"What in the world is WhatsApp?" Reuters echoed the question many in the U.S. were asking when Facebook acquired the mobile messaging app in February for a stratospheric $19 billion. WhatsApp was more familiar to the rest of the world, where it had built a bulk of its estimated 450 million users -- and where other competitors were gaining steam.
Each began as "over-the-top" applications to avoid texting charges, but they've quickly blossomed into vibrant social media portals that are robbing users from Facebook and Twitter.
WhatsApp, the largest of the apps, appears to be sticking to its committment to avoid ads. Yet five of its sizable competitors have opened up to marketers. They're all unproven. And overall, the apps collect far less data than social networking sites. "Some of them actually pride themselves in not collecting it," said Eytan Oren, director of partnerships at IPG Media Lab. Despite their hurdles, the apps have growing and tantalizing user numbers that are drawing brands to experiment with the evolving platforms.
Today, IPG is out with a new report detailing the best practices for brand marketers on the platforms. Here's how some of the world's largest ad spenders are tip-toeing into the mobile messaging waters: