“What’s your Social Media strategy?” It’s a question that can stump the most experienced of marketing professionals. But even if you’ve cracked Facebook’s algorithm, own a universally positive Twitter hashtag and ran a study that proved your Instagram account quadrupled brand recall, you may not have even considered the next platform that needs your attention and it’s probably already in your customers’ pockets: Facebook’s Messenger.
Since becoming a standalone app in 2014 it now boasts 800m users and you no longer need a Facebook account or even an email address to use it. Mark Zuckerberg said that “Messaging is one of the few things that people do more than social networking,” but Facebook Messenger does both – and more. It’s no surprise that 90% of its users sent a message in the last month according to a recent study of Top 8 Messenger Actions by Global Web Index, but other features such as “sent a photo,” “used Messenger on a PC/laptop,” “made a video call” and “sent a voice recording” also featured in the results. Last of the Top 8 was “Received a message from a brand/company,” but based on recent tests in the US, advertisers should see this as a glimpse into the future direction of Messenger as it looks to evolve into a service platform.
Launched in the US last year, Transportation on Messenger allows users to order an Uber, share their location and pay for the journey – all within Messenger without the need for an extra app or to even leave their current conversation with a friend. A trial with KLM is also underway, allowing customers to receive their boarding pass, get an update on their gate and delays plus be reminded of when to check-in. Once a user interacts with these companies, a thread is opened that can stay forever, allowing the business to never lose context about who the customer is or their past purchases/experiences.
Facebook’s VP of Messaging, David Marcus, says: “It’s really important that we build products that solve real problems for people.” So how long will it be before your customers can order their food at one of your restaurants before they arrive, book a seat to see your latest film, buy tickets to your concert (and receive updates about others like it), repeat their previous online purchases, discuss their needs with your personal shoppers before buying or set their TV to record your latest TV programme? The myriad opportunities will no doubt deliver unprecedented innovation, the likes of which is normally reserved for new hardware or built-for-purpose apps rather than a humble chat service.
But be warned. Even if you’re already thinking of the perfect new way for your brand to use Messenger to increase sales, a fully formed support strategy from across your business to cover Customer Services, CRM, Content, Legal, Comms and of course Community Management will be essential. Whereas Twitter is seen as more immediate than Facebook (the average UK brand responds in 532 mins on Twitter vs 1,498 mins on Facebook), it simply doesn’t get more real-time than a chat app where customers can make voice/video calls to you, see when you’ve read their message and whether or not you’re typing a reply. Customers will be able to send you stickers, photos, videos, voice clips, GIFs and their location, plus make video and voice calls just like they do with their friends, so they’ll expect you to reply promptly and personally in a similar way. Ideally 24/7.
So the next time someone asks you the dreaded “What’s your Social Media strategy?” don’t shoot (or forget) the Messenger.