BLOG Social Media vs. Messaging Apps: What Brand Marketers Need to Know

Published: May 21, 2019 6 min read
Brand marketers
Reading Time: 6 minutes

By Debbi Doughtery

Source: MarTechSeries

Social networking websites and apps have become a critical marketing touchpoint, creating a direct channel for brands to reach current and prospective customers. However, all “social” apps are not created equal.

It’s on marketers to determine the best engagement strategy for each platform.

Where can they start?

It’s critical to differentiate between traditional social media and messaging applications. The most important difference is that social media promotes one-to-many conversations, such as sharing a post on Facebook for followers to like and comment on.  Meanwhile, chat apps deliver more engaging, one-to-one interactions, allowing brands to connect with individual customers in a more meaningful way. This may sound like a simple contrast, but it can actually create major challenges for marketers that treat social and messaging platforms as one and the same.

To develop a successful social strategy, brand marketers must understand how they can use features on both social media and messaging platforms to their advantage—whether deploying customer service tools, targeting advertisements or offering new shopping features.

Customer Support

Customer service processes are shifting, with brands finally recognizing the need to take support tools to third-party platforms that their customers actively use. However, they can’t implement a blanket strategy for all their social entities. To maximize resources and create an effective customer service strategy, brands need to understand the pros and cons of the different social platforms.

Since traditional social media apps focus on one-to-many conversations, these platforms are extremely effective for simple customer support. This means addressing common issues that any customer might face— offering a quick and easy way to get answers to standard questions about products or services. Meanwhile, messaging apps enable both one-to-many and one-to-one interactions, allowing customer support agents to directly connect with a customer and solve individual issues on a case-by-case basis.

Both aspects are essential to strong customer support in the mobile age. For brand marketers, it’s not a matter of which platform they’ll deploy customer service tools on. Rather, they must make decisions about the specific features (for example, chatbot vs. live agent or a combination of the two) and content they make available on each app to best align with customers’ needs.


Targeted advertisements have become a hot-button issue, especially for social media companies. With continued conversations about security, it’s more important than ever that brands create an advertising strategy that doesn’t cross any privacy boundaries.

When it comes to traditional social media platforms, such as The most important difference is that social media promotes one-to-many conversations, such as sharing a post on Facebook for followers to like and comment on.  , most information is public. This means that data on pages and posts users liked, shared or commented on, and even links they’ve opened and browsed is, for the most part, open for platforms to collect. This insight allows brands to serve hyper-targeted ads that are spot on with user interests but can sometimes creep people out.

Meanwhile, messaging apps focus on providing a platform for private interactions with friends, family and brands. Many chat platforms deploy security features (such as end-to-end encryption) that prohibit them from reading private conversations and using this insight for ad targeting. However, these apps use surface-level metadata to understand user interests and ensure ads are aligned.

Brand marketers must develop different strategies for advertising on social media and messaging apps; but across the board, it will be important to consider data privacy standards and ensure their ads don’t cross the lines for the sake of personalization.


There’s no doubt that social shopping is the next frontier for e-commerce. When it comes to creating a shopping experience for third-party social apps, marketers must again think about the benefits each platform offers.

With its hyper-targeted ad strategy, traditional social media offers a great platform for impulse purchases. By understanding the specific products a user was looking at earlier in the day, brands can strategically place those items (and others like them) in front of a user and entice them to pull the trigger on completing the purchase. Messaging apps, on the other hand, are a great tool for product discovery and sharing. These platforms prioritize features like shopping keyboards that allow users to seamlessly view products and share with their peers, making the shopping experience that much more interactive.

Social apps are continuing to launch new features to improve the e-commerce experience. Brand marketers must ensure they understand how they can use these tools to not just drive purchases but improve the overall e-commerce experience for customers on every platform.

While all social apps are often looped into the same bucket, marketers are starting to realize that this mindset is actually hurting customer engagement. By differentiating customer service, advertising and e-commerce strategies across social media and messaging apps, brands can ensure they’re effectively engaging users in 2019 and beyond.

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