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In 2015, the number of active users on messaging apps surpassed the number of users on traditional social media channels. As this audience continues to grow, messaging apps will play an increasing role in the distribution strategy of brands and publishers. With the ability to launch their own official channels, combined with these apps’ highly engaged audiences, brands have an amazing opportunity to connect directly with millions of people at previously untapped moments.

Some brands have already started to explore this space, leveraging unique features of different messaging applications to experiment with new storytelling methods and community-building. Brands can experiment with mobile-first content in a fast, iterative manner, without the constraints of traditional environments. While this is uncharted territory for many, brands have the potential to explore different strategies for adapting their voice, or experiential offerings across an ecosystem of emojis (emojis are fun), images, videos, gifs, stickers, games, memes, comics and more.

For brands to stay relevant and have global reach, they need to engage audiences where they are and where they will be in the future. Messaging applications are the next frontier that brands should look towards to continue reaching the broader audiences of the future.

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This originally posted as part of 9 Digital Trends to Watch for in 2016 article on Medium in the Digital Trends Index, a weekly newsletter by Atlantic Media Strategies. Thanks to Joshua Lasky for editing my contribution.