MXit, the free instant messaging and social media platform, has been in the news lately, primarily because it was acquired by World of Avatar, a South African investment group lead by Alan Knott Craig Junior, last year.
Where MXit has excelled in the pre-smartphone market has been in connecting to other services like Yahoo, ICQ, Google Talk and Facebook while operating on the relatively cheap GPRS packet oriented mobile data service.
Prior to BlackBerry and its infamous BBM free instant messaging service, people between the age of 10 and 18 used the service to connect with their friends and chat in groups. With the onset of BlackBerry there has been a steady decline in MXit’s usage from 17-million actives, at its peak, to around 10 million at time of publishing; with that said, there remains a lot of confusion as to exactly how many people use MXit every day.
One massive aspect of many successful social media platforms is the ability to share content either within the platform or across platforms, an example being: posting a Youtube video on Facebook or sharing a web album with one’s followers on Twitter. Cross platform sharing allows users, who might not have been aware of another service, to firstly: notice the other service, and, secondly: to begin to use that other service as part of their social media experience.
Forty-eight hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute and it is now considered to be the world’s second biggest search engine behind Google, but few recognise the importance of Facebook when it comes to YouTube’s usage. Yes, you heard me; the massive growth of Facebook is partly responsible for the growth of YouTube.
But what does that have to do with MXit?
Well, MXit doesn’t have a sharing button, so that means whatever goes on in MXit stays in MXit – there is no cross-platform sharing between MXit and any other party, despite the fact that it links to Yahoo, Google Talk and Facebook. Sharing also allows users to point other users to content they might not ordinarily have seen and, therefore, promotes the content – this doesn’t happen in MXit and it creates quite an insular experience for its users.
One of the cardinal rules when having a blog, for example, is to have as many social network sharing buttons as possible so that readers can share that information with their friends. It’s also a great way to create backlinks from people who wouldn’t have ordinarily made the link.
Being a totally mobile platform is, now, no longer an excuse. Twitter had mobile roots and is now one of the most utilised social media platforms, YouTube mobile is now the second biggest video platform on Earth – and, in a very big part, they have cross-platform sharing to thank for that.
In the tech industry it’s easy to handout criticism and point out the foibles, but what about solutions?
It would be great both for MXit users and for MXit themselves if publishers and brands could push content out to their own channel. Maybe a share button could be built into the publisher’s media channel on the smartphone app?
The share button could give users the option to share with other users or their shared groups. If MXit really wanted to throw the boat out, it could even allow sharing to other social networks. It’s worked for the growth of bigger players, why wouldn’t it work for MXit?
Memeburn spoke to MXit and this is what the company had to say:
Sharing is an area where we know that we’re not as strong as we’d like to be, and we’re working hard on fixing that. For us it’s important not to go for “sharing for sharing’s sake”. Sharing can easily turn into noise, and can easily feel “spammy”. We believe sharing means helping people do meaningful things together.
The other aspect of sharing that we’re taking seriously is to create more value for developers and companies providing services on Mxit. Take a publisher on Mxit for example: we’d like to add the ability for a Mxit user reading an article on Mxit to share it with their friends and discuss the content in real-time in a chat room. Or the example of someone offering a game on Mxit: let’s make it possible for our users to invite friends to play the game with them, and chatting about it on the side. Without sharing, publishers and developers have to rely on advertising and old-school word-of-mouth to grow their user base. With sharing and collaboration, engaging services on Mxit can spread and go viral a lot more easily.
Our first steps towards this vision are already being developed, and there’s lots more to come.
Author | Graeme Lipschitz: Columnist
Graeme Lipschitz is the co-founder of digital innovation agency Wonderland Works where he heads up Social Media, Search and Product Development. He was previously the business development manager at Clicks2Customers.com and has worked for Google UK and South Africa as a lead account strategist, growing Adwords accounts in the... More