chat apps and engagementWe know that Chat Apps are driving a lot of mobile service providers to rethink their once-lucrative profit center. But these apps are also disrupting traditional social networks, because providers know how important it is to keep the user engaged within the channel.

Consider our fragmented mobile experience. We toggle between Email, Facebook, Twitter (or Hootsuite), and SMS. They each have their distinctive experience. Status updates and informative mails are not the same thing; content sharing on a social network, with the ability to garner a small ‘mob’ around a cause or a pet peeve is not the same as firing off a text message to 20 people. International texts are expensive so we may tweet a message instead…

I’ve been intrigued by these so-called ‘conversations’ online, especially since many of them are not always in real-time. They are really partial dialogues, with one word (or one button) responses that are a proxy for people joining in.

That why we need to keep an eye on where Chat Apps are headed. They are simple –as in distraction free– formats that could garner true engagement.

At a recent event, I was asked where I though our social media lifestyles would be headed. My pat answer was that we might see a lot of social media fatigue. The media overload we are all facing might mean vast numbers of us will be quitting those social media channels that just don’t fit our personality. But that’s not to say that we will retreat to our caves, and get back to notebooks and pencils, or phone calls. We will seek out those experiences that help us stay connected. And that’s where I see Chat Apps gaining ground.

The next WhatsApp or Viber (the free phone app combines the chat feature – free even with people in other countries) could threaten Facebook and Twitter. It could combine elements of email and micro-blogging, so that we may never need to go to the other platforms to see what our friends are saying, and to chime in.

Multiple language chats. I fielded this question to a panel of international students at Scottsdale Community College last week:

  • How many of them spoke more than one language. All hands were up
  • How many spoke three languages. Eighty percent of the hands remained up
  • More than three? About fifty percent

What would happen if we could chat with people in different countries, in different languages, using the same app? Already WeChat, which is apparently a lot like Line, an app not known to many in the West, lets one do this.

Maybe ChatApps are where we may find the genie of true engagement. I admit I may be somewhat biased, because of the title of my recent book.

What do you think? Does social media fatigue drive you to give up on certain channels?