It’s your brand’s worst nightmare: you drop a hefty chunk of your marketing budget onto a great SMS campaign, only to watch the bottom fall out as some new craze hits your target audience. If you’ve been keeping up with the news lately, you just might have this sinking feeling in your stomach after finding out that Facebook purchased WhatsApp – a peer-to-peer chat app that is massively popular. However, let’s hold off on a complete meltdown and look over some of the facts surrounding the deal, and what it means for connecting with your audience via text, before we start reading the last rites for SMS marketing.
The Skinny on Facebook’s Monster Purchase
The best place to start is with a good look at what went down. Facebook recently broke the news that it was purchasing WhatsApp for a whopping $19 billion. That little tidbit in and of itself is enough to make waves in any industry. However, with reactions ranging from “jaw-dropping” to breaking down the value of each WhatsApp employee ($345.5 million a pop, in case you were wondering), the story has spread like wildfire and taken on a life of its own. While getting caught up in this craze is definitely exciting, pumping the brakes a little bit and thinking things out will help you see that this deal is definitely big news in the mobile and social media sectors, but SMS marketing is still king in many ways.
What Does This Mean for SMS Marketing?
Because Facebook monetizes pretty much everything it touches, the concern surrounding this deal was that the social media giant would go over the top of the SMS marketing industry and leverage ad space on the app. However, the linked article from Venture Beat we just shared does a great job breaking down exactly why that kind of thinking is closer to mass hysteria than it is to common sense.
First, and perhaps the biggest reason why WhatsApp gaining traction with Facebook doesn’t mean much to you, is the fact that this app makes its money from yearly subscriptions. The entire platform is based on a mantra which includes “no ads,” so customers couldn’t even sneak a peek at your offers while chatting with friends even if you wanted them to. After digesting this, the next little snippet from the article explains that WhatsApp isn’t even a big deal in the states. Ask yourself a quick question – before this story caught fire, did you even know what WhatsApp was? Don’t worry, neither did most people.
What is important for SMS marketing as a whole is that Facebook has reaffirmed that having your brand be a part of messaging is a smart play in the long haul. As a population, we can’t get enough texting – to the point that some people don’t even bother making phone calls at all anymore. While your company might not spend $19 billion to stay in touch with consumers like Facebook did, using messaging to build brand awareness puts you in some pretty good company.
What Facebook Hopes to Gain
As far as Facebook itself is concerned, the marketing industry is still a little unsure of what to make of the whole deal. Across the pond, some experts believe that WhatsApp’s popularity is here to stay, but question if Facebook is really going to get its money’s worth out of this blockbuster deal. While there’s no doubt that WhatsApp has a big time following, is there really more room for growth? Some of the best minds in the business aren’t so sure.
Bringing things back a little closer to familiar territory is Forbes magazine’s interesting take on the value debate. Basically, author Thomas Goodwin isn’t even sure if WhatsApp was Facebook’s first choice. After failing to hammer out a deal with Snapchat, which is definitely a bigger deal in the U.S. than WhatsApp, some industry insiders view this purchase as a bit of a consolation prize. While we’ll never really know the truth – until some disgruntled ex-employee leaks the juicy details about the boardroom debates that most definitely preceded this deal – it is pretty interesting to soak up some of the speculation and wonder just how much of an impact Facebook is really expecting from this whole thing.
If you just want to trim this whole discussion down into a single sentence, this one should do the trick: SMS marketing isn’t going anywhere, and Facebook spending the big bucks on a messaging service just reaffirms the fact that contacting people, like your target audience, this way is definitely a strong channel for building your brand. Now that you’ve had a moment to breathe and understand what’s really going on with WhatsApp, think long-term with where you want your mobile marketing campaign to go and keep your eyes on that target – it’s the best strategy you’ve got in a world where everyone’s ready to overreact at the latest breaking news.