Is your team ready for the next wave of customer marketing?  For the first time, data indicates messaging has eclipsed global social network active users*. A shift is happening. Right now. That’s because unlike traditional social networking, which is (broadly) public & forever, chat is trusted, private & in the moment. This movement is predominantly led by millennials. Compared to traditional social networks, 87% of them prefer chat as their primary communication service.

So, as people migrate towards chat, shouldn’t brands too?

A few years ago, my team and I sold Buddy Media to Salesforce. At Buddy Media, we were the first to help brands realize the power of Facebook Pages. Clients would commonly say, “I have a website, why do I need a Facebook page, too?” The answer was because that’s where their customers were hanging out. And for the same reason that Facebook Pages enabled brands to be more authentic, transparent, and grow their customer base, messaging will be 100X more impactful.  Here are four of the tools you can use as a marketer to get ahead in messaging:

  • Branded Emojis: This is an easy win for marketers today.  “A 2015 study by linguistics professor Vyv Evans found that in people under 25, almost 100% of smartphone users text with emojis. Also, in 2015, an emoji became the Webster’s Dictionary Word of the Year :-). You could say emojis are definitely having a moment.
  •  They can help you as a marketer catch a mobile user’s attention and speak in the language of your customers. One idea would be to make a custom branded emoji keyboard to promote a movie, new product, or service. Brands like Unilever have used emoji keyboards to launch new products, Pepsi has launched a worldwide #PepsiMoji campaign, even celebrities like Kim Kardashian has created her own emojis.
  • Bots & Smart Utilities: This year will be known as the Year of the Bot. Think of these new bots like having your own private Jarvis or Siri. Because of the growing popularity of chat, brands should be thinking about building value add experiences for customers, or as I like to call it “Smart Utility” bots. Imagine if a customer got a stain on their shirt, they could chat with Tide to learn how to remove the stain. Through artificially intelligent keyword parsing, like “red wine”, “cotton shirt” etc, Tide could chat with the customer about some pro-tips (and even offer a promo code, too ;).  Another idea is a reader chatting with Vice News instead, getting tailored stories anytime.
  • Commerce: Social media has been invaluable for brands, exposing them to new audiences. Social media enabled any company large or small to share their story visually, making the company feel more transparent & authentic. Many brands complemented social media with a standalone commerce app. I believe these two will converge into chat this year as well, in a new form of e-commerce most well-known as “conversational commerce”.  I hope for the day where I’ll never have to use another “shopping cart” form, or download a separate app each time I want to buy something.  An understandable scenario could be chatting with your friend about meeting up for dinner. With conversational commerce, all within your chat, you’ll be make a reservation at the restaurant and schedule a ride there, even pay for dinner. Today, you can already order an Uber from Facebook Messenger. I expect to see more brands join chat platforms. Soon you’ll be able to buy anything, including a dress from Nordstroms, sending flowers to a loved one, or even pay your cell phone bill.
  • Customer Support: It’s painful to get the customer support you might need. Either you send an email and wait for a reply, call and wait on hold – sometimes for hours, or Tweet publicly at a brand to express your frustration. Chat based messaging will allow you to not only complain, but have an open dialogue with any business. Customers will be able to chat with their favorite brand to track a package, or speak to a hotel to change a reservation. Maybe even we’ll be able to cancel our cable subscriptions just in a few texts.

In some other parts of the world, chat platforms are the primary access point to the internet. For example, on the app WeChat in China, you can already book airline tickets, order a car, and shop for just about anything.

We’re going to see that happen in the US as well.

In February, of 2014, Facebook acquired Whatsapp, and in November they made Messenger it’s own platform (they drove installs by forcing it’s users to download a standalone app). We will begin to use these platforms, and others like Kik, Viber, and Tango for more services every day.

Last year, I met the team at Snaps and soon after, invested. They’re building an incredible platform for any brand to manage all of these experiences in one place. There are so many parallels to what Snaps is building in the messaging space, to what we built at Buddy in the social space.

I’m excited for what messaging can bring. It will simplify the life of your customer, and power intimate commerce and post-commerce experiences actually making customer service feel good.

In the future, it will become mandatory for every brand to have a messaging strategy.

My only question is what is yours?


*BI Intelligence – Messaging Apps are bigger than Social Networks