How To Integrate Messaging Apps Into Your Social Media Strategy.

Social messaging is instant messaging or chat applications created around social networks for communication on mobile phones with less limits and more features than traditional texting. They use the app’s interface and the internet to send messages rather than SMS service. Messaging apps are popular and have grown to over 5 billion monthly active users worldwide. Top apps pull in over one billion each such as WeChat (1.2 billion) and Facebook Messenger (1.2 billion), Kik (300 million), Viber (236 million), and Line (217 million).

Messaging Apps in Social Media StrategyA Nielson Messenger survey found various generations are using messaging from Millenials (65%) and Gen Xers (65%) to Boomers (63%) and say that messaging improves their lives and their relationships by making communication simpler (69%), more ongoing (65%), easier for groups (65%), and more frequent (63%). People are using messaging to stay up to date with friends and family (59%) and to extend their networks (54%). Over the next two years they expect to use messaging apps more for communicating one-to-one (50%), with groups (60%), and, the most increase, with businesses (67%). In fact, 53% said they would be more likely to shop with a business they could message directly.

People like social messaging for features such as text chats, group chats and notifications, but also social features like status updates, media sharing and stickers. With advanced features they can chat with friends, obtain customer service, make calls, play games, access content, and buy products. Messaging apps also let businesses use chatbots to for customer service, sending content to users, selling products and services and purchase advertising.

The most popular messaging apps vary by region. According to SimilarWeb, WhatsApp is the dominate messaging app across most of the world. Facebook Messenger has supplanted it as number one in countries like the US, Canada, Australia and select Western European countries. WeChat is dominant in China and smaller messaging apps are most popular in other regions like Line in Asian Pacific countries and Viber in Eastern European countries. The messaging app Kik is unique in that it is most popular among a demographic – younger users age 13 to 23. Another messaging app consideration for B2B is Slack, which is a main internal communications tool for many companies.

As with other social media platforms business and organizations should consider adding messenger apps to their marketing, advertising and public relations strategies because their customers are increasingly using them and are beginning to expect brands to be there as well. Messaging apps can provide access to direct sales, customer service and to extent the reach of brand content distribution in an area know as dark social, the —84 percent of online sharing through private channels without a referral source. Thus it isn’t tracked as social shares or referral traffic.

Broadly there are three ways brands can interact with consumers via messaging apps. Content marketing in messaging apps can do more than share with engaging ways to tell stories, demonstrate products, create engaging quizzes, trivia and games. Special offers, sales, promotions and even direct sales can occur in messaging apps unlike social networks. Also, the real-time nature and privacy of conversations makes messaging an ideal environment deliver customer service.

Much of these attractive features are enabled by chatbots. Chatbots are computer programs that simulate human conversation for customer service or information acquisition and distribution. Chatbots can be used for customer service, but can also be used to make brand content fun and engaging. One of the best ways to fully understand the possibilities of using messaging apps for social strategy is to see what brands have done on various messaging platforms.

The NBA increased basketball fan engagement during the NBA Finals and the NBA Draft. NBA’s bot on Facebook Messenger provided fans with instant access to highlights resulting in over 350k interactions. Teen celebrity magazine J-14 used two bots to deliver content and customized quizzes on the messaging app Kik to build up a young consumer subscriber list of 500,000. Miller Lite created a football game day collection of branded digital stickers used in Kik and Viber. The campaign led to over 600,000 downloads and millions of sends.

The British fashion brand Burberry took a different approach reaching consumers in China with a culturally relevant campaign via WeChat. During the Chinese New Year Burberry sent users an image of a letter with a pink bow and told them to “Shake” to open the gift and send a personalized Burberry greeting to a friend and celebrate Lunar New Year. Users could shop their New Year collection within Burberry’s WeChat store and sign up to win limited edition Lunar New Year envelopes to be picked up in-store.

Two food brands have created messaging strategies to help consumers make meals built around their brand’s as ingredients. Helman’s mayonnaise created the “whatscook” WhatsApp campaign in South America where by entering numbers on the website chefs would contact consumers in WhatsApp offering live cooking advice. Based on a picture of ingredients chefs provided recipes teaching users to cook with pictures and even videos. Average interactions were an amazing 65 minutes and the effort reach 5.5 million people. Knorr foods created a chatbot, Auntie, to answer the question “What’s for dinner?” for moms in Thailand using Line. Auntie provided personalized recipes for great family meals which were viewed over 1.6 million times resulting in an increase in Knorr stock cube consumption by 50%.

Macy’s has partnered with Viber to offer in-chat shopping where users can search and share Macy’s products in the messenger app. While purchases happen via a link, the messaging platform is working on full in-app ecommerce features for the future. Adidas has used WhatsApp to build hyper local brand communities in cities across the world. The brand has found messaging to be a great tool for fan engagement offering members first notice of news releases, invites to events and access to Adidas’ ambassadors. Finally, cosmetics brand Sephora has found a way to simplify their scheduling process in Facebook Messenger. Their reservation assistant makes it easy for users to book makeovers and that has helped increase in-store sales.

Like many other social platforms, social messaging apps have also moved to paid social with native advertising options. Facebook Messenger offers sponsored messages, Kik offers promoted chats and Viber offers sponsored content. Line sells in app ads and WeChat offers Moment ads. WhatsApp is still holding out and has not offered native advertising options for businesses and organizations.

Has your brand considered using social messaging apps? In what ways could your target consumers benefit from increased engagement in these platforms? For more insights into the big picture in social media strategy consider Social Media Strategy: Marketing and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution.

Fence Me In: How To Use Geofencing To Improve Your Social Strategy.

77% of people in the US own a smartphone and now over half of all people in the world use a smartphone. One of valuable features of a smartphone to marketers is the location or GPS capabilities. Yet according to a Search Engine Watch survey only 22% of marketers are using hyperlocal strategies (like geofencing) to its full potential.

A geo-fence is a virtual perimeter set up for a real-world geographic area. Geo-fences can be created as a radius around a store and event or set to predefined boundaries such as a neighborhood or city district. Geofencing must be used via a mobile app with location services turned on or triggered by an event like a geotagged post on social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Geofences can also be used to trigger mobile adds on popular apps that sell them.

The Salesforce.com blog tells us that the benefits of geofencing include increasing local sales by pushing notifications to customers in the area, improving analytics by measuring location based sales, time and frequency metrics, and adding personalization to highlight offers and messages to local preferences.

Best practices for geofencing include not making the fence too large. Keep it to within a 4 or 5 minute travel time. Have a call to action that is concise, locally relevant and requires prompt response. Also be transparent about privacy by letting customers know what and how their location information is being used. And target messaging by context (relief from downtown crowds), day-part (lunch time specials), and retargeting (customers who haven’t visited in a while).

Yet sometimes the best strategies come from thinking outside of the box. Mobile Marketing expert Rip Gerber suggest fishing where the fish are, which may not be around your store. Thus other strategies may include building geofences around competitor locations to attract new customers with a special offer or using a geofence around an airport to attract tourists. Also think about using geofences near arenas and events to attract attendees.

More advanced geofilter strategies include adding additional data to make geo messages more relevant. A retailer could use browsing data from an app or website. For example, when a woman who was looking at formal dresses on her phone enters a store she could receive formal dress messages instead of general sales or promotion messages. In addition, consider more helpful messages, such as a hotel, shuttle or rental car app reminding a person before leaving an airport to check in online, book their shuttle or rent a car via the app. Helpful location based reminders could increase brand loyalty.

When offers or promotions are used be sure they are significant and important. Getting interrupted by a mobile notification to save 25 cents may be more annoying than motivating. Also keep track of frequency so that you don’t bug people. Both of these actions could lead to the customer turning off location services on an app, which prevents further location based notifications in the future.

A version of geofencing is Snapchat’s sponsored geofilters. This adds a branded illustration to users selfies based on location, which are then shared with friends or followers. These are paid, but small businesses can purchase custom branded geofilters for as little as $5. One strategy could be a promotion where customers must post an image with the brand geofilter to win – ensuring they have visited the location.

Sponsored geofilter ads can now be bought through Snapchat’s advertising API, which enables marketers to pair a sponsored geofilter with a Snap Ad. This enables strategies such as buying a geofilter and then retargeting Snap Ads to people who used it. There is also integration with Snap Ad analytics dashboards to measure performance and geofilter brand templates can be created that then are easily customized for specific locations.

Other location based social strategies include leveraging geotagging in social media platforms to improve social strategies. For example create of geotag location names for local businesses, events or attractions. This can be done for Facebook and Instragram though Facebook Places. Instagram expert Jenn Hermman explains that customers who click on a geotag location see all other posts to the geotag, which can showcase brand products and services and help reach new customers through location search. 

Geotagged posts also allow brands to source user generated content (UGC). Reposting these publicly shared brand experiences shows customers the brand is listening, appreciations their contributions, and presents an often more believable perspective of the brand. Just ensure you get permission first before sharing.

What brands have used this strategy and practices well? American Eagle used location-relevant messages sent at the ideal time of the day to improve purchase behavior by 65%. Domino’s used geofencing around hotel locations to trigger local mobile ads offering ordering for the nearest locations. And a national fast food pizza chain used geofences around store locations to trigger a two-for-one take out deals. Notifications were delivered during rush hour, limited to users who had previously made online orders, and frequency was capped at a max of one message every three days. The result was an increase of 21% in the daily takeout orders.

How can you use geofencing and geotagging to improve your social media strategies? For more insights into the big picture in social media strategy consider Social Media Strategy: Marketing and Advertising in the Consumer Revolution.