Monday, November 7th, 2016 | 5 min read
The digital advertising industry is always hungry to crown the Next Big Thing, even if that thing hasn’t quite arrived yet.
As messaging apps gradually gain more usage than social networks, the headlines are claiming that the apps are replacing – or have already replaced – social networks. For brand owners, this large-scale shift raises a number of questions: Do I need a separate strategy for messaging apps? What does advertising on messaging apps even look like? Are my customers still using Facebook?
So, it’s entirely understandable if the situation is complex due to the perceived “war” between the two types of platforms.
In reality, however, one isn’t replacing the other. The leading messaging apps are actually evolving to work more closely with social networks and fill gaps in the digital customer journey.
The fact is, people use social networks and messaging apps for different things.
Social networks are often used for discovery, with a shrinking portion of the audience actively sharing and originating content. The bulk of sharing today happens on messaging apps, and the majority of that is on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. This is known as “dark social” because when a brand posts to Facebook and a user copies that link and shares it with friends on WhatsApp, the brand’s ability to track the source of the traffic is broken. They can’t “see” the interactions or the traffic source.
So if you want to incorporate messaging apps into your plans, the starting point is not what they are replacing, but how they can work with social networks to better serve your customers.
Before Facebook and Messenger became more closely integrated, brands would show users interesting content with the hope that they will engage in a positive way, perhaps making a purchase or sharing the content with their friends. This was good in theory, but not very successful in practice. After that initial exposure, the user was lost in cyberspace and the companies were tasked with converting them into a paying customer via a different piece of content or over another channel.
Facebook recognized that it could keep the journey more within its platform, and close the gap between advertising and sales on social media by giving brands better tools to turn engaged users into paying customers in the moment.
This is the plan for Facebook Messenger – helping brands move engaged users from Facebook into private chats on Messenger where they can find relevant products.
It’s a way for brands to do end-to-end business within the Facebook ecosystem. Companies can set up fully automated e-stores within Facebook Messenger, and already brands ranging from pizza delivery companies to retail giants are generating revenue through Facebook Messenger using chatbots.
Brands can also directly message Facebook Messenger users who comment on their Facebook posts, or encourage users to add them on Messenger via other channels. And to prevent messenger overkill from brands, once a user establishes a connection with a brand on Messenger, the line of communication stays open unless they decide to block it.
Today, most branded chatbots are fairly basic. They only really work if you ask them a narrow range of questions. Some have impressive features within their narrow range – the Tacobot, for example, helps user seamlessly stress-eat at their desks. But for the most part, they are still in their infancy.
In the near future, however chatbots will offer a much fuller and personalized customer experience. They will be able to deal with any query and offer personalized brand campaigns that are triggered by user need.
Take, for example, a customer who has a simple question to ask. Instead of just providing a link to a product on your website, a chatbot can draw on the customer’s data, show them a picture of shoes in their favorite color, and tell let them know that their usual size is in stock. Then, it’s just a matter of the user giving the thumbs up. The product can be ordered and sent to their stored address, using their stored payment method.
Companies can bolster sales by keeping the entire process with a single platform. Customers make an inquiry within the chat app, they receive a customized experienced, and they’re less prone to looking elsewhere because they aren’t seeing competitors’ ads.
Then, because the line of communication stays open, brands can provide delivery tracking information and even a courtesy follow up to see how the customer is enjoying his or her new shoes – all within Messenger.
More than 2 billion people will use messaging apps by 2019. This doesn’t mean that messaging apps will start taking over every aspect of the customer experience – not should they. But it does mean that the time is ripe for brands to start incorporating messaging apps into their social media strategy, and designing a fluid way for these two platforms to work with one another.
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