The rise of cross-platform social messaging applications will increasingly threaten the influence and stickiness of conventional social networks in 2014 and beyond, according to research firm Canalys. This is a potentially transformative trend that will see increasing numbers of app developers looking to re-orientate their social integration strategies to facilitate messaging and content sharing with communities outside of Facebook, Twitter and other more established social networks, the firm says.

“Cross-platform social messaging apps have become hugely popular, particularly among younger demographics, and the leading services have continued to grow their user bases at impressive rates into what are now sizeable communities,” Tim Shepherd, Canalys senior analyst, said in a statement. “While features vary, cross-platform messaging apps are essentially bare-bones social networks in their own right. It is reasonable to assume that as a user’s social interaction and engagement with these services grows, it will often leave a correspondingly diminished level of engagement and interest in services such as Facebook.”

Social networking companies will need to respond to this competition with a renewed focus on the quality of the user experience they offer, and look to add value through feature innovations and enhancements, or else risk user attention being wholly or partially lured away, Canalys says.

In 2014, a growing number of developers will look to these services to enable social elements of their apps, the firm notes.

“Where appropriate, there is significant value in integrating social elements into apps to improve the user experience and help drive awareness and engagement,” Shepherd said. “Developers will want to tap into these engaged and growing dynamic communities, particularly in markets or with demographic groups underserved by major social networks.”

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