In this guest post, Digitas Australia’s director of analytics, Michael Daley (featured image) discusses five marketing impacts of the Facebook platform merger…
The digital landscape is always changing. And no component of the ecosystem evolves faster than social.
The latest evolution for social came earlier this year, with Mark Zuckerberg announcing his decision to merge the messenger components of Facebook (Messenger), Instagram (Direct) and WhatsApp. Aside from protecting consumer privacy, there are consumer and commercial-led objectives this could achieve. The brands that respond to these innovations are those that stand to benefit.
Let’s start with consumer-led motivations. The way we engage over social has been shifting from public forums into private channels:
- Since 2015, there have been more people using messaging apps than social networks.
- Social media use since 2010 increased by between 3% and 9% each year. However, in 2018, American use of social media dropped 4%. The cause of this is cited as ‘young Americans… embracing platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat etc.’
- Private sharing now accounts for nearly two-thirds of all social shares.
Merging three major platforms removes the barrier consumers face of having to constantly switch platforms. People on Instagram will be able to message people on WhatsApp, and take advantage of the combined functionality of all three.
The smoother experience will either change how they share content publicly, or simply reduce how much they share publicly. This won’t only affect Facebook-owned properties – it will extend to other platforms too (e.g. Twitter, Pinterest etc).
From a commercial perspective, Zuckerberg has indicated his desire to move towards a WeChat model. If you’re not familiar with WeChat, the Tencent-owned platform allows users to make calls, share photos, hail cabs, pay in-store, transfer money and more. It works so well because everyone is on it; it recently exceeded 1 billion users.
Combining the three direct channels is a big step towards a streamlined platform that provides similar capabilities, allowing brands to engage with consumers and commercialise products in completely new ways.
It also means consolidating all the 3.6 billion accounts held on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram into one giant platform.
Facebook also knows it can’t rely solely on advertising in public spaces to grow revenue. It needs to promote new capabilities that enable brands to provide utility to customers. This isn’t new – Facebook has been encouraging brands to deliver better experiences through Messenger for a while.
For example, Lego uses the channel to drive sales with a bot (named Ralph), helping visitors understand products on offer and directing them at the right time to the point of sale. Instagram has also just released in-app checkout functionality, with brands like Nike, Adidas and Dior already on board.
A consolidated platform means a whole new sales channel for brands, built with smooth and secure eCommerce functions. It also helps expand reach without setting up a new channel; for example, brands will be able to use Messenger bots to converse with WhatsApp users without having to set up a new channel.
What does this mean for marketers? There are four major impacts:
- The value of social listening will decrease – social listening has established a clear role in informing brands of consumer trends. With fewer public posts, we need to reconsider how we monitor and respond to consumer sentiment. Investments in collecting the voice of the customer through ongoing engagement programs, as well as applying advanced analytics techniques to extract insights, will constantly increase in value
- Less visibility of how content performs – with two-thirds of shares happening through direct platforms, it’ll be harder to assess the performance of social content. New analytics capabilities will be required to assess which content has the greatest impact. Furthermore, we’ll need to determine what additional metrics and insight can be extracted from paid media platforms
- Social strategy will dramatically change – brands won’t be able to simply upload and promote content any more. Social strategy will need to focus on delivering utility and outstanding service within direct channels. Furthermore, the metrics used to measure success will switch from engagement to more tangible KPIs such as leads, sales and NPS
- Products will be commercialised completely differently – social will become a direct sales channel, complete with payment solutions. As such, we need to consider back-end capabilities and how social e-commerce plugs into our wider tech stacks. Brands should consider engaging data architects early to determine what additional technologies to invest in to enable this e-commerce
- The death of the email address? – a bit dramatic perhaps, but if brands can simply communicate sales and service messaging to consumers through direct channels, does it spell the beginning of the end for the almighty email address? And how will this impact customer journey work already in progress?
While this won’t happen overnight, both consumers and social platforms are leading the charge towards increased direct messaging.
Now is the time for brands to consider how they’ll respond. In the short term, there are gains to make through strong innovation of the social experience. In the long term, failure to respond to this trend could be disastrous for revenue and market share.