Q&A Episode – Use cases and differences of messaging channels

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On today’s show I’m going to give my opinion on a few questions that a listener had. Along these lines…. if you’re listening and want me to talk about something, let me know. Message in.

A few questions came from Lauren. First

– What is messaging used more most frequently and how does that differ across platforms (SMS, Facebook, What’s App etc)?
There are a million answers here because messaging is a comunication channel. Generally, the messaging use case would be something that the organization is already doing via email, phone call or mail and for any number of reasons it makes sense to add messaging or use messaging instead of the other channel. The major use cases are
1. Transactional – 2FA, text to confirm a purchase or redemption, or a bank texting about transfer or deposit. These are pretty boring, but super useful. These cases will mostly rely on SMS because the company has your phone number and they can just send out a text.

2. A close cousin to transactional messages are reminder messages. An example is that my dentist reminds me about an appointment. Maybe this is a little more interesting than the transactional stuff, but still pretty simple. Traditionally these reminders have sent via SMS, but this is an area where FAcebook Messenger might be trying to encroach. They might have an advantage over SMS too because with FB Messenger you can send buttons such as – confirm/change appointment etc. Where with text message the reminder would say, respond CHANGE or CONFIRM – which is a little clunky.

3. There is customer service use cases where customers are messaging in questions and complaints and then the company is responding to the person or providing answers. This is either live messaging or this is the space where people are mostly talking about bots. A bot would be an automation that receives the message from the user, figures out what the person is saying and then replies with an answer. I’m not really bullish on bots, and the customer service use case isn’t my favorite. This customer service is a use case that’s possible on both SMS and Facebook Messenger. Facebook Messenger is new, but it might have the advantage with customer service.

If I buy a new Bose stereo and I’m having trouble with it, maybe I want to message in for some help. I don’t necessarily know how to send a text to Bose. Sure there might be a card in the box that tells me how, but on Facebook Messenger I can just search for Bose and be fairly confident that I’ll find them. If this messaging-customer-service use case becomes a real thing, I think Facebook Messenger will win because all of the companies already have a prescence there.

4. The use case that I like most on messaging channels is the idea of messaging as a marketing channel. In the desktop era the main marketing channels have been email and webpages. As we move into the mobile era, I think that messaging can do a lot of the things that pages and email did in the desktop era. Under this idea of marketing, we really have 3 use cases – Acquisition, Engagement and Activation.

Acquisition means that we can drive someone into a conversation and then collect data in that conversation. In the desktop era we would tell someone to go to www.com and fill out a webform to give the company their email address. With messaging, instead of promoting the link to the page, we could drive someone to a conversation and the conversation would ask for the data – rather than a webform asking for the data. These marketing use cases work on both SMS and Facebook, but interestingly acquisition works a little differently on each channel.

We’re going to go deeper on acquisition in a question coming up.

Still in the Marketing category, the next use case is Engagement. Since messaging is so personal it works very well to respond to a subscriber one on one. I think of this engagement idea as an offshoot from the acquisition piece. So one on one conversation driving to a marketing oucome – not answering customer service questions. I have a lot of ideas about scaling this one on one engagement – but that is probably something to discuss at another time.

Finally in this marketing category, the last use case is Activation. That’s a fancy way of saying since people are messaging in in the acquisition process rather than going to a webpage – we have a tremendous advantage if we send them broadcast messages back. You just can’t do that with a webpage – when the person leaves, they are gone. If someone messages in, they may be subscribing to receive future messages.

This gets a little tricky with the different channels. With SMS you need to be sure to have opt in language that explains to the user that they are opting in. Each text message costs money, so most organizations only send messages that are important – this is a great natural limit so consumers aren’t getting spammed with texts all day.

With Facebook Messenger there are different aspects to the broadcast based on what type of message the Page is sending. A page can send News Alerts (and a few other types of messages) at no cost. But if the FB Page wants to send a marketing or promotional message, then Facebook charges. It’s a new type of Ad called a sponsored message.

OK, so under that category of marketing, we have these 3 use cases – Acquisition, Engagement and Activation.

As far as the other channels, right now it’s only SMS and FB. Whatsapp and iMessage are rumored to be releasing APIs, but I don’t think that either is public yet. So I’m deep, deep into this stuff and it’s enough work to keep up with FB Messenger Platform.

OK, that’s a long answer – I hope it helps. On to the next question.

– What is the new “hot” thing on each platform?
We’ll keep this very short. SMS hasn’t had anything new on it for decades. BUT that’s all changing, the carriers are rolling out RCS. I don’t know the specs, but essentially the idea is that SMS will become more like a messaging app. It will handle pictures better and it will be able to send cards and buttons. This is not a sure thing, though. It’s taken the carriers – verizon, ATT etc so long to innovate on SMS, that there are now other factors to deal with. The biggest being Apple. The beauty of SMS is that it’s on every phone, but with RCS it’s unlcear if Apple will support RCS on the iphone. Why would they? They already have iMessage. If RCS isn’t on the iphone, then it’s pretty much toast.

Facebook Messenger is releasing new features all the time. The most interesting new feature might be the webchat plugin. Any website can install Facebook Messenger. It will popup on the bottom right of the webpage, just like a live chat software. When a user starts a conversation, it’s happening over Messenger. There are a lot of interesting aspects, but the biggest is that once the user starts the Messenger conversation they are now connected on a channel outside of the browser. So the brand can follow up the next day and they’ll still reach the user. With the old live chat software, when the user closes the browser they are gone.

The reason this is a big deal is that the webchat plugin is a way for brands to tiptoe into Messenger.

– Where do you think each platform is going in terms of major use cases?

Just starting out. Looking to learn how Brands are building the messenger contact lists?

We began the conversation about this when we were talking about the acquisition use case. Remember, to build a list, the user first needs to message in or opt in.

SMS is great for acquisition from the real world or media. The way to start a text conversation is to tell someone to take out their phone and text the word JOIN to 12345. Companies can give this call to action on the radio, tv, print promotion or from a live event. A lot of organizations will ask a user to give their phone number via webform to join the mobile list too – but in that case the webform is doing the acquisition, not the SMS. What you cannot do with SMS is link into a conversation.

Facebook Messenger is great for linking directly to the conversation. So if pepsi links someone to a Messenger conversation, when the user clicks that link it will open Facebook Messenger and load pepsi as the recipient for that user. Pepsi can also add tracking into the URL so they know where the user came from and then can even start a different conversation based on the source of the user. Facebook Ads can also route the user to Messenger. So one of the main use cases is to take Facebook ads and route those clickers into Messenger rather than the mobile landing page to collect email, phone address etc.

I would like to understand how Brands create broader messaging campaigns that universally deploy across multiple platforms. Which include Messenger, Skype etc?

This one is tough. Each channel – Messenger, Skype, SMS has it’s own capabilities. Facebook for instance has certain types of menus, carousels and share options. It’s possible to send the user a message and when they click it will post something on their Facebook Feed. While Skype and SMS don’t have the concept of a feed. If a brand is building a campaign that is cross-messaging channel, they would need to strip out any unique features. So the campaign would basically just send out text messages on every channel. It would force the campaign to be boring.

In my opinion, it’s better to dig in to one or maybe two channels. There isn’t much disadvantage. SMS reaches everyone and FB Messenger reaches almost everyone. So things aren’t super fragmented in that sense.

There are services out there. One I can think of called Smooch, that can help you build something to connect to multiple channels.

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