Verto Index: Messaging Apps

The messaging apps landscape is a crowded one, as apps created by carriers, operating systems, and mobile app publishers compete for user attention and time. It’s also a hot topic for market watchers – earlier this month, Japan’s LINE messaging app raised eyebrows and a $8.6 billion IPO – the largest tech raise of the year. And, of course, messaging apps are a prime distribution platform for the new wave of chatbots and other AI-powered services – potentially a game-changer for the future of online communications. This month’s Verto Index looks at messaging apps in the U.S., among adults 18 years and older, and shows a ranking of the most popular messaging apps from Facebook Messenger to Telegram.

Facebook Messenger Rules, But Look Beyond the Numbers

Facebook Messenger boasted the largest number of users in June (96.5 million among U.S. adults, 18 and older) as well as the greatest mobile reach (53.5%); but those factors don’t necessarily spell success. Digging into the user metrics for the top 25 messaging apps in June, it’s clear that other apps may have less reach and smaller user bases, but have a far more engaged audience.

(Download the full Messaging Apps Index here)

Casting aside operating system and carrier-specific apps, Facebook Messenger is facing some serious competition from the usual suspects: both Snapchat and Instagram claim far more sessions per month, per user than Facebook Messenger, and these users spend more than three times longer per month using Snapchat and Instagram.

An even simpler way to gauge the success of a given app is by looking at its stickiness score, which compares daily users to monthly users to quantify the most engaged users. Facebook Messenger’s 31% stickiness lags behind Snapchat (46%) and Instagram (47%) – by this metric, even Kik (41%) and WhatsApp (41%) are outperforming Facebook Messenger.

The Bot Ecosystem

Why are user engagement and time spent in apps so critical to messaging apps? As we’ve previously mentioned, messaging apps are quickly emerging as a platform for bot distribution and discovery. While Facebook garnered most of the publicity for opening its Messenger platform to bot developers this past April, messaging apps across Asia have been offering a variety of bot-based services for several years, and other messaging apps like Kik have also quietly launched similar programs.

While Facebook Messenger may have the flashiest and most well-publicized bot rollout, we’ll be keeping our eyes on smaller players like Kik. Despite the fact that Kik has a fraction of the users and reach as Facebook Messenger, the amount of time that those users spend within the app is more than four times that of Facebook Messenger. And those numbers haven’t gone unnoticed: Chinese social media and internet giant TenCent has already invested in the company, and the first few batches of Kik bots have received a much warmer response than Facebook Messenger’s initial rollout. Can Kik scale this success to numbers that can compete with Facebook’s? It’s an ambitious order, but it’s certainly not out of the question.

Snapchat Grows Up

Our Index also shows surprising trends in app user demographics. Snapchat, despite its reputation as a hot app for teens and Millennials, shows a spike in female users aged 45-54, who now comprise 13% of its user base – second only to women ages 18-24 (Snapchat’s largest adult user demographic at 18%) and women ages 25-29 (16%). Are moms finally getting onboard the app to see what their kids are snapping? Or are they just addicted to the filters? Even our own First Lady isn’t immune – Michelle Obama joined Snapchat last month, and says she hopes to engage with younger audiences and share moments from her work with youth education initiatives like Let Girls Learn.

While messaging apps in general tend to skew towards a heavier female user base (as seen with Facebook Messenger’s numbers), Kik attracts a larger younger male user base.

(Download the full Messaging Apps Index here)

The Future of Messaging Apps

Our own CEO Hannu Verkasalo has speculated that chatbots and the messaging app landscape could launch us into an entirely new wave of internet-based communicationsLine and Slack have made recent investments that signal an intent to evolve from a messaging app to a more robust communications and services ecosystem. And while most of Snapchat’s recent acquisitions seem geared towards developing additional filters, lenses, and other visual features, recent investments reveal an interest in VR, another emerging player in messaging, gaming, and communications in general. Regardless, the messaging apps arena shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Interested in learning more about our data on messaging apps? Contact us, or download the full report here.