Viber chat widens conversations, says Hardy

Mark-HardyMark Hardy is the Chief Marketing Officer of Viber, a Public Chat platform. Viber is a free calls, text and video messaging app that keeps subscribers connected with friends and family anywhere in the world.
Hardy, in this interview with The Guardian, explained the functionality and relevance of the app to the
Nigerian market.
Why have you decided to launch Viber Public chat in Nigeria?
Public Chats was launched globally in November 2014 and we have been opening Public Chats for local markets across different regions since then. This week Viber introduced Public Chats in Africa with Pan-African content partners as well as partners in key markets such as Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Egypt. It was a natural step for us to bring Public Chats to the African markets where we have a growing and active user base for Viber.
Can we really say that the Nigerian market is ready to embrace Viber?
Viber is fun and has more to offer than simple messaging and calling. Viber is a chat app, which also features social content, games, stickers and more. We’re sure that local content will engage Nigerian users. We have some of the best blogs and news sites in Nigeria on board such as Bella Naija, 360nobs and offering news, tips and entertainment to our users directly in their Viber app.
What are some of the behavioral changes in mobile users in Nigeria that have triggered the launch of Viber Public Chat?
We know that Nigeria is a mobile-first country, and also one of the African markets with the highest smartphone penetration. Therefore, providing local conversations to Nigerian users with Nigerian content was a top priority. Nigeria is an important market for Viber and we will continue working on providing the best experience to our Nigerian users via local conversations and other features.
What are the social engaging features for mobile users that distinguish Viber Public Chat from other social media messaging and calling apps?
Public Chats offer a dedicated social content channel where brands and celebs can build meaningful conversations with their community. Think of it as having your own chat show live on a mobile platform, where the audience is constantly connected. People can tap into the live conversations of celebrities, brands and personalities to enjoy behind the scenes moments and exclusive news. The intimate nature of the chat app format makes the experience a lot more personal than other social media channels. For brands and organizations, it’s an ideal platform to introduce their team, collaborators and partners to show the human face of their brand and discuss topics that matter to their fans.
Viber recently partnered with Jumia, The Future Project, Bella Naija, among others, are there plans to have more partners join the train?
Of course. Viber is inviting all brands, celebrities and organizations to open their own Public Chats on the platform. The more varied content we have from local partners, the more appealing Public Chats become for our users.
Whatsapp being a competitive brand recently announced a lifetime no charge subscription fee, would Viber monetize its services in the future?
Viber has always been free and there is no plan to charge our users – messaging and calling will always be free. Viber monetizes via other services such as paid stickers, in-game purchases and Viber Out, which enables users to buy credits and make calls to non-Viber numbers at low-cost rates.
If we could say that Viber has come to stay in Africa, where do you see the brand in the next five years?
The goal is for Viber to become a destination app where users can enjoy a number of different mobile experiences. This allows us to tune into what our users are interested in and make sure that we deliver a great communication service but also lots of really interesting functions.
Our 664+ million users are spread quite evenly across the globe so a key focus for Viber is to ensure that we have relevant content for them wherever they happen to live.
The addition of Public Chats, games and other social features will help us to grow and retain our users by keeping them engaged, but as we expand our features and content, one thing will always remain – our focus on delivering a high-quality reliable service that allows our users to communicate freely.
How does the Viber Public Chat work and who can join Viber Public Chats?
Public Chats are a new kind of social channel for brands and personalities where they can drive interesting conversations and share behind the scenes content with Viber users. Influencers, celebrities, brands and organizations in Nigeria and the rest of Africa are invited to join the conversation and open their very own Public Chats. We are here to support partners as they get up and running; Public Chats differs from other social media channels and requires a distinct approach to get the most out of the platform. Welcome to Public Chats – we look forward to seeing more Nigerian brands and personalities come on board.

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