“Conventional” social networks will come under pressure from the growth of cross-platform social messaging apps in 2014 and beyond, according to Canalys.

Identifying this as a “potentially transformative trend”, the company said that an increasing number of app developers are looking to revamp their social integration plans to support messaging and content sharing outside of more established communities such as Facebook and Twitter.

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

“It is important to understand that consumers are not using these services solely as a free-to-send alternative to SMS and MMS. They also are increasingly where users turn for group messaging, and for sharing photos, links and other content, and are the communities where their friends and contacts are most easily and verifiably reachable,” he noted.

According to Canalys, active users of cross-platform social messaging apps already number around 1.5 billion and are set to pass two billion in 2014 – although some individuals are using multiple services.

“It is not uncommon for consumers to have several different messaging clients on their mobile devices to ensure they can reach all their contacts and make the most of the different features and functionality on offer, from free VoIP to social games to media sharing. Consumers are showing that their loyalty to specific socially-oriented services cannot be relied upon and leading social networking companies should heed the warning to guard against complacency,” Shepherd said.