At the end of January, The New York Times reported that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg had plans to merge the company’s three biggest platforms: Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
The internet did what it does best in scenarios like this and it began to panic, catastrophise, and speculate wildly about what this might mean for people who use these platforms and for the businesses who use Facebook and Instagram (not WhatsApp yet…) to reach out to their target audiences. In the last few years a precedent was set for this type of merger when Facebook integrated Android users’ default text messenger with the Facebook Messenger app - which was met with a mixed response; Now that a couple of weeks have passed, and the smoke has cleared a little, we’d like to offer a little clarity on the subject and to predict what this might mean for any tourism companies who use social media to reach their customers.
The Facebook-WhatsApp Integration is a Long Way Off
In follow-up discussions with Zuckerberg, the CEO has indeed confirmed that he was considering integrating Facebook/Instagram with WhatsApp — the New York Times has reported correctly on this matter. However, he also said that this was not something he intended to implement this year. So, it is very likely to happen, but it’s not happening next week. A lot of people are panicking about the potential ramifications of integrating Facebook and Instagram with WhatsApp, but we’d urge them to relax a little and to at least be relieved that the changes won’t occur during 2019. This year is more than enough time to educate ourselves and prepare for the change so that we can make the most of the new opportunities it provides.
Potential Changes for End Users
We think it may be useful to consider how these changes will impact the specific people using their smart devices, as their experience (and their perspective) is what we, as marketers, are trying to tap into. Consider how Facebook Ads works at present. Currently, Facebook Ads can be used to target users with incredibly specific goals in mind. Facebook has spent a lot of time and money developing their platform into the most accurate audience targeting system. You can specify your audience by language, age, gender, profession, interests, behaviour, and even the time of day they tend to spend on Facebook. You can find out more about the intricacies of Facebook Ads on our blog about perfecting your Facebook advertising strategy. The user scrolls through their Facebook newsfeed and sees a mixture of their friends’ updates and ads from companies. And, as Facebook bought Instagram, a similar ad system has been implemented there as well.
Given how different WhatsApp is to Facebook and Instagram, it might be difficult to imagine how an integrated platform would work. However, we already have a prototype of how integrating ads into a messaging application could work: Facebook Messenger. When you scroll through the conversations you’re having with contacts and groups of contacts on your [Facebook] Messenger app, you’ll see display ads from companies who are trying to reach you. It is entirely likely that Facebook’s integration with WhatsApp will result in a similar type of ad on the final app that serves as a merger between WhatsApp and Messenger.
How Might Facebook and WhatsApp’s Merger Affect Tourism Companies?
Firstly, we’d like to say that our opinions, and any others on this topic at this stage, are just conjecture — they are educated guesses based our experience. So, take all theories at this stage with a healthy pinch of salt. The most likely change, in our opinion, is that advertisers will be able to have their brand or a product featured on the new merged app in a similar fashion to how it works on Facebook Messenger. The two apps should fully merge together, so it is likely that it will look like a functional middle ground between both apps. This isn’t a huge change, but it will give companies a little more reach and influence as they access both Facebook and WhatsApp user base.
Another potential change is that you may be able to integrate your Facebook and Instagram ads with WhatsApp, allowing for cross-posting. This means that you can push the same ad across all platforms with no extra work. On the same system, you could post an Ad on Facebook to appear on users’ timelines, whilst also featuring the same ad (or something similar) on other users’ Messenger/WhatsApp application. Of course, this will work for some brands and products more than others, but it could be a great way to push out last-minute deals if you’re trying to promote a product that is time sensitive.
Being able to cross post is also just a great time saver and it makes it easier to coordinate your advertising campaigns across the various platforms if they don’t require several different logins. Obviously, if you’re trying to achieve something a little more specific than just maximal exposure, we’d always recommend catering your ad content to the platform it’s on.
That’s all we have time for today. If you’d like a little help with your social media, we’re more than happy to hear from you, so please get in touch. And watch this space for more Facebook news as it develops.
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Chris and his team will send you a weekly email offering high-value insight and advice about a variety of marketing and business development topics related to the tourism industry. We address specific destinations, tours and activities, and the hotel industry. We also provide important travel industry news and updates.