Facebook is probably the only social networking giant that figured out how to grow profits through a mobile channel. Sure, Twitter is a great mobile app, WhatsApp has a massive user base, and LinkedIn’s mobile app makes it convenient for users to connect through mobile devices. Yet no other firm with a mobile presence matches Facebook’s revenue and profit growth on the mobile channel. With Facebook planning to split its Messenger from its core app, is having two apps better for Facebook and its users than having just one?
The computing world is no stranger to centralizing and decentralizing data. Mainframes powered computers in the 1960s and 1970s. “Dumb terminals” were used for access to that data. Today, all data powering social networks are centralized, but Facebook is adding a twist to this paradigm. Users will now have two separate apps to manage a single account: Facebook’s main app serves the news feed to users. The messenger app will be a separate experience. Facebook handles 12 billion messages daily, so it might be thinking that users will be less distracted by messenger alerts. They may give more attention to the news feed, and more importantly, video ads and promoted posts.
Facebook might be aware that Google Hangout and Apple iMessage are constant, growing threats. The standalone Messenger app will give an improved more distinct, experience. Facebook may improve this experience without restraints from its core Facebook app.
Splitting Messenger out from the core app might be driven for another reason: to encourage users to use WhatsApp instead, and to pay for the app.
Enterprise Collaboration Muddled
Staff using messaging and Facebook groups will now need to either run both apps for access, or choose one over the other. Last year, an Avanade study showed that 74 per cent of companies used Facebook as a social collaboration tool. Enterprises might consider finding alternate collaboration solutions if two apps gets in the way of smooth communications.
Despite the alternatives, accessing Facebook groups on mobile is convenient. Conversations are easy to follow, posting links and multimedia is easy, and managing the group on the desktop is flexible.
Having two apps is one extra app too many for avid Facebook users. The move may end up hurting Facebook. Users more reliant on Messaging may stop using the core Facebook app. This will hurt advertising efforts served on the news feed. Group video chatting on Google Hangouts is still a better alternative. Connecting with Apple users is superior over iMessage. This makes Facebook Messenger redundant for users.
Though space is not a limitation for users with a newer smartphone, it is an issue for users on older devices. More battery power is needed running both apps compared to before.
Companies recognize the importance of having some kind of mobile presence, be it through a mobile-friendly website or offering a service through a mobile app. Facebook’s move to split its app into two is unlikely to set a precedent for firms.
Mobile ads still matter
In the end, Facebook’s motives will be driven by what boosts user engagement with ads. De-cluttering the core app to improve the news feed experience will ultimately benefit Facebook. Users are more likely to keep the core app, uninstall Messenger, and use WhatsApp. Last quarter, Facebook accounted for 20 percent of all mobile ad dollars spent on mobile devices. As user engagement with these ads rise, expect Facebook to win more of the ad dollars.