The rise of mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp – used by at least 500,000,000 people a month around the world who share 700 million photos and 100 million videos every single day – is one growing facet of a multi-dimensioned object that I call “the visual social web.”
It’s not a separate thing to the social web; rather, it’s a part of it that I think will have greater significance to people who use such a service, because it’s about pictures not only words.
And what about words. aka text messaging? That was the prime reason for many to start using a service like WhatsApp: that and the fact that it lets you send and receive the equivalent of SMS messages without incurring charges from your mobile operator (because it can use wifi not only cellular networks for such messaging transmission and reception).
According to some metrics, WhatsApp users send and receive 64 billion text messages every day – it’s almost mind-boggling – so text is a huge part of overall online communication between individuals.
Yet it’s visual messaging that I think is the more disruptive, primarily because of the appeal it has for marketers who want to get their story-telling out to their target audience across social networks that are richer and more appealing than just words alone. I’m sure you will have seen or at least heard about numerous studies and research in the past year that confirm the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words.
The WhatsApp metrics about photos and videos are compelling indeed in this regard, and I would expect: 1) to see those metrics increase even more; and 2) to see more interest by marketers in visual story-telling that actually engages people, not simply broadcast messages to them.
For all that to be in place, you need to know a lot more about those you wish to engage with, what marketers traditionally call the target audience that I mentioned earlier.
That made me think about a dark side that I can see happening. Maybe it’s the big hurdle for marketers to jump over in their learnings about how to really connect with people in the mobile online world.
I’m referring to news this week that Tumblr plans to scan all the images on its site for insight into a person’s sentiment about a brand.
That makes total sense to me as part of the essential need to better understand your target audience. If technology has evolved to make it possible to actually do that at scale, what a tool!
And the dark side I mentioned? Steve Hall at AdRants explains it succinctly:
[...] One wonders what will become of all the people who post “I hate brand xxx” photos. Will the brand police swoop in and pummel the person with trollish commentary? And if someone has positive things to say about a brand will they incessantly be held up as a poster child for said brand on social media? And if anything remotely like this happens, will Tumblr users game the system for their own benefit? Or simply punk a brand by enlisting all their followers for a bit of viral shenanigans?
As someone said nearly a decade ago, it’s not what the software does, it’s what the user does.
Oh, and check this out – ‘Selfie Stick’ Takes Rooftopping Self-Portraits to the Next Level of Crazy:
The new frontier for marketers?
(Screenshot at top via Mashable)