I recently received a follow-up SMS text message from a friend whose invitation to catch up I’d completely left hanging a few days earlier…
Truth is, I’d totally forgotten about responding to her SMS – which is pretty unusual for me, and it got me thinking about how it happened. Sure, life is busy, but it always is. On deeper reflection I know the main culprit is Facebook Messenger, which has (just about) become the one source for all my conversations between friends. That ‘outdated’ SMS I’d received simply slipped through the cracks!
A couple of years ago when someone told me Facebook Messenger would replace SMS texts I was a little skeptical. I’ll admit, I found Messenger a little annoying when Facebook removed messages from their main app and I had to install a separate Messenger app on my phone. Between the too-perky notification chime and the chat head that infiltrates your phone’s home screen (until you work out how to turn it off in Options), I viewed it more as a distraction than a regular part of my day. I also didn’t like the idea of Facebook reading or saving my messages.
But thanks partly to the addition of seemingly endless data to my phone plan in recent years, how things have changed! Scrolling through my Messenger list now, I have multiple group threads, single conversations and enquiries with businesses happening simultaneously. I even receive flight updates and delivery notifications via Messenger. I love the fact I can continue conversations seamlessly from phone, to tablet and desktop. I can share web links easily and there’s the little extras like the ability to draw on images, send animated gifs and make AR video calls… which are simply hilarious. Also, strangely, I feel weird whenever I do send a traditional text message because I don’t know whether it’s been seen until I’ve actually received the response.
I know I’m not alone in my preference for Messenger. There are now more than 1.3 billion people using the app, according to Facebook. But I guess considering Facebook’s reach, this isn’t that surprising. What you may be surprised to learn is how clever a tool it’s become for businesses.
And it’s little wonder. Here are some telling stats, again from Facebook:
• Two billion messages are now sent between people and businesses each month
• 53% of people are more likely to shop with a business they can message directly
• And 56% of people would rather message than call customer service
With all of this in mind, we’ve been playing around with Messenger a lot at Kick&Co – experimenting with ways of integrating it into the marketing mix of our clients and coming up with some pretty cool insights. The crux is, every business should have some level of Messenger incorporation – from simply using it as a communications channel for customers, to harnessing its potential to reach audiences around the world.
So, here’s a breakdown of what Messenger can do for your business right now, from simple to advanced:
It’s obvious but shouldn’t be underestimated. Research shows that people are preferring to use chat rather than phone – it has the potential to be quicker, more convenient and everything is in writing! With this in mind, A, your business should be using messenger and B, there should be someone ready to respond to requests and conversations in a timely manner.
New innovations like Messenger Codes, which are codes people can scan with their Messenger app to initiate a private message with your business are sprouting up to make the communications channel even more prominent. You can also add a Messenger plugin to your own website so customers can contact you without heading over to Facebook.
Advertising and re-marketing
You can push ads directly to your target market through Messenger Ads – these can be bespoke for messenger or the same ones used in other campaigns through Facebook. Ads are delivered to Messenger users who fit your target audience; when they tap on the ad, they’ll be directed to the webpage destination you chose during your ad creation, a contact form or a product sales page.
Perhaps even more exciting are Facebook Click-to-Messenger Ads. You can create campaigns where users click your ad on Facebook, Instagram or Messenger to reveal a chat box with your business page. You can then use a personalised message or greeting to encourage your lead to start a conversation with you.
AI and Automation
Yep, artificial intelligence in the form of chatbots are a growing phenomenon among businesses using Messenger. There are a number of chatbot builders now available to assist with chatting to your leads to answer common questions. Whilst these aren’t meant to replace a human touchpoint, they can help manage large amounts of traffic and easy-to-answer queries. Pretty cool, huh?
Last thought – is the humble SMS text message dead?
Short answer, definitely not. All mobile phones are still enabled with SMS technology and their users check them when they’re received. An SMS can support your media mix or drive traffic to your ecommerce site in a simple and direct way. In fact, I wonder whether text messages will come to work in a similar way as direct mail in our digital world? Traditional, yet novel, with plenty of opportunity to be creative.
Whilst it’s definitely not time to forget your SMS strategy, Facebook Messenger is by far one of the most exciting and fast-moving ways to communicate with your customers… and your friends – just try not to forget the ones still sending texts!