For most businesses and customers, social media is becoming their primary communication channel and a catalyst for building relationships with one another. It’s the public social profiles, posts, and ads that make it possible to reach a wide audience, but it’s the private, personalized experiences with companies that bode well for customer loyalty.
Starting today, Sprout Social will gradually expand Messenger API support for Instagram for customers over the coming months. This new functionality enables companies to manage customer calls initiated over the network more efficiently while delivering a more engaging, more coherent customer experience.
Martha O’Byrne-O’Reilly, Head of Messaging Developer Partnerships at Facebook, shares Sprout’s passion for business messaging as a way for brands to build unbreakable customer relationships. We recently sat down with O’Byrne-O’Reilly to discuss how companies can use social messaging to take their business to the next level.
What role does social messaging play in the customer experience?
LOW: When we think about the way we interact with companies, the methods of communication available to us can be found all over the world. You can sign up for text notifications for a discount, order a product online, receive a confirmation email, but then need to call a service number to get customer support. The customer experience is extremely disjointed.
Twilio commissioned a survey and found that only two in ten people in the US, UK and Australia thought companies were communicating effectively with their customers. People today have lost their tolerance for friction in any form. They want to get involved in their spare time and on the channel of their choice, which is increasingly social messaging.
Social messaging is convenient, accessible, and efficient for both customers and businesses. That’s why more than 3.1 billion people and 180 million companies, from Fortune 500 companies to independent coffee shops, use our family of apps to communicate with one another every month – numbers that have almost doubled in recent years to have.
What other factors influenced the move to social messaging?
LOW: 2020 was a challenging year, but at the same time a year of accelerated digital transformation. While everyone around the world was protected locally, people relied on messaging to keep in touch with friends, loved ones, and businesses. During the height of the pandemic, total daily conversations on Facebook apps grew by over 50%, and voice and video calls on Messenger and WhatsApp doubled.
Small and medium-sized businesses are starting to use messaging instead of face-to-face interactions to showcase and sell their products. We are also seeing larger companies invest in messaging as storefronts go digital or call centers are removed and the volume of customer support requests increases.
Messaging is not a passing trend, however. It’s here to stay, especially as the use cases go beyond one-on-one communication and customer care.
Head of messaging developer partnerships at Facebook
How do you envision the future state of social messaging?
LOW: Messaging can support a customer’s entire journey with a company. In a survey of multiple markets around the world, we found that 81% of people use messaging to ask about products, 78% to get support, and 74% to make a purchase or an appointment.
Sometimes the most transformative changes occur when two trends collide to form something powerful and new. Looking ahead, the rapid growth of messaging coupled with digital commerce is creating a new wave of conversation trading.
By conversational commerce we mean the use of chat or voice support with the intention of promoting the purchase of goods and services. It sums up all of the reasons people chat with companies, from asking about opening hours, booking appointments, tracking deliveries and solving problems. And it happens in all of the places people spend time online, mostly social and messaging platforms.
Companies that have a social messaging strategy in place – ready to consistently meet their customers’ current needs – will see a strong return on conversational commerce.
How can organizations effectively use messaging to create seamless customer experiences?
LOW: Research by Facebook found that over 66% were more likely to buy something from a company that they can contact via messaging. That’s why we want to give brands more ways to deliver an asynchronous, productive customer experience.
As a consumer, I used the messenger experience of a well-known athleisure brand on Instagram to make a purchase and it felt like I had a personal shopper from the comfort of my couch. Someone asked me questions about my preferences, presented me with new options based on my feedback, and continuously personalized the private conversation.
Empowering businesses of all sizes to deliver this kind of efficient, bespoke service is why we’re so excited to introduce Messenger’s API to Sprout.
Since different parts of an organization, from sales to customer service, are more concerned with social messaging, connecting the API to a social media management system like Sprout helps Keep your workflow organized, improve response times and open up opportunities to personalize conversations.
All good relationships start with conversation
No matter where a conversation starts, be it through Instagram DMs, story responses, shop inquiries or mentions, companies can get a holistic view of the customer and the interactions they have had right on the Sprout platform.
This functionality will complement the already robust integration of the Sprout platform with Instagram, including features that will enable brands to more easily manage Instagram DMs, reports and analytics. We are confident that this new solution will help brands use messaging as the true epicenter for building customer relationships and increasing sales.
This is just the beginning. Together, Sprout Social and Facebook look forward to the new opportunities that will arise as our customers continue to see messaging differently.
Unleash the full potential of Instagram for brands by integrating messaging into your holistic strategy. Download this guide for best practices, engagement ideas, and other principles needed to create an effective Instagram strategy.