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Towards the end of last month, Facebook boldly made mobile messaging service WhatsApp an offer they couldn’t refuse, and a few hours later that $19bn dollar offer was announced to the world.

Technologists, social media experts and analysts scrambled to make their thoughts and predictions heard.

Marketers across the world sat up and paid attention to what could be termed as the biggest big data acquisition we’ve witnessed in the era of the internet.

This is particularly so because WhatsApp’s data is now another spring of information, along with Instagram and Paper, that Facebook can analyse and use to its marketing advantage. 

Facebook has made it clear there are no intentions to monetise the messaging service or cover the app with advertising, but the acquisition has meant Facebook has taken control of a large swathe of invaluable demographic and geo-local data, and fully entered into the mobile domain.

This was made even more apparent in February this year at Mobile World Congress 2014 where Mark Zuckerberg gave a keynote speech. Mobile has so far been the dominant device of 2014 and its importance to the market is undisputed.

The fact that most users from emerging markets access internet services on mobiles rather than desktops is one that will not have passed the Facebook founder by.

With over 190m monthly active users and 400m photos being shared every day over the messaging service, Facebook has tapped into a valuable demographic – but who are they?

Emerging markets

For $19bn, Facebook is not just able to access user-level data in real-time, it is now plugged into the valuable emerging markets where WhatsApp dominates over other messaging apps and social media sites, in places like India and South East Asia.

The fast-paced convenience and simple functionality of the messaging service means WhatsApp is a service within the developing world where the prohibitive nature of slower wi-fi, tardy site loading speeds, and affordability act as barriers to entry for other messaging services.

Additionally, it has been rumoured for some time now that Facebook is declining in popularity with teenagers, especially the younger ones.

Teenagers are inclined to prefer independent messaging services due to their changing needs and behaviors – a crucial element of WhatsApp’s attraction is that activity is not open to family members as Facebook activity can be.

Demographically, Facebook is now, via Whatsapp, able to gain data from this subset of users who are opting out of engaging with Facebook on any meaningful level.

For marketers, managing and using data has proved to be a conundrum for the past couple of years. Understanding the ways in which it can be employed to analyse and optimise marketing campaigns has huge revenue potential for anyone who cracks the code.

To make real-time optimised, data-driven marketing ubiquitous, marketers need to be able to collect, manage and activate real information at user level in real time.

Data acquisitions

Advertisers are understandably looking for reliable partners who can be trusted to deliver first-party information and help them activate relevant offers through digital marketing, whether that is an email offer, data-matching people who look like loyal customers or retargeting a customer who showed desire but did not convert, for example.

Oracle, the second largest software maker after Microsoft, has also been acquiring marketing technology companies for eye-watering amounts.

Based in California, Oracle specialises in developing and marketing computer hardware systems and enterprise software products, particularly its own database management systems.

On the 24 February 2014, the company announced the acquisition of BlueKai, a data management company that collects information about what consumers are looking for both online and offline and sells that information to marketers.

BlueKai is joining the other members of the Oracle company umbrella. Oracle paid $1.5bn for Responsys in December and $861m for Eloqua in December 2012.

Like Facebook, Oracle is eagerly making offers to data management companies because they know that customer data is the fuel that drives real-time understanding and benefits consumers and marketers alike.

The way Facebook and Oracle are expanding means they are expanding their sphere of influence and potential as global corporations who have the opportunity to clearly see who and what activity is driving their success and popularity.

Jon Baron

Published 5 March, 2014 by Jon Baron

Jon Baron is Co-Founder and CEO at TagMan and a contributor to Econsultancy.

7 more posts from this author

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