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A.D.D (attention deficit disorder) is hardly a diagnosis anymore; it’s an epidemic. People’s attention spans are rapidly becoming smaller and smaller (the same length as a goldfish’s, according to some researchers), people are more likely to become distracted while doing a task, and, as any parent of a millennial will tell you, smartphones have massively exacerbated this phenomenon. It’s not just teachers and parents who have been struggling with our ever decreasing attention span, either; businesses are also desperately trying to not only grab, but hold our interest. But as attention spans decrease, an interesting phenomenon is happening simultaneously: we are using fewer and fewer apps. Mobile users in the U.S. and U.K. spend 80% of their time in just five apps. How are these five apps shanghaiing all of these scatterbrained, inattentive millennials?

Unsurprisingly, Facebook is the number one app in which users spend the most time. And Facebook has successfully monetized this fact, by implementing a mobile advertising strategy that allows businesses to target users in micro-moments (for a definition and explanation of what micro-moments are, see here).

But it is not truly their advertising strategy that has made them a 63% year-over-year revenue growth (according to their recently released insanely impressive quarterly earnings statement); it is the loyalty and engagement of their users. Facebook wasn’t always good at advertising, but they had the space to figure it out because of their massive access to customer data, as well as their incredibly addictive product. It is these things that we should look to emulate: incredibly high engagement and personalization through customer data. It was these two foundational elements that set Facebook up to be the advertising behemoth it is today.

The Keys To Micro Moment Domination: Engagement And Data

It’s easy to say that you should be increasing engagement while also collecting customer data. Doing it, on the other hand, is much more difficult.

Facebook is an easily imitable example for both, though: their engagement strategy has essentially consisted of community building. Obviously, being a social network, this started with all of the elements that make it what it is today: timeline, photos, status updates, article sharing, etc. Facebook Messenger, though, took their mobile strategy to a new level, and solidified them as mobile leaders. The first tenets of a good community engagement strategy are:

  • Have a social element to your product
  • Have Chat

Mobile games have harnessed both of these elements already, which explains why games generated approximately 85 percent of mobile app market revenue in 2015, representing a total of $34.8 billion across the globe (see our post on how mobile games have dominated the app economy).

Chat, in particular, is rapidly becoming the most salient way in which we communicate- WeChat, which enables chat, posting, events, ride hailing, and payments, is used 10 times a day by the average Chinese person. Facebook owns the two biggest platforms in the global messaging market: WhatsApp has over 900 million monthly active users (MAUs) and Messenger has roughly 700 million MAUs. WeChat ranks third with more than 600 million MAUs.

Through Messenger and WhatsApp, Facebook has garnered the level of engagement it needed (and the subsequent level of data) to offer advertisers a unique micro-moment targeting opportunity. Where other apps struggle to meet customers in their time of need because the customers simply don’t go into their app, Facebook offers advertisers a promise that their users will be there throughout their days.

Micro-moments rest on the premise that a user will turn to their phone in a moment of need- but the A.D.D. attention spans of users today, determine that they’re likely to get distracted by a new message or a Facebook notification when they turn to their phones. In order to successfully drive users today into your app, you must offer them the things they most seek out in their phones: engagement with others through chat.

How Communities And Chat Lead To Revenue

WeChat, as its name suggests was primarily a communication tool. However, they’ve quietly taken over almost every facet of users’ lives, with enterprise add-ons that allow users to transfer files, do conference calls, file inventories etc.; functions that allow users to make payments, order rides, and online shop; and of course video call or chat in both work and private situations. By building a product around communication, WeChat was able to monetize in various ways because they had such massive engagement and such a loyal community.

Chat has already become the primary way in which younger generations communicate, and businesses that are right there with them are succeeding. You don’t need to be a chat-based app to win; but you do need to have chat as a primary mode of communication within your app. From Facebook to mobile games to WeChat, the companies that are dominating the app landscape are right there with their customers: providing a robust community of users, and chat as a way for these users to communicate both with each other, and with the app itself.

Published August 31, 2016
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