These Are The Messaging Apps Your Staff Secretly Use, But They Aren't Built For Business


Do you allow smartphone usage for work? Odds are your employees have been using a consumer app for quick communication out of convenience, even if there are internal rules against that.

Messaging has rapidly become the preferred way to communicate: it's quick, conversational, intuitive. Consumer messaging has even grown in popularity over SMS: it allows users to ditch the SMS fees and communicate over data, and different apps offer features beyond pure messaging. Messaging apps overtook SMS in message volume in 2013, and the gap has widened since.

Widespread usage of consumer messaging amongst employees should set off alarm bells amongst management. Consumer apps aren't optimized for productivity, introduce distractions, and most significantly, aren't focused on ensuring the level of info security enterprises need. While you're probably not condoning the use of consumer messaging in the workplace, it's important that you know what apps employees might be using. We take a look at 4 personal apps that your employees have most likely use to text one another.

Whatsapp: The Conservative Purist

WhatsApp is the most widely-known messaging app, with its hype reaching its peak when Facebook acquired it for $22bn last year. Founded in the U.S. in 2009, it prides itself on its singular focus on texting. There are no ads, no games, no stickers, no "gimmicks" - an approach that has seen it painted as conservative. Adding to this stodgy reputation is its dated interface, which has not changed much since its early days and has been called "cheap and nasty". Whatsapp's main markets to date have been the US, Latin America, and Europe, although it's building up a presence in emerging markets like India.

Why your employees might be using it:

  • No-frills messaging might be attractive to users tired of being targeted with relentless content

  • Its wide user base probably means your employees' friends and family members all use it

  • Whatsapp lets users send images, audio, and contact info

You should know:

  • The Facebook acquisition introduced widespread privacy concerns that the social network giant now has access to a large database of phone numbers. Users fear that Facebook could share user data with others and open Whatsapp to NSA and GCHQ surveillance. Though the two companies try to dispel such concerns, some users remain antsy.

Facebook Messenger: The Information Hoarder

Initially a Facebook feature, Messenger was split off as its own standalone mobile app last year. This split was initially met with furious resistance from users, but the anger has since died down, with Messenger becoming the most-downloaded free iPhone app. Recently, Messenger has attracted users with its emoticons and sticker packs, even introducing a new app to add photos to stickers to inject fun into conversations. A common complaint is Messenger's impact on battery life: the amount of tracking the app and its hard-to-disable notifications does means it can really drain the power of mobile devices.

Why your employees might be using it:

  • The popularity of Facebook means it is highly likely that the person you want to reach can be found on Messenger as well

  • Unlike other apps, Messenger is accessible on the Web, allowing communication off desktops

  • Messenger, like Facebook, is free to use

  • Facebook's design focus means a better texting experience than other consumer competitors

You should know:

  • Facebook has been amongst the top blacklisted apps on iOS and Android within the enterprise.

  • Late last year, there was a brief uproar in the media around the amount of information Messenger tracks of each user, the amount of permissions it requests of your device, with accusations of "spyware type code" . In response, the company says that it merely tracks usage data to help improve its service for all users.

WeChat: The One-Stop Entertainment Shop

WeChat was launched by the Chinese Internet company Tencent in 2011. Widely popular in China and Asia, its user base has expanded rapidly and is quickly gaining on Whatsapp. In addition to audio messaging, texting, voice and video calling, users can post on Moments, a timeline similar to that offered by Instagram, and share posts with connections. WeChat sees itself as more than a messaging app - it's a social media platform, a newsfeed of friends, a photo-sharing service, and a marketing channel. It has games for purchase, and allows for online payments in certain regions. This has led to labels of being "bloated".

Why your employees might be using it:

  • WeChat introduces social media, games, content besides text conversations

  • Its wide Chinese user-base might be attractive to staff in contact with partners in Asia

  • WeChat is free

You Should Know:

  • Many of WeChat's features are optimized for Chinese consumers. For example, its push-to-talk functionality was developed because the Western QWERTY keyboard doesn't make it easy to compose texts in Chinese. WeChat incorporates QR codes because it is hard to share Chinese contact information with a keyboard. For non-Chinese users, these features might seem unnecessary and distracting.

  • In a piece of news that is sure to scare compliance departments, the Chinese government has been known to censor communication on WeChat. This has made it difficult for the app to fight claims that it is effectively a surveillance tool for China.

Viber: The Voice Call Champion

Viber, founded in Israel and launched in 2010, trumpets its VoIP calling as its way of differentiating from the other messaging services. While it has all the same messaging features as the competition, its main value is in allowing users to make calls over data plans and wifi, eliminating the costs of traditional phone calls. In 2013, it introduced Viber Out, letting users call non-Viber users.Viber was acquired by Japanese internet company Rakuten early last year, and is closely imitating WeChat with its introduction of social gaming alongside its communication features.

Why your employees might be using it:

  • Viber has a desktop app that others such as Whatsapp do not

  • Viber's focus on calling might appeal to those who prefer to talk, not text

  • Viber, like all the others, is free

You Should Know:

The important thing to note is that consumer messaging apps aren't built for enterprise. Integral parts of business communication such as file distribution, accountability, and business intelligence have not been the focus of the consumer messaging products. Asking a consumer messaging solution to do an enterprise job ultimately leaves businesses with little control over corporate data, no insight into ROI, and a fragmented IT infrastructure, which only gets more difficult to rectify as the company expands.

In particular, consumer messaging apps have not focused on security. Last month, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released its Secure Messaging Scorecard, which evaluated dozens of messaging solutions, such as Skype, SnapChat, Viber, FaceTime, etc., on a variety of security practices. The results show that many messaging applications have certain critical security gaps.

Less than 50% of surveyed apps allow users to verify the identity of contacts. Several popular platforms, like QQ and Mxit, include no encryption at all.

This is where built-for-business communication solutions are necessary. Like consumer apps, well-designed enterprise messaging brings all the ease and intuitiveness of texting to workers. Unlike consumer apps, Lua work at all levels to ensure the secure delivery of data, while fully incorporating enterprise features to raise accountability, maintain scalability, and most importantly, optimize every action for greater productivity. When you throw in the business intelligence that you can get from our Insights dashboard, it's difficult to see why enterprises should settle for ill-fitting consumer apps for communication.


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