Private Messaging Platforms
1 June 2016
Nowadays, businesses communicate with clients via digital devices and social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, etc. These digital platforms are extremely popular among advertisers and marketing personnel, since the advertisement/exposure occurs "by the way"; users are using social networks at all times. There is no need to "reach" them and search them out. Thus users can be exposed to marketing in a nearly automatic manner. This is especially true when using personal marketing tools such as cookies, focused marketing technologies, etc.
Besides these social networks, the information we manage and the marketing we are exposed to using them, think what a huge chunk of your time has involved using private messaging applications: Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, etc. We use these in all different contexts: friends and family, shared interests, hobbies and even kindergarten carpool groups. Consider the role that these Private Messaging applications plat in your day to day routine, what a large portion of your personal data is transferred via private messages, and realize the potential for marketing activity through these channels.
Take WhatsApp for example: WhatsApp has over a billion users worldwide. This inconceivable number attests to the fact that we all use WhatsApp and it serves many of our social and communicational needs. This fact established it is only logical that businesses would seek access to this enormous amount of users.
But can businesses really make use of digital platforms for marketing, sales and service? Can Private Messaging applications indeed be utilized for profit?
The answer is: yes. And with some thought invested, the utilization of private messages for business can shift from niche to mainstream technique. Imagine that users could use text messages, Skype, WhatsApp or Facebook in order to communicate with businesses and order products; receive information or service- all in their native tongue? This sounds pretty logical. Why haven't we thought of this before? Better yet, how will this actually occur?
The conversation will involve only one human being (the client) while on the receiving end a robot will offer service. The robot will understand anything written to it by the client, regardless of the language used. The robot is programmed to then offer the best service to the needs presented to it, based on AI. The application uses "bots" programmed to answer the users' questions within the Private Messaging application format. These bots scan the organizational data sources as well as the web in order to provide an answer for any question presented. Thus, the forecasted future of private messaging will enable customers to digitally converse with businesses via various digital devices, making the conversation central and the digital means peripheral. The conversation is the platform.
This new paradigm has been applied in China for quite a while. The online tools available to a marketing manager in china are different than those used in the west. Google, YouTube and Facebook aren't available in Chine and so when operating in the Chinese Market one must adapt to its Private Messaging tools, such as WeChat. The 'western' application most similar to WeChat is WhatsApp, yet this is hardly a valid comparison since WeChat offers so much more. WeChat has become a leading tool for both business needs and managing many aspects of day to day life: using WeChat one can pay and receive payment, order plane tickers, pay one's bills and donate money to charity. Social connections in China are maintained mainly through WeChat, affectively making it a necessity.
What about the west? Businesses are beginning to adapt Private Messaging platforms for enhanced communication with clients. When Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook has over a billion users, he hinted towards the future of social media: "We are working hard in order to connect more people around the globe and make it simpler to communicate with businesses". Air France KLM and Facebook Messenger have collaborated in order to enable its clients to check in, receive updates on flights, change flights and communicate with customer service.
The objective is to provide the customer with service regardless of their physical or digital location. Customers usually don't spend much time on Airline applications. There are many customers that won't even download it since its added value is very limited (considering that most customers do not fly often and/or use the same airline each time). Even if they do, they probably won't use it again next time they travel. Facebook Messenger, on the other hand, is an application nearly anyone has since it answers many needs and thus is used constantly. Wouldn’t it therefore be easier to communicate with customers at their usual digital location? This thought has led companies to collaborations with Private Messaging applications and social media companies in order to create a new platform to meet their clients through.
Communicating with customers encompasses challenges as well as opportunities. On the customers' behalf it is perceived as more personal: a personal platform, personal conversation, Local language, etc. From the business's perception, it enables more "meeting points" with customers i.e. more sales opportunities and brand exposure. Using this platform can easily enable greater commitment on customer's behalf. Private Messaging creates unique opportunities for "casual" interactions with customers in an unorthodox location instead of the usual means which require them to intentionally utilize them.
Nevertheless, the challenges cannot be ignored. When using Private Messaging applications, businesses cannot fully control user experience. The application already exists as a platform with its own look and feel. These platforms open the door for businesses and enable them to communicate with their customers yet the real power stays in the hands of the application supplier. This fact can present some difficulty to the business and require more it to invest more effort in creating a high quality user experience which could have probably been attained if the business fully owned the Private Messaging platform.
Furthermore, we are talking about a whole new kind of KM. Robots, bots, new platforms, large amounts of users, personal knowledge management, collaborating with a third party (the Private Messaging platform supplier) are only some of the subjects that should be reviewed from a KM perspective when regarding the field of private messaging.
This new field undoubtedly requires a revision of knowledge management and retaining methodologies. But the future is here. These platforms are already an integral part of our life, routine and data. One way or another, we must rise to these challenges.