Social media messaging apps on the rise

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With social media messaging becoming an important part of the entire mobile phone experience, thanks to BBM and Apple’s WhatsApp, brands are lapping up the opportunity and creating applications to tap the growing market. Most recently, Chinese internet company, Telcent, together with ibibo, launched its free mobile voice and text messaging application – WeChat in India. Globally, it claims to have over 100 million registered users in its kitty.

Targeted at youth, the company pegs the application as a first of its kind service that allows text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast messaging, photo/video sharing, location sharing, and contact information exchange. It also comes with features like social friend-discovery and an option to stream photo feeds from friends’ personal photo albums.

The app also offers engaging one-on-one and group chat sessions with an extensive range of animated and custom emoticon and emoji art, customisable backgrounds, and a Rock-Paper-Scissors mini-game. The app also encourages creative expression by allowing users to apply artistic filters to their photos, create a personal photo journal, and share photos with friends. WeChat allows users to seamlessly connect with their social circles from phone contacts and Facebook.  People can also use location-based social (LBS) features to discover other members of the WeChat community. These features include ‘Shake’, ‘Look Around’ and ‘Drift Bottle’.

The service will be available for free download on Android, iOS, Windows and Symbian mobile platforms. The iOS version of WeChat is already available in Hindi; in addition to several other global languages.

Commenting on Tencent’s foray into the Indian apps market Dennis Hau, Head of International Product Center, Tencent International Business Group said, “We are excited to launch WeChat in India at a time when data based messaging services are on the surge and with the increased proliferation of smartphones, Instant Messaging/Chat Platforms are becoming the preferred mode of communication among youth. WeChat is not just a simple instant messenger mobile app but it is actually a platform that intends to introduce a new communication style where users can connect with each other via interesting push-to talk voice messaging, video call, sharing precious moments (image/text/content) and more, soon to be evolved, features based on users’ needs.”

Tencent is further looking at adding more social elements in WeChat, with localised content and functions to develop the local community. This is Tencent’s first mobile social product offering in India.

For ibibo, the immediate focus is on building the user base, enhancing the experience and eco-system of WeChat in India. “We are aiming to become one of the most popular mobile social apps in India over the next 6 months. Globally, WeChat has witnessed enormous success with over 100 million users. India being one of the fastest growing markets for mobile apps and smartphone adoption, we are confident about the success of WeChat here. We will be adding newer features to WeChat on a regular basis,” said Rahul Razdan, President – ibibo Mobile & Gaming.

Hence, India has become a potential market for international brands to drive mobile telephony to an entirely new level. There are finding innovative ways to engage the emerging consumer. Another development in this area comes from Bharti Softbank (BSB), a joint venture between Bharti Enterprises and Japanese Internet firm Softbank Corp. It launched Hike, a peer-to-peer (P2P) messaging app that uses both data and SMS to deliver messages. Unlike the cross-platform mobile messaging app WhatsApp, Hike will let you message those who don’t have it. In other words, users need not install the app on their phones to receive messages. Hike also claims to have in-built filters that block spam SMS.

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Neeta Nair

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