The private chat space is bigger than people realize, but not as robust as traditional messaging.

The last several months have brought a great deal of attention to ephemeral and anonymous apps such as Secret, Rumr and Snapchat. In a recent interview, Mark Zuckerberg said that, “private communication is a bigger space than people realize,” and he is absolutely correct. Whisper, for example, an app that lets users post short messages to strangers without their names attached, said it garnered 3 billion monthly page views in December and is said to be raising a $30M round from investors.

However, these apps are very different than other, “traditional” mobile messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, Kik and Viber, in that they are missing a key component that have made the others successful –building real affinity and connections between users. In the same interview, Zuckerberg noted, “some of these interactions are better rooted in some sense of building relationships” and that is both the challenge and opportunity for anonymous/ephemeral apps. Unlike traditional messaging apps, messages sent from apps like Rumr and Snapchat do not identify their sender and/or “self-destruct,” making it more difficult to establish the long-term communities and connections that keep users coming back again and again. At the same time, it’s this type of secrecy that attracts users to these apps in the first place –so the challenge is to use this asset in a constructive way that creates long-term users, lest they eventually flee to the next “big thing” in mobile just as fast as they arrived to the anonymity/ephemeral trend. Here are three ways these anonymous and ephemeral apps can foster connections between users, empowering the likes of Whisper and Secret to continue their explosive growth and stay relevant.

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