social amongst a subset of friends with the same interests instead of broadcasting their every move to the world. This is an extremely powerful way to boost engagement and retention, as users create their own little community within your app. So take a play out of SnapChat’s book, and don’t overlook the power of app messaging.

Have an app that includes a messaging element? We want to hear about it below.