After first announcing its intention to simplify Messenger back in 2018, Facebook is now close to launching the next stage, with TechCrunch reporting that The Social Network is rolling out an updated layout for Messenger which eliminates the ‘Discover tab’, taking it down to simply ‘Chats’ and ‘People’ as your in-app navigation options.
As you can see in this example, provided by social strategist Jeff Higgins, there are now only two tabs, which puts the focus squarely on your private conversations – here’s a shot of the current Messenger layout for reference:
As noted, that aligns with Facebook’s push to make Messenger more focused. Back in 2018, then chief of Messenger David Marcus noted that:
“Over the last two years, we built a lot of capabilities to find the features that continue to set us apart. A lot of them have found their product market fit; some haven’t. While we raced to build these new features, the app became too cluttered. Expect to see us invest in massively simplifying and streamlining Messenger this year.”
Facebook has slowly been working towards this goal since, and this will be the biggest shift to date along these lines.
As you can see in the example, Stories will also get added attention. In the new layout, when you tap on the ‘People’ tab, the initial screen will be a showcase of all the Stories your connections have shared in the last 24 hours. You’ll then need to switch across to the ‘Active’ list to see which of your connections are online.
Facebook has confirmed the update, and said that it will begin rolling out to users in the next week.
It’s a big shift, which in some ways, changes the direction for Messenger. But really, that change has been brought about by users anyway, as they’ve dictated how they prefer to utilize the app.
Back in 2016, Facebook announced its Messenger Bot platform, which, at the time, it heralded as the next big thing, the next big shift that would make Messenger a key, functional utility in virtually every aspect of your day-to-day life.
Facebook seemed to be modeling its approach on the Chinese market, where WeChat has become a key connector for everything from paying your utility bills to buying groceries to even getting an instant loan, direct in the app.
Except, it didn’t play out that way.
While Facebook saw the future in bots, what it actually found was that most users weren’t overly keen on the option – and while the number of bots has grown (there were 300k active Messenger bots at last check), and usage of bots is increasing, they’re still not seeing rapid take-up, and they’re unlikely to become the transformative tool that Facebook once hoped.
Bots also don’t look like being the thing that finally facilitates more extensive Messenger monetization, another key aim for The Social Network. While messaging use is on the rise, Facebook is still grappling with that next stage, and converting all that attention into a more solid revenue stream, via both Messenger and WhatsApp.
Bots, and the Discover tab, were once seen as key to this, but this new update clearly shows that this won’t be, as the Mandalorians say, the way.
So what is the way? It seems that Facebook is now looking to payments and eCommerce to facilitate the next shift in messaging monetization – and while this update does lessen the focus on business discovery in the app, people will still be able to connect with the businesses that they choose, which is obviously what Facebook has found is the more common method of business connection in the app.
What we’re seeing in other markets is the push towards Facebook Pay and WhatsApp Pay, which would enable easy funds transfer within messaging streams. Ideally, Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency would also play a part, though that’s still largely up in the air (despite adding another new Libra Association member this week).
The playbook here appears to be to initially facilitate funds transfer within messaging streams, then, once money is already being moved in these apps, to add in eCommerce tools to provide shopping options with the same funds, then build on the payments eco-system from there.
Facebook’s already buying up partner businesses for this push. Last year, the company purchased Indian eCommerce provider Meesho, which primarily operates on WhatsApp.
If Facebook can build WhatsApp Pay in Asian markets, that could provide a whole new business eco-system within the messaging app, which could also provide the template for the same via Messenger in Western regions.
That seems to be the next big opportunity, and within that, the simplification of Messenger makes logical sense. Rather than trying to push people to expand their behaviors, Facebook’s looking to pare back, and align with what people want. That’ll put more onus on individual businesses and developers themselves to get people to their Messenger apps and tools – but then, they’ll probably have to use Facebook ads to do that, another win for the company.
From a social media marketing perspective, the change will obviously change bot and app discovery, which could have an impact, while it could also put more emphasis on Stories, given their prominent placement.
But really, the biggest implication will be down to connection, and ensuring that you give your audience reason to connect with your business via Messenger. Without the same discovery options, people won’t randomly come across your Messenger presence anymore (if they ever did), which will mean that you need to provide them with a reason to connect outside of the app itself.
That adds another consideration to Messenger marketing, but really, it’s likely much the same as it’s always been. The update just makes this a more refined focus moving forward.
Snapchat Publishes New Report into the Importance of Privacy Tools in Facilitating Online Sharing
Snapchat has published a new report which provides some deeper insight into the importance of online privacy, and the key concerns that users have in regards to the content that they share online.
The report, based on a survey of over 13,500 people in 11 markets, uncovers some valuable considerations for both platforms and marketers, and reinforces the logic behind some of the latest social app developments, in regards to increased user control, encryption, and more. It also sheds light on how such controls – or the lack of them – can influence people’s behavior online.
It’s an interesting overview – you can download Snap’s full, 28-page report here, but in this post, we’ll take a look at some of the key points.
First off, Snap notes that both Snapchatters and non-Snap users are concerned about online privacy, with 81% of respondents noting that online privacy is important. At the same time, only 65% indicated that they’re satisfied with their current privacy options.
That’s a key gap in the current digital connection process which underlines the need for increased control measures on this front, and more options, like private messaging and audience controls, to help reassure users.
Which is the next key point – the report highlights the three key benefits of digital privacy, based on responses.
Each aspect facilitates more open communication, and without relevant measures in place, social platforms are not able to cater to these needs.
Self-expression is one of the most important elements, with users feeling more free to communicate when they’re comfortable with the available privacy tools and options.
Indeed, the majority of respondents indicated that privacy concerns impact what they share online, and how they communicate.
It’s an interesting consideration – originally, with the arrival of MySpace, Twitter and Facebook, there was a new sense of freedom and capacity to share your voice, and connect with like-minded people around the world, based on shared interests. Over time, that’s gradually shifted, as more controversies and concerns have arisen from over-sharing or past post insights, which has seen more people become more enclosed once again, and shy away from public sharing.
Which makes sense, but it also means that what we see online is often not representative of the breadth of views out there, because many people are concerned about what sharing their thoughts and opinions could mean, and how it could potentially be used against them. Which is why more privacy controls can open up greater levels of expression and engagement, and why more people are looking to advanced tools, like messaging encryption, to gain that extra level of assurance.
Which is also why Snapchat has been able to maintain and grow its audience, despite rising competition in the space.
Snapchat has always presented itself as a key alternative for more intimate, private discussion, a place for friends to connect, not to broadcast your life to the world. And while that is also more restrictive, in a content sense, Snap’s approach has clearly resonated with a lot of people, and enabled it to carve a niche in the broader social and messaging space.
The report also goes into depth on the full reasons that influence how and why people share on social, and the tools that people rely on to enhance their experience.
There are some interesting insights and considerations here, which, as noted, largely reflect the latest social media innovations in improved audience controls, evolving private messaging tools, safety functions, reporting and more.
Without these elements, people simply won’t share, and won’t engage online at the same rate. And as we move into the next stage of digital connection, where we’re likely to spend even more time online, and potentially expose even more of ourselves, such measures will remain critically important in order to keep people safe.
You can read Snapchat’s full ‘Global Perceptions of Privacy’ report here.
New Report Underlines the Importance of Social Media in Connecting with Gen Z Consumers
To glean some insight into the shifting state of customer expectations, Qualtrics surveyed 9,000 consumers, across a breadth of age brackets, to measure the variance in importance on a range of measures between Gen Z, Baby Boomers and everything in between.
The findings highlight some key considerations for all brands – first off, the data indicates that Gen Z is the most likely to be upset by a negative interaction with a company.
“Gen Z is the generation least likely to report being happy with their customer experience (on a scale of upset to delighted). Gen Z was the most upset by their interactions with federal agencies (only 13% gave a positive rating), followed by investment firms and airlines. Gen Z gave the highest ratings to social media and retail stores.”
Gen Z consumers have grown up with social media and eCommerce, and they increasingly expect brands to cater to their specific needs, while they also know that they have both the means to publicly criticize a company due to negative interactions, and the capacity to easily switch, with a simple online search providing a range of competitor brands.
That’s increased their expectations around customer service and response, and it’s important for brands to consider this in their engagement and actions.
Younger consumers also value public health response, with Gen Z respondents twice as likely as Baby Boomers to stop purchasing from a brand because they felt their safety measures were insufficient. Which also works the opposite way too.
Gen Z consumers also put more emphasis on brand values – potentially a side effect of the social media era – with younger shoppers almost three times as likely as Baby Boomers to say that they were very familiar with the brand values of the products they choose.
With brands now able to communicate more about their business online, that’s opened up more capacity for consumers to also get an understanding of their stances and approach, and that expanded capability to connect with a brand on a deeper level can be a very powerful draw to generate stronger bonds and business.
Indeed, for Gen Z consumers, maintaining a social media presence was the second-highest ranked way for brands to maintain relevance. No other generation ranked social media presence in the top three.
If that insight doesn’t underline the importance of building and maintaining a social media presence, I’m not sure what will – younger consumers want to feel more connected with every business that they buy from, and social media is the key linkage that facilitates such for this group.
There’s a range of additional insights in the full report from Qualtrics, which you can check out here. Some key considerations for marketers, especially those looking to connect with younger audiences.
Instagram Adds New Stickers and AR Features to Celebrate Lunar New Year
Instagram has added some new features to help users celebrate Lunar New Year, including new, themed stickers and a custom AR effect.
As you can see here, the new stickers commemorate the Year of the Tiger, with art by Hong Kong-based Ophelia Pang. The stickers provide a simple way to mark the event, which will be celebrated from January 31st to February 15th.
In addition, Instagram’s also added a #MyLNY2022 AR effect, which provides another way to engage with the celebration.
There’s actually a range of Lunar New Year effects available in the app, which you can find by using the search option at the end of the effects carousel.
Instagram released a similar set of Lunar New Year tools last year, which is part of its broader focus on maximizing engagement around cultural events.
As explained by Instagram chief Adam Mosseri:
“When it comes to celebrating cultural moments, we want to be a platform where creators showcase their work.”
Showcasing creativity is where Instagram is increasingly looking to align itself, as it works to differentiate the app from TikTok, which is more based on communal expression and meme-based sharing. If Instagram can put more focus on creative output, specifically, that could be a way to lean into the rising Web3 movement, in which, theoretically, creators could be better rewarded and celebrated for their work.
These Lunar New Year tools showcase the art of some creators, but the larger vision for Instagram is that it may be better placed to provide a platform for more artists in the same way, which could help it regain its momentum in the face of the TikTok challenge.
You can check out Instagram’s Lunar New Year tools in the app.
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