Some of our best friends are bots. Social media has changed in the past decade in a lot of ways, and one of the most important shifts to recognize is in your inbox. The social media world doesn’t just exist in timelines and newsfeeds anymore. Instead, some of the meaningful interactions between users and the most valuable place to be as marketers is in their inboxes.
There’s a term in the game that refers to this as dark social media, which sounds a lot more sinister than it is. These simple refer to apps and platforms like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, and the direct message functions of Instagram and Twitter. These allow for private communication between users, and especially since 2014, these channels have grown more and more popular. What we share on social has changed, and how we show our pals a funny tweet or *sick* dunk on Instagram has done from mentions and reposts to direct messages.
At first glance, this might make messaging apps look like no-fly zones for marketers, but they’re extremely valuable. Over 70% of smartphone owners have at least one dedicated messaging apps, with Facebook’s Messages the overwhelming favorite in the US. Having a strong presence means knowing the best ways to use these tools, when, and where to draw the line.
Give A Little, Get A Little
One of the best ways to use messaging is to build and reward a community of customers you’ve already earned. Offer your followers a way to access exclusive news, deals, and updates through groups. Building a local network of customers turns them into ambassadors for your brand, keeping your business top of mind, and getting folks back in more often than they would have without the nudge. There are few things people love as much as exclusivity…and a discount.
Don’t Do All The Talking
Don’t worry, it’s 2020. Businesses don’t have the time or the resources to field every single message themselves; that’s why we build robots. Automated bots can lead customers to ask the right questions and guide them along the purchase funnel. With in-app shopping and purchasing these days, entire transactions can be handled by the right bot.
Even after the sale, bots can send updates on orders, shipping information, and prompt customers for reviews that are vital to e-retailers. Especially if your business focuses transactions digitally, bots offer a way to use messaging apps as your assistant to handle the little things.
The Money Is Already There
One of the biggest reasons messaging apps are so valuable for marketers is that online payment solutions have caught up with the tech. Today, customers can connect any number of digital wallets to apps like Messenger and WhatsApp, reducing the time it takes to make a purchase and greatly increasing the privacy and security of the user’s financial information. Users can buy coffee, order shoes, pay their rent, and loan money to their dead-beat brothers (looking at you, Wes) with just their thumb and a smartphone. Customers already have their money “online”, and integrating messaging apps is just the next integration for businesses.
Make It Public
You can step out of the inbox, too. Creating a conversation that combines a dedicated following but allows other users to tag along with the conversation is another great way to take the benefits and community of private messaging and open it up to the wide world. Plenty of industries use hashtags, Facebook Live sessions, and Instagram Live functions to feature celebrities, answer questions, or debut new content or products. This allows brands to stay focused on something specific without having to completely reintroduce themselves and their mission, but also let new eyes in on the show.
Finally, the biggest thing brands need to keep in mind is that messaging platforms are a conversation; it’s got to go both ways, and you need to know when to shut up. Keep content and frequency casual, low pressure, and always err on the side offering rather than asking. Use these platforms primarily as a way to add value to your customer, not your bottom line. Done right, that customer will find great deals and a long-term attachment to your brand, and that’s worth investing in.