by Jye Smith
February 21st, 2014

Facebook buying WhatsApp is less about buying the competition and more about broadening Facebook’s portfolio of social technologies. Facebook has become a mass medium – almost the size of an alternate internet. Meanwhile, one-to-one and one-to-few social technologies like WhatsApp, WeChat and Line continue to break records in terms of growth and adoption.

One-to-one platforms are exceptionally personalised forms of social media – offering a filter for friends, family and brands to see the content we value most.  It is no surprise that with the inundation of YouTube pre-rolls, Facebook ads and other forms of self-serving brand content, consumers want a break. WhatsApp is the escape from Facebook.

Underpinning the adoption and development of one-to-one platforms is the growth in mobile adoption throughout the world. Facebook’s leap into a one-to-one platforms is overdue, especially throughout Asia and developing nations where mobile and smartphone technologies are the primary screen.

It is clear that Facebook now understands that big content is just as important as small content. Ideas and stories too, are of equal priority as long as they are adding value to the day of your customers.

When we consider most people use their phone for in-between times like waiting for a bus, it’s important to note that not all content needs to be “epic”. Three to five minutes is a tiny window – why would your customer want to watch 12 minutes of your latest event?

With brands racing to become publishers, the quality is declining. Consumers are becoming more and more particular about what, when and how they view and share.  This is a long overdue move from Facebook, but it will still need to be cautious around how it integrates what is essentially a private app into Facebook’s more public social platform. Pushing too far too soon could hurt the quality of WhatsApp.

Jye Smith is head of Mediaco, Asia Pacific, at Weber Shandwick

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