We're in the era of messaging. This technology offers greater accessibility, deeper connections and wider reach with consumers than many other marketing platforms today. It's the latter benefit that's most exciting -- being able to reach people outside of marketers' immediate networks. From snail mail to Snapchat, the primary goal of messaging has always been to connect with people we know, but now that's changing. As consumers yearn for outside connections that can teach them something new, marketers gain an opportunity to engage with customers and prospects.
Here are three strategies for brands to start building an effective messaging strategy:
1. Go where it's loud.
It's easy to find a platform where users are actively engaging. In fact, the 10 largest messaging apps have over 3 billion accounts. What's difficult is finding a way to point these users toward you -- to get them talking to you and about you.
A platform's loudness isn't exclusively defined by number of users. Demographics vary by platform, so you must decide whom you're trying to reach before figuring out where you can best reach them. Not only that, but if a platform's too loud -- i.e. saturated -- none of your users will be able to hear you. Many social media platforms enable non-personal, one-to-many engagements, which of course won't convert as well as one-to-one engagements, but may be the best choice for large announcements and shareable content.
Studies show that consumers like engaging with brands in non-traditional formats that involve messaging. Over 10 million users on messaging app Kik have agreed to chat with brands through the app's promoted chat feature. This indicates a trend away from traditional brand marketing and toward a more open back-and-forth type of engagement. On Snapchat or Twitter you'll find similar usage trends, indicating that marketing and personal engagement go hand-in-hand. Personal engagement plays a significant role in building quality leads. In the era of messaging, the quality of engagement is more important than the quantity of followers. But none of this matters if you don't have the right engagement entity.
2. Create an engagement entity.
An engagement entity could be any representative of your company, from your CEO, to your brand, or even a mascot. You can use this entity on any or all messaging platforms, and while you don't have to have the same entity across platforms, consistency makes things simple.
Relevancy is key regarding your platform of choice, and more importantly, what type of people use that platform, and how they use it. For example, if your CEO is known for words of wisdom, he or she would make a good fit on Twitter. But, on Instagram, words of wisdom won't get you as far as awesome pictures. In that case, it makes more sense to have a brand account featuring engaging visuals and photos of your company in action.
Choosing an engagement entity does not limit you to one choice, but consistent engagement and activity across all your related entities is important. Consider that 65% of users would feel flattered if a brand liked one of their Instagram posts. Personal flattery can go a long way in consumer engagement and building brand loyalty. Reach out to users, and this will help you convert them into customers.
3. Make it personal.
Personal engagement in the era of messaging takes time, and lots of it. It's much easier to create a paid campaign and let the system (and your dollars) automate the work for you. But even targeted paid campaigns are by nature impersonal. It's possible to automate "personal" messaging on various social media platforms, but even that's generic and converts poorly. Sending an automated message like "Thank you for following me, check out my site" will never be as useful to a consumer as answering a personal question related to your services.
If a customer replies to that initial call to action by inquiring about your services, you'd better offer a personal response. You'll gain more customers with a followup answer (even one without a link) than with an initial, generic, self-promotional message. That's because followups address customer issues on a one-to-one basis.
With messaging, brands can engage customers in a way that is not only relevant and personal, but is also appealing to users. As a brand, you have something of value to offer your customers -- in the form of knowledge, products or deals -- and messaging is the best way to provide this value to your customers. Use messaging as a marketing tool, and you'll have a win-win for both you and your users.