Will Facebook / WhatsApp mark the end of the “App Bubble” like AOL/Time Warner marked the end of dotcom?

facebook whatsapp - Google SearchMany agree that Facebook’s recent acquisition of WhatsApp is the perfect representation of just how disjointed the market is. Where a company that has a flimsy monetization strategy can finagle 19x more out of Facebook than any of their previous acquisitions combined. The last most notably being Instagram for $1 billion in April 2012. Mark Zuckerberg calls this a bargain while the rest of the world, particularly the financial sector, looks on with skepticism.

So how can a messaging app, who’s main function is to provide an amalgamation of  features similar to existing apps, sell for $19 billion dollars? There is all kinds of speculation as to the answer but at least this much is true:  WhatsApp users send 600 million pictures a day. 1 million more than Facebook. 70% of WhatsApp users engage on a daily basis. Facebook sees a 50-60% daily engagement rate. WhatsApp has a strong presence in emerging markets such as Latin America and India while Facebook does not. Lastly, WhatsApp has seen a user growth rate even greater than Facebook’s astronomical growth. Which of these reasons most heavily influenced Facebook’s decision is impossible to know unless you are on the inside, but it’s likely they all factored in to some degree.

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What does this mean for the app ecosystem? There is speculation that this will ultimately crash and burn sending Facebook into a tailspin, evoking memories of the AOL / Time Warner deal that marked the end of the Dot-com boom. The major difference here is that WhatsApp, like many other high price tag apps, actually provides a utility, which is to say it adds value. That value may come in the form of saved time or money, better pictures, easier sharing, faster connectivity or more accurate geo-location, whatever the case may be, people find value and they continue to use these apps at a staggering rate.

Whether this acquisition ultimately helps or hurts Facebook is anyone’s guess but irregardless, the app ecosystem is only going to continue getting stronger. If this particular deal does fail it will mean that greater emphasis will be placed on due diligence upfront, in other words, more assurances the app has a working and sustainable monetization strategy. If the WhatsApp deal works out on the other hand, Facebook will undoubtedly try to make similar purchases, perhaps equal to or greater in value. Apps will work to replicate the WhatsApp model, even if that means a barrage of apps that all look and feel very similar to end users – though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Competition breeds quality and as long as app makers can continue to produce apps that provide quality utility to end users, then the app ecosystem will remain firmly in tact.

Social Media’s Role in Pharma Communications in 2014

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Just a few short years ago, pharmaceutical companies wouldn’t in their wildest dreams have considered leveraging social media for consumer marketing purposes. But now with consumer expectations, demand and appetite, dramatically changing, Pharma has been put on notice. The viability of social as a channel has shaped a new form of communication across the globe. Gone are the days of consumers being satisfied with one-way dialogue. The social web has promulgated a transparency between brand and consumer the likes of which have never been seen and Pharma can no longer be the exception. Still, this shouldn’t be something CMO’s and Brand Managers cringe at, on the contrary, this shift in communication should be welcomed.

Though social may not result in legal and regulatory becoming more lax overnight, they must become more inclusive. Consider the FDA, who just a few weeks ago, announced a predominately positive stance on social media. The definition of an AE does not extend as far as we all had originally anticipated and a brand’s responsibility for social communication has been significantly reduced.

This monumental communications shift is still in its infancy but branded social experiences, such as Gilenya and Lunesta, have already amassed thousands of fans on Facebook while Boehringer-Ingelheim has succeeded in generating widespread engagement by using conferences and events as venues for live tweeting and Q&A. What’s more telling perhaps, is the way these social experiences have impacted the larger conversation. They are the first branded Pharma properties to invite two-way dialogue and they’ve increased brand related conversation across the entire web, not only on their respective properties.

Extrapolate these results out over time and expand them to include more integrated tactics with paid media and a case can be made for more robust social strategies and tactics. Aside from the obvious external benefits, which include building awareness and informing preference, social can provide more immediate patient care, better access to information, greater adherence, connectivity of patient populations and more efficient dissemination of knowledge. Internally, social can help support stakeholder alignment, corporate communications, recruiting, culture and advocacy. The real-time element of social and the ability to scale messaging globally make it not only impactful, but time relevant and highly efficient.

That said, there is a risk. We all know this. But it can be mitigated exponentially by implementing processes ahead of time so brands aren’t scrambling to address collateral damage in the form of negativity or AEs. The belief is that, brands are starting to realize, the benefits far outweigh the risks and social is more than a gaudy accessory, it’s a necessity. With that knowledge, steps are being taken to create the foundation necessary to scale social efforts across organizations, therapeutic areas and global economies.