YouTube gets social with in-app messaging

YouTube sensation Tyler Oakley (L) during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon (R). Photo: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

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YouTube has officially launched an in-app messaging feature that it had been testing since last May.

As of now, the new addition is only available in Canada, which has proved to be a key area for YouTube — users in Canada share 15% more videos than the average user, and its home to a strong YouTube star community, Google product manager Shimrit Ben-Yair said, according to The Financial Post.

The messaging feature is built directly in YouTube’s platform, making it easier for users to chat and share videos

This isn’t the first time that Google has experimented with messaging on its platforms. Back in September, YouTube ran a beta test for its Community feature, which allows video creators to better engage with their viewers through text, images, GIFs, and more.

If successful, Google will most likely roll out the feature on a global scale, which would solidify the company’s goal of creating a more social friendly platform, and could ultimately help YouTube:

  • Increase engagement. The move encourages creators and users to interact more on YouTube itself, rather than moving to other platforms like Facebook and Twitter to share videos and commentary. And YouTube stands to gain if it can retain its audience, especially among heavy users. Fifty percent of heavy social media users – those that spend three or more hours per day on social platforms – watch a video and send a message on a social app on a monthly basis, which are two of the top social networking activities behind only commenting on a friend’s post (55%) and visiting a friend’s profile (57%), according to Nielsen.
  • Increase video views. In-app messaging could lead to more video sharing among users and propel overall video views on the platform. This will be increasingly important as competitors like Facebook and Snapchat have experienced triple-digit growth of daily video views over the last year and now rival that of YouTube in terms of total views.
  • Capitalize on the highly successful Messaging & Social app category. It makes sense for YouTube to establish itself as a social app by integrating in-app messaging due to the overall success of the Messaging & Social app format as a whole. In 2016, usage of Messaging & Social apps was up 44% year-over-year, while time spent in these apps grew by an astounding 394% over the same time period, far outpacing all other app categories, according to Yahoo-owned Flurry Analytics.

The top four messaging apps — Facebook’s Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Viber — now claim nearly 3 billion monthly active users combined, narrowly outnumbering the combined active users on the world’s four largest social networks, including Facebook.

These numbers have caught the attention of a wide range of businesses, publishers among them. News industry leaders including the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and the BBC are establishing a presence on a number of chat apps in an effort to be out front and build an audience on the latest platforms where people are consuming content. These early adopters are experimenting to learn which chat apps work for their audience and how they can leverage chat for the distribution of digital content, including articles, images, surveys, and video.

BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has compiled a detailed report on messaging apps for publishers that looks at the appeal of these apps and how they’re becoming a dominant platform for media consumption. It compares the leading chat platforms, including WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook’s Messenger, and Viber, and what features publishers should know about when thinking about how they might leverage these properties. It also looks at strategies for content distribution across chat apps and finally spotlights some of the challenges that publishers may encounter as they begin to dip their toes into content distribution via messaging apps.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • There are dozens of messaging platforms, each with distinct user demographics and features, and these differences will determine which apps a publisher should try and what type of content is most fitting.
  • Publishers like The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and the BBC are experimenting to learn which chat apps work for their audience and how they can leverage chat for the distribution of digital content, including articles, images, surveys, and video.
  • Chat apps are especially appealing to publishers because they allow these brands to tap into users’ “dark social” activity. Dark social traffic stems from people sharing content privately through IM programs, messaging apps, and email, among other means.
  • Because chat apps were once primarily used for peer-to-peer communications, publishers have an opportunity to reach audiences on these platforms through a more conversational exchange.

In full, the report:

  • Breaks down the pros and cons of each major messaging app.
  • Explains the different ways publishers can distribute content on messaging apps.
  • Highlights the differences between native and linked content.
  • Looks at the potential barriers that could limit chat apps’ utility for publishers.

Interested in getting the full report? Here are two ways to access it:

  1. Subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and over 100 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you’ll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally. >> START A MEMBERSHIP
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