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5 Key Facts You Should Know About Messaging Apps

You’ve probably noticed that more and more people are using messaging apps on their mobile devices. You may even have signed up for one or two yourself, especially since Facebook split its messaging capabilities off from its main Facebook app and pointed its members to Facebook Messenger instead.

As it turns out, however, mobile messaging apps are far more important than you might have realized.

Here are five key facts that you really should know about messaging apps:

1. Messaging Apps (combined with other Dark Social sources) dominate social sharing

dark-social

What is Dark Social?
The term “Dark Social” was coined in 2012 by Alexis C. Madrigal, tech editor at Atlantic.com, to refer to web traffic that comes from outside sources that web analytics are not able to track. Dark Social sources include messaging apps, email and other private digital communications.

It’s an interesting phenomenon that, as traditional social media networks such as Facebook have gone mainstream, consumers have been less inclined to share their personal lives through such public channels. Instead, they have become much more likely to use Dark Social tools to share the juicy stuff with their friends.

In fact, Facebook has, according to a recent report from The Informant, been struggling to reverse a 21% decline in “original” sharing (personal updates) across its 1.6 billion monthly active users.

As the Guardian newspaper notes:

After more than a decade of picking up “friends” – everyone from your BFF to your grandmother to that guy who lived down the hall in your dorm way back in your first year of college (what’s his name again?) – we’ve decided that maybe we’re not 100% comfortable sharing intimate details of our lives with such random and disparate groups of people. Or, maybe we’re just all on Snapchat now – another major anxiety of Facebook’s.

Facebook employees are blaming something called “context collapse”: where people, information or expectations from one context invade or encroach upon another. Despite its elegance as a term, it’s a complicated and nuanced phenomenon – one that evokes norms of behavior, communication, sharing and privacy all at once.

For users confronting collapsed contexts on Facebook, the withholding of personal anecdotes and information isn’t a problem – it is a solution.

For years, Facebook’s strategy has caused regular controversies around user privacy and ethics – blunders that got people exposed, outed and emotionally manipulated along the way. Users seem to have combated the problem by taking Facebook’s own advice, as shared by Facebook’s president of communications and public policy, Elliot Schrage, in 2010: “If you’re not comfortable sharing, don’t.”

As messaging apps have gained traction, they’ve become the first choice of many for sharing information on a much more personal level.

2. Messaging Apps are now more popular than Social Networks

By the beginning of 2015, the top four Messaging Apps collectively had more users than the top four Social Networking Apps, according to BI Intelligence.

messaging-apps-big-4

Most of that growth has taken place since the beginning of 2014 — it’s an impressive ‘hockey stick’ pattern by any measure.

From those figures, you’d get the impression that nearly three billion people are now using messaging apps. No so much — there’s a lot of duplication.

3. Messaging App adoption is spread across multiple apps

Messaging App usage is far more splintered than social network usage, for a very obvious reason: if you’re connecting one-to-one, you need to use the app that your friend/family member uses. Because it’s trivial (and free) to download a messaging app, when you need to connect to a friend who uses a different app, you simply add that app to your phone.

messagingapps-individual

In the old days, people migrated from mySpace to Bebo to Facebook because that’s where their friends were clustering — but that was pre-smartphone. Nowadays, with messaging apps free and happily co-existing on the same device, those who use messaging apps typically have several different apps, with different clusters of friends connected through each app.

4. Young Adults are (currently) more likely to use Messaging Apps

Half (49%) of smartphone owners ages 18 to 29 use messaging apps, while 41% use apps that automatically delete sent messages, according to a 2015 Pew Internet study.

That’s not surprising — as Facebook went mainstream, younger web users were amongst the first to realize that it wasn’t a good idea to post content publicly that they didn’t want their parents to see.

Of course, the desire for privacy isn’t confined to the young, and the messaging apps have plenty of growth in them yet, as consumers of all ages graduate, not just from Facebook but also from limited-functionality SMS texting, to more powerful messaging apps that allow them to share multimedia in realtime, for free (in wifi zones) or nearly free (as part of smartphone pricing bundles).

5. Artificial Intelligence is taking over messaging

“I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.” Those chilling words, spoken by the HAL 9000 computer in Arthur C. Clarke’s legendary “2001 A Space Odyssey“, sum up both our hopes and fears when it comes to Artificial Intelligence. We want computers smart enough to understand us and take appropriate action — whilst at the same time we worry about what might happen if they are that smart.

We’ve already seen Siri, Cortana, Google Now and Facebook’s own ‘M’ at work, taking simple steps in response to our instructions. Now Facebook thinks that “chatbots” — AI programs that strike up a conversation with us — represent the best opportunity for corporates to involve themselves in messaging apps. We should note that competitors like Kik, Line and Telegram have had their own bot platforms running for some time, so the concept isn’t exactly new. What’s important about Facebook’s announcement is that the leading player in messaging has now put its weight behind the technology.

At April 2016’s f8 Developers’ conference, Facebook announced that (after running various pilot programs with select businesses) it was opening up its Messenger platform broadly, in beta, to let chatbots into the app on a large scale.

So far, the results from Facebook trials have been somewhat underwhelming:

poncho

So will chatbots actually be beneficial for businesses?

Yes, according to data collected by Daden Limited (based on chatbot usage on websites in the past):

  • “the use of avatars on Dell’s site found that users who interacted with them were twice as likely to give personal information than those who didn’t”.
  • “online campaign featuring avatars for V Graham Norton and Celebrity Big Brother…. generated clickthrough rates of 30%“.
  • “when avatars are used for e-learning content, use of the online courses increases by 400%
  • “Revenues increased by £6,000 a month
  • “Sales increased by 35%
  • “Click-through rates increased by 250%
  • 62% of visitors converted to registrants”
  • “Site traffic lifted and sustained by 200%

In other words, it’s good for the bottom line. So off you go, start building your Cyberdyne Systems bot.

In Summary

Messaging Apps are now an essential component of the digital marketing world. You owe it to yourself to learn as much as you can about messaging and how you can it in your business.

If you’d like to know a whole lot more about Messaging Apps, we cover the topic in detail in Lesson Two of our new Social Media Refresher online training course. For more details, click here.

 

Ken8U0AbON8

Facebook Revamps The News Feed

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Facebook just announced a revamped version of its News Feed, which it is starting to roll out around the world. The Facebook video above (supplied via CNET) highlights the key points:

1. User Controls of News Feed Content

Users Can Choose The Contents Of Their News Feed

Users can now determine exactly what populates their News Feed.

PC World explains this new approach:

The existing News Feed displays a mash-up of posts from friends alongside Facebook pages you’ve liked . Those posts include check-ins, photos, videos, and status updates in some arcane order determined by an algorithm. The updated News Feed, by contrast, separates  types of content, and lets users choose to view only photos, or only music, or only updates from businesses like yours—in other words, the pages they’ve liked.

TechHive drills into more detail about the new News Feed options:

The Music feed

One of the biggest changes to the design is the way it handles music. There’s a new feed to deal only with music-related stuff. You just choose the feed from a feeds drop-down list at the top right of the page.

Facebook News Feed

Music feed

The Spotify music your friends are listening to is now featured in the music feed. Facebook has moved your friends’ song listens out of the old ticker at the right hand side of the screen, and into the music feed.

And Facebook is doing a lot more with those Spotify listens. It looks for artists and songs that multiple friends are listening to and groups them together in an article in the news feed. The article contains a large picture of the artist, and at the left you can see all your friends who’ve listened to the artist lately. Mouse over any of the pictures and you can see what those people said about the artist.

The Following feed

Facebook News Feed

Some of these themes are continued in other feeds. In the Following feed, Facebook now builds media rich articles using content from the pages of publications or public figures you like. For instance, if you follow the Onion’s page, you might see an article in your feed with the three most recent articles from the publication. Each article has its own image, and a 20-word summary. You might also find in-page videos of public figures you follow.

The Photos feed

Facebook News Feed

Photos feed

The Photos feed simply displays all the posts that include photographs. The photos appear larger in the feed, as well as the text around them. Even the text in the comments boxes below the photos appears to be a little bit bigger than before. At the top of the Photos feed page, you’ll find a small header image that incorporates one of the images from your feed. (Actually, all the new feeds pages have these header images.)

2. Larger Pictures for More Visual Impact

Images are to be given much more priority in the new-look News Feed, for which we can probably thank Pinterest and Instagram (and the fact that, as revealed by Mark Zuckerberg, 50 percent of the content in the Facebook News Feed already comprises photos and videos). Little wonder, then, that the News Feed is being given a visual makeover.

Here’s what you’ll see if you look at a typical Facebook News Feed now:

Current Appearance of the Facebook News Feed

And how it will look once the revamp rolls out:

Larger Visual Images in Facebook News Feeds

3. Facebook Albums Look Better Too

From this:

How Facebook Albums Look Now

To this:

How Facebook Albums will look

4. New Look For Shared Stories

Perhaps the most dramatic change is to the way that links are shared on Facebook. You’ll be familar with the current appearance:

How links are shared on Facebook

Look again:

The new look for shared links on Facebook

The new Sharing layout resembles (and was probably inspired by) the table of contents of a magazine. The new look includes:

  • A much larger image
  • A more prominent title
  • And a longer summary that tells you what this article is about

Facebook is also starting to add the logos of the publishers in the corner, its own effort to add authority and credibility to the shared content.

5. Desktop Mobilised

Facebook Looks The Same Across Desktop and Mobile

This visual makeover will see Facebook adopt similar layouts across both desktop and mobile, taking advantage of recent mobile styling.

What About The Marketers?

Collectively, the changes add up to a bold new look to the Facebook News Feed, at least for consumers. But where are marketers in all this?

AdWeek reported on the reaction from the marketing industry:

Many marketers gleefully anticipated that the content-specific feeds that Facebook was reportedly prepping would improve their ability to target ads. But when Facebook announced the new feeds on Thursday, advertisers were all but shut out—many of them feeling none too happy about it. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company has yet to determine how it wants to handle ads in the four new feeds.

The ability to target, say, image-rich ads to the Photos feed, or promote a brand-related jingle to the Music Feed ads would be “definitely a great opportunity for advertisers. I don’t know why they’re not making that available right now,” said Performics global CEO Daina Middleton.

Facebook isn’t leaving Madison Avenue completely in the dark. After the announcement, the company emailed marketers with a follow-up overview of the new feeds and design “and said right now ad units aren’t going to change,” said iCrossing’s head of social media Amanda Peters, who received such an email.

Despite that outreach, “I was surprised that there wasn’t any mention of ad units [during Thursday’s announcement],” Peters said. “I think [the new feeds] do present an opportunity for new units and potentially more dynamic units, more targeted units for specific feeds. My guess is that would come very soon.”

But maybe marketers shouldn’t be surprised about a lack of initial ad talk, given past Facebook announcements regarding product changes, said MEC managing partner and social practice lead Kristine Segrist.

“I feel like historically whether it was Timeline or other big platform changes, they roll out the user experience first, get some learnings, test it in the wild, then roll out the accompanying ad products,” she said. However “the scary story for marketers is whether users have newfound controls and can choose to spend time where brands or businesses can’t be part of the conversation.”

“There will be a section of the new News Feed dedicated to pages that users have liked”, says Tony Bradley. However:

Borrowing the personalized newspaper analogy, that section will be the equivalent of the classifieds section.

It’s fair to assume that the users who have liked your Facebook page are at least peripherally interested in your products and services. However, people spend time on the social network to be, well, social.

Their first thought won’t be, “Hey, I wonder if that company I liked has anything new to say.” It probably won’t be their second or third thought, either.

Don’t wait for users to find you in the equivalent of the classifieds. To stay in the game and engage with your community, take your business to them. How do you do that? Use lots of photos and videos to help you business show up in the sections of the new Facebook News Feed, such as Photos, that will have the most traffic.

In other words, even in the new-look Facebook News Feeds, old-fashioned Engagement is as essential as ever.

How To Brief A Social Media Consultant

how to brief a social media consultant

So you’ve decided to start promoting your business in Social Media — and, to make the task easier, you’ve decided to hire a social media consultant. But how do you brief him or her? And how will you know if he or she is doing a good job?

The Challenges When You Use A Social Media Consultant

The whole social media phenomenon simply didn’t exist when many of today’s Kiwi business owners learnt the marketing ropes. As a result, there’s a significant lack of knowledge amongst business owners — and it certainly seems to be age-related.

According to a recent MYOB Business Monitor (November 2012):

  • just 12% of business owners over 60 years old are using social media in their business
  • 20% of business owners who are Baby Boomers are making use of social media
  • 21% of Gen X business owners have adopted social media for their business
  • 42% of Gen Y business owners have gone social

With Kiwi consumers overwhelmingly adopting social media (95% of them went to a social media site in the last month), businesses really have little choice but to get involved with the medium, even if it is through the use of a social media consultant. But it is essential to give them an effective brief.

What your Social Media Consultant needs to know

Your brief to your social media consultant should give them meaningful guidance on these seven questions:

  1. Who are you trying to reach?

    As with any marketing, an effective social media brief starts by identifying your target market. Understanding the target audience’s age, gender, location, interests, activities and passions will have direct bearing on both the content of any social media campaign and the networks your social media consultant opts to use.

  2. What are you trying to achieve through social media?

    For some businesses, the objective of any marketing (no matter the media channel) is simply to make sales. For those operations, the social media consultant might recommend Facebook Offers or Gifts or similar sales tools. On the other hand, you might be aiming to build a customer support channel; to achieve that, your social media guru might suggest a significant devotion of time and resources to Twitter. Or perhaps you want to generate leads, or improve your brand’s reputation.

    Whatever your business objectives within social media, you need to specify them upfront to ensure that your consultant is on the same page.

  3. What is your Brand Personality?

    Whoever is speaking to your prospects and customers through social media needs to reflect the brand personality and style of your business.

    An organisation that prides itself on friendly, homespun advice to anyone who walks through the front door needs to adopt exactly the same tone on Facebook. If you wish to be perceived as a thought leader in your industry, then your LinkedIn posts need to take the same proactive, well-informed approach.

    On the other hand, if your staff are not happy outside their carefully-protected comfort zone, you don’t want your social media consultant to be outspoken on Twitter.

  4. What resources can your organisation devote to social media?

    You may think that by outsourcing to a social media consultant, you’re avoiding getting bogged down. The reality is otherwise: social media is a direct conduit  between your organisation and your prospects and customers.

    As such, it touches on every aspect of your organisation: marketing, sales, PR, customer service, logistics, the lot. Even if it’s the social media consultant’s fingers on the keyboard, he or she needs to be able to draw information and answers from, and supply follow-up requests to, every part of your business.

  5. What related topics are of interest to your prospects and customers?

    An effective social media presence is not simply about you and your brands — your followers will quickly abandon you if every message you post is about your organisation. At the same time, your social media consultant must post information that is relevant to your customers/prospects and related at least tangentially to your business.

    A food company, for example, can talk about recipes (not only those featuring their products) or about last night’s TV chef surprise or ask followers for tales of their worst cooking disaster. Similarly, an engineering business might post about the engineering challenges of the proposed 501-day trip to Mars and back, or about new technologies that will impact on Kiwi businesses in the next five years. Posting about upcoming concerts is unlikely to be relevant to any business but music labels, concert promoters and ticketing agencies.

  6. What key products and events do you want to promote (and how)?

    Social media isn’t purely non-commercial, of course, so you will want to brief your social media consultant to post stories about your products and your organisation, of course. The secret, however, is in exactly HOW you go about planning those posts.

    Consumers who like brands in social media do so because either (a) they do actually like the brand (they’re fans); (b) they want discounts and deals; and/or (c) they want to hear about new products and services. Actually, if they want to hear about the new stuff, they want to be first to know — and they won’t bother sharing stale news with their friends and acquaintances.

    So if you want your messages to have a chance of being shared, you need to brief your social media expert to first start building anticipation ahead of a new product announcement; and then leak the news in social media ahead of the traditional channels. Think about it this way: if you were a big fan of X, wouldn’t you simply die to get inside knowledge ahead of the crowd?

  7. How is your social media consultant going to be measured?

    Managers and financial controllers are now starting to ask tough questions about Return on Investment and whether social media really delivers value for the time and money involved. If you’re going to outsource to a social media consultant, you need to set some benchmarks against which his or her efforts can be evaluated. The presentation below by Olivier Blanchard provides some smart suggestions which can form a great starting point for measuring that social media performance.

In Summary

Outsourcing your social media can be a good idea — provided that you provide an effective and comprehensive brief that can make your social media marketing achieve tangible outcomes.

Credits: content for this article is largely drawn from our online training courses “Preparing an Effective Social Media Brief” and “The Principles and Practice of Social Media Marketing