The platform in question is WhatsApp, which, to most of us American social media guru wannabes, is pretty much that thing that Facebook bought last year for $19 billion, even though its founders detest advertising so much they wrote a manifesto about it. The U.S. still remains unimpressed with it otherwise; only 8% of our mobile population use it.
Gee, it must be fun to have billions of dollars to throw around!
Nonetheless, WhatsApp piqued my interest this morning because of a small – but potentially telling – bit of data, highlighted in a post from Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab. It shows that, in some contexts, it is one of the top platforms for sharing news stories. To that extent, this data is worth illuminating, whether something similar happens with this app, in this country, or not.
Face it. Even if you’re not using it, as students of what’s next, you could do worse than watching WhatsApp. Not only is it hugely popular in some countries, but it’s also a good example of what the impact might be of social platforms that aren’t based on the social 1.0 premise of one-to-hundreds, or thousands, or millions. In a marketing world hellbent on making content go viral, it’s easy to dismiss the influence of these more closely circumscribed social tools.
The Nieman post focuses on the experiences of Valencia, the Spanish soccer team, which showed that, during a recent two-week period, WhatsApp often surpassed Facebook when it came to sharing content. (Twitter and Google+ were also part of this study, but are only mentioned here in the one instance one of them surpassed those two.) Some tasty content nuggets:
If you go to the Nieman post itself, you’ll also see that includes the time when one story spiked during the period in which data was collected. At that point, the data falls into recognizable norms, with Facebook and Twitter sometimes far outclassing WhatsApp.
Does that skew the other data? Yes, but only to a point. The fact is that even as everyone chases the next viral sensation, the bigger goal is to have day-to-day content see the light of day on an ongoing basis. What this data shows is that sharing on apps with less of a broadcast nature may be much more valuable than we have assumed.
Whether you give a sh*t about WhatsApp or not, it’s something to keep in mind.