WhatsApp, the social network that The Social Network bought for $19bn about a year ago, has now muscled its way from mobile onto desktop. Although I don’t currently feel that I need to be dialled into my WhatsApp feed constantly, I’ve become a massive fan of it in a short time. Its group messaging has quickly replaced a lot of my personal email and text messaging, and it’s now the primary way that a lot of my friends and family share pictures and updates on what they’re up to – taking over from Facebook a lot in that respect.
It’s interesting to wonder about how these services will change over time and how money is being made. WhatsApp is clear that it doesn’t pry on your messages for any purposes, and it is likely instead to yield long-term income for Facebook due to annual fees. But, now that it is on the desktop, and because you’re likely to be doing different things when sat at a desk versus on your mobile, there has been some discussion about how Facebook Inc may learn information that will be useful for its increasingly successful advertising strategy.
Facebook must be doing something right to make so much money from advertising, and it’s unlikely to be a coincidence that the way people use it has changed in the wake of WhatsApp. The vast majority of my Facebook stream isn’t selfies and pictures of someone’s dinner, instead it’s feeds that reflect my interests – TV programmes, sports teams, publications, groups etc.
With its aggregation qualities only seeming to improve, the importance of getting your news into people’s feeds is becoming increasingly important from a marketing and public relations perspective. What’s most interesting, though, is that, while a lot of my news ‘comes from Facebook’, the stories that I read and trust, or the products I hear about and buy, are still without fail from ‘traditional’ media that’s been shared or fed-through to Facebook. A comprehensive social strategy is important for a growing number of businesses, but the most valuable raw ingredient for many is still traditional media coverage.