With mobile growing at a rapid pace, instant messaging is one of the most popular ways for people to stay connected at a cheaper rate than text messaging. It also allows users the opportunity to meet new people. We speak to Marc Herson, Director at 2go, a successful and free IM service for mobile with over 20 million registered users. We also get some great advice for advertisers wanting to target IM users.
How did 2go originate?
2go was founded in March 2007 by Alan Wolff and Ashley Peter while studying computer science at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg. They wanted to build something practical that could also have an impact and make a difference.
SMS costs were high and instant messaging on mobile was emerging as a technology that offered users a cheaper option. They decided to build a technically superior product but focused on addressing the needs of consumers in emerging markets in way that was far more social, fun and with a distinctly local flavour. 2go has evolved into a service where users both chat with friends and meet new people.
How does 2go plan on competing with mobile messenger giants such as Mxit?
We actually don’t see Mxit as a competitor currently in Nigeria. Although we have 1.5 million active users in South Africa, Nigeria is where we are the dominant player with 9 million active users. We will continue to focus on our core messaging and social offering; and continuously improve the user experience and add more social features. With support from Nokia, we are now in their app store for the first time and a new version 3.6 will be released in March.
Can you share some statistics with us on the success of 2go?
Over 90% of Africa’s mobile phone owners do not own a smartphone. This is the target segment that 2go understands and this is currently our primary target segment. Our service skews slightly male in SA and 65% male in Nigeria. Users are aged mostly in their early to mid 20s. In Nigeria we have a large segment of university users. Here are some stats.
- 2go has over 10 Million active users in Africa, of which 9 million are active in Nigeria and 1.5 million in South Africa. Our user base is pretty active with around 70 logins per user per month.
- 2go version 3.5 was released in mid December 2012 and achieved over 1 million downloads in its first month.
- There are over 6 billion messages sent over our network every month.
Although 2go is most popular in Africa, is it used in any other parts of the world yet?
We are focusing on Africa for the moment. Africa is a growth market. With over 100 million mobile connections just in Nigeria, the opportunity is on our doorstep. We do see growth spurts from the Middle East, but right now are trying to remain focused on our core markets.
2go has done mobile marketing for chat services. In your opinion, what is the most effective way of getting a call to action on this platform?
2go adverts see incredible levels of engagement.
Our full screen splash ad unit – where users see a full-screen clickable image for 5 seconds when they login to 2go – can achieve up to 25% engagement rates.
Mobile advertising requires a different approach to online. 2go users are glued to the screen, and caught in a very immediate experience. The full screen splash is successful because it is premium. It is more akin to watching a high quality advert in a cinema. This is very different to a small banner ad, which is often perceived as a cheap stab at an audience or missed by the user.
What advice would you give to advertisers and brands wanting to target people on mobile messenger services?
Mobile is a critically important platform for brands. We poll our users often and over 30% of them don’t even watch TV. 50% of them read their daily news on their phones.
But – target your customer on the right platform. If you intend to reach the majority of your market in Africa, don’t waste time on a smartphone (yet). Ask yourself, “Is your customer a feature phone user?”
In terms of practical advice ; keep the messaging simple. Have a bold, brief call to action. 7 words and less if possible. Ask a question. We have done A/B testing and asking a brief question generally yields around 10% better response rates than a statement.
Do you have the right mobi-site landing page? Make sure your mobi-site is lightweight, purpose-built and optimised for feature phones.
Our full screen ads are clickable outside of the application to the brand’s own mobi-site. It is often very frustrating to see a very big brand have a mobi-site that we know will just not work on most phones. The rule of thumb is that if your site is pretty it will probably look awful on a feature phone, and take too long to load on most phones. People just won’t convert.
Are there any new features that 2go will be launching in 2013?
We are very careful not to clutter the app with additional features that might interfere with the core social experience of chatting with friends and meeting new people. So our features will continue to enhance the fun, social experience of 2go.
We will continue to innovate for our core feature phone user base. But we are of course also seeing a shift in demand for smart phone versions of 2go and are therefore evolving with our users as they shift from feature to smartphones. We are currently focused on releasing a native Android app.
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