react if when each instant message arrives, you have to first send back a message of your own? Only after you have ‘unlocked’ it by sending back a message, can you view the one in your inbox and send a response. Would you be intrigued – and hastily send one back – or simply annoyed?
With its new visual messaging app called Slingshot, Facebook is betting on the former. Essentially, it is taking a punt on the principle of ‘forced reciprocity’: you have to trade photo-forphoto, or video-for-video in order to view messages. The social media giant is clearly hoping this requirement will spur take-up, as new users are presumably ‘peer-pressured’ into Slingshot by their friends. AN ENGAGEMENT TACTIC Mike Sharman, co-founder of digital agency Retroviral, says it’s an interesting move in the midst of what has become a fully-fledged mobile messaging app war.
“Facebook i s an i nnovator,” he explains. “The ability to constantly evolve in relation to what people want from a social experience has allowed a platform that wasn’t first to market – but the current dominant force in the ecosystem – to keep people interested and coming back for more. I like the fact that Slingshot requires the peer-to-peer engagement tactic of sharing content prior to being able to ‘redeem’ content.”
Slingshot i s widely regarded as Facebook’s answer to Snapchat, the massively popular ‘ephemeral’ photomessaging app that only allows users to view a photo for a limited time before it disappears. Facebook offered to buy Snapchat for $3bn last year, but was turned down by its owners. According to Business Insider, Snapchat has approximately 30m active users and 60m installs, and it receives more than 400m messages each day. ‘WHERE EVERYBODY IS A CREATOR…’ Impressive numbers, but the biggest, richest and most i nfluential social network in the world has Snapchat very firmly in its sights. In a blog post, the Facebook team behind the app explained its strategy: “With Slingshot, we wanted to build something where everybody is a creator and nobody is just a spectator. When everyone participates, there’s less pressure, more creativity and even the little things in life can turn into awesome shared experiences.”
Indeed, content creation is the driving force on any platform, as Sharman explains. “The more content Facebook encourages users to create, the greater the reason to spend more time on the platform,” he says. “This translates into more opportunities to sell advertising and appeases the shareholders. Time on platform is king.”
With ever-increasing options becoming available to smartphone users with an insatiable desire to be constantly connected, will we ultimately use a different mobile messaging app for different people and different occasions?
“It ’s likely that we will have two or three key networks or ‘ social nicheworks’, as I like to call them, based on the requirements to engage with different people within our various social structures,” says Sharman. “We have seen consumers adopting both WhatsApp and WeChat because of the different options that the platforms provide. There is a messaging app war in progress and only time will tell who will be waving the white flag.”
Mark Zuckerberg, chairman and CEO of Facebook, is behind Slingshot’s development.
Snapchat vs Slingshot