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2019

Over the last few years, the use of messenger apps has skyrocketed. WhatsApp usage alone is now over 85.21 billion hours with 1.6 billion users worldwide while Facebook Messenger is right behind with 1.3 billion users.

 

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Texting and messaging through apps has become a top way to communicate. The ability to connect and chat with businesses in a convenient, accessible and trackable way is a huge benefit for customers.

 

For businesses, with engagement rates reaching up to 80 percent, it comes as no surprise that companies are adopting messaging as a key element in their marketing and customer care strategies.

 

Not only do messaging apps offer a more efficient, cost-effective way to handle customer care, they offer a means to excel at it.

 

In this article, I’ll share tips and best practices you can use to improve your social customer care in the evolving world of messaging apps.

 

The Most Popular Messaging Apps

 

The most popular messaging app in North America is Facebook Messenger. At Facebook’s recent F8 Developer Conference, the company focused extensively on Messenger as a priority. This means small business owners do need to pay closer attention to the improvements Facebook offers in Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram Direct.

 

In addition to Facebook Messenger, Apple’s iMessage is vastly popular in the U.S. Plus, check out Apple’s Business Chat, which is growing in popularity among brands.

 

Outside of the U.S., WhatsApp is the runaway leader. If you have international customers, you’d do well to bring WhatsApp into your marketing mix and social customer care tools.

 

For third party Facebook Messenger chatbots, definitely take a look at MobileMonkey and ManyChat. Both companies offer extensive support, training and communities into which you can tap for maximum effectiveness right out the gate.

 

Related:

Facebook Messenger Chatbots Give Small Business Owners an Edge

 

Why Your Small Business Should Use Messaging Apps

 

Messaging apps in demand. A study by Messenger People found 117 million customer queries were received on WhatsApp by companies in the last 12 months. Messaging apps allow companies to meet customers where they are at, when they need them most. If this is what the market demands, the greatest step towards enhancing customer care is provide that solution.

 

Messaging apps increase engagement. When it comes to business, attention is the game. There is a strong case to be made for the ability to follow up and keep in touch with customers once they have contacted you. Certainly, millennials prefer to deal with companies by text; 83 percent of millennials open text messages within 90 seconds. Being able to communicate directly with customers with such high engagement rates is a huge opportunity for companies.

 

Messaging apps are convenient. Messaging apps evolved from social networks. They provided a way to combine all the key features from different apps and implement them into one platform for the user’s convenience. Rather than having to download a separate app or go through the traditional telephone/email process to contact a company, messaging allows users to quickly reach out to a company and start a conversation while continuing on with their day.

 

Messaging apps are efficient. Messaging apps create a centralized conversation with customers making it easy for different team members to track the conversation, access all the relevant information, and provide streamlined solutions in one place. No more passing the phone to different teams and waiting on hold for hours. This in itself improves customer care through efficient processes.

 

Messaging apps are low cost. For the most part, messenger apps are free to use. All they require is a data or WIFI connection. This saves significant resources, once only allocated to call centers and hiring a number of customer care representatives. While companies definitely still require customer care representatives, the very nature of the chat is through written word enabling employees to manage multiple conversations at one time.

 

Chat conversations are more cost and time efficient than the traditional phone conversations that were restricted to one customer at a time and often involved wait time. For customers, timely responses are a huge plus when it comes to their customer experience.

 

Messaging apps can be partially automated. Messenger chatbots can be used to provide instant solutions to standard customer service questions. Messenger chatbots are not designed to replace human interaction. They are designed to support it.

 

Most likely, there are a few key actions customers are looking to take when they message you. A messenger chatbot can provide instant first-level support by answering common questions regarding appointments, open hours, directions, returns, payments, and so on. This means customers no longer have to wait for a human to get back to them. If they still require human support, it should be made available promptly but chatbots offer an instant solution to increasing customer satisfaction.

 

As AI continues to advance, Messenger chatbots are becoming more sophisticated. This helps to find a quick solution while also creating a personalized experience for the customer.

 

Messaging App Best Practices

 

To ensure a streamlined customer experience, you’ll want to properly set up your messaging processes. To ensure you implement messenger bots successfully, here are some best practices to follow.

 

1. Be human.

 

People don’t like to talk to robots. They also don’t appreciate pre-written, scripted responses. If a customer is reaching out to you, it’s because they need help. The need people who can understand their problems on an emotional level and relate to how they are feeling in this moment.

 

If you do decide to implement a messenger chatbot, proceed with caution. Start very simply and focus on getting the process right first. Remember that chatbots are not designed to replace human support; they exist to provide quick solutions. Always let the customer know they are speaking to a chatbot and if they require human support, it is available.

 

2. Be transparent.

 

When it comes to customer service, it’s important to be completely honest and transparent. It is no different when it comes to messaging apps. People understand if you don’t know how to help them or don’t have a quick solution available if you are transparent about it.

 

Rather than leaving a customer waiting hours for a response, politely let them know that you aren’t sure of the solution but you will find out and get back to them by a set time. This way, they understand the situation, can get on with their day and they know when to expect a solution.

 

3. Streamline your processes.

 

It’s important to align your service, sales and marketing teams when it comes to messaging apps. You need to be able to understand where your customers are in their journey and provide the right solution to the right problem.

 

Once they reach the right support, teams need to be able to access all the relevant information to provide a solution. This means companies need to understand the customer journey and have responses instantly available for the most frequently asked questions.

 

4. Respond quickly.

 

Being able to quickly identify customer queries and provide a timely solution is paramount when it comes to reputation management. Of the 117 million customer queries received via WhatsApp, only 62 percentwere answered within 24 hours. If you are going to offer support through messaging apps, it’s important the right resources are allocated to the task at hand. People need quick and accurate responses. Otherwise, you could quickly turn a happy customer into an angry one.

 

People do business with people they know, like and trust. Being able to communicate directly with customers one-on-one in a scalable way is the first step towards creating a personalized experience for your customers. This allows them to feel heard, valued and taken care of.

 

Messaging apps are changing the game when it comes to customer care.  Now is the right time to embrace that!

 

About Mari Smith

 

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Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events.

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

 

Web: Mari Smith  or Twitter: @MariSmith

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Mari Smith is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

Last January, I was reading Twitter when I came across a hysterically funny thread commenting on actors walking the red carpet for the Golden Globe Awards. The author—Quinn Cummings, was a former child actor (nominated for an Academy Award for her role in The Goodbye Girl).

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Cummings “retired” from acting, wrote several books and “started making jokes” on Twitter, aiming “fora Dorothy Parker/Carrie Fisher tone.” While she “enjoyed making people laugh” Cummings, “missed writing longer stories” which lead her to create a series of threaded tweets, and “put it up with no sense of what might happen.”

 

What happened was she more than doubled her Twitter following, gained more than 430 monthly financial supporters on her Patreon account, and is one of a select group of people who’ve figured out how to make money from Twitter.

 

Rieva Lesonsky: Your Twitter feed is funny, sassy, sarcastic, political and confessional. Hard to pull that off. Is that a reflection of your personality?

 

Quinn Cummings: In real life, I am fairly quiet, very introverted; I think my most noticeable quality is that I’m punctual. When I’m online I am entirely different. I think of my online identity as Court Jester, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Court Jester says the things I say to myself in private, only written out and carefully designed to make people who abuse their power very angry. It’s an odd thing to say about your own writing, but I admire Court Jester. She’s ballsier than I am. Of course, she would correct me and say she has twice the ovaries.

 

Lesonsky: How did you decide to sell access to your work on Twitter?

 

Cummings: For several years, I posted a blog three times a week detailing my life and my adventures—which were mostly misadventures. It was popular. It got me a book deal. But after about seven years, I realized I was kind of burned out on the blog format and started using Twitter more enthusiastically, building followers based on political humor. I was doing well but realized I missed the longer format. Also, I wanted to write a story that just made people laugh. In November, I created that threaded Tweet about the worst decision I ever made in an office. That thread has been retweeted over 17,000 times.

 

After squeezing my work into tweet-sized bites, I realized there might be a place for longer stories, so I started stitching together a fully fleshed out story every weekday. My only rule: Keep it funny, because people are stressed enough.

 

People seemed to really enjoy it. In one month, my follower count doubled, and I loved having the chance to tell stories again. The only problem was, creating these things wasn’t a quick job. It was cutting into my income-producing work. After two months’ creating five small stories a week, I created a Patreon account, told my readers what I was trying to do, and crossed my fingers.

 

After one day, I was earning enough to cover my health insurance. As a working writer, that felt great.

 

Lesonsky: How does it work?

 

Cummings: When I first considered doing this, I quizzed my Twitter followers about what they would pay for these stories [and] $5 a month was the number I heard most often. The $1 level is for those people who want to kind of leave me a tip. They don’t get the extra story, but it’s a way of supporting me and I am grateful for those supporters as well. When I started, I assumed that would be the more popular level because, hey, 2019. [But], I have more than twice as many $5 supporters as $1 supporters, and I have seen quite a few $1 supporters move up their patronage after the first couple of months.

 

Lesonsky: Are you monetizing your Twitter account or are you using Twitter as a promotional tool for your Patreon account?

 

Cummings: I would say I’m monetizing Twitter. The way to imagine it is that Twitter is the city in which I live. Recently, I have put out a shingle and started a business in the city. People who know me from that neighborhood are supporting me. There are ways to use Patreon to find new supporters and I’m learning the skills, but Patreon is not my original language, Twitter is. I will probably always speak Patreon with an accent

 

Lesonsky: You’re already making money. What’s the future look like?

 

Cummings: I…have no idea. Until January, I would have sworn there was no way to monetize what I was already doing for free. I ran the experiment and am pleased to say I was wrong. Now, what other limiting beliefs need to be tested?

 

When you’re on social media the way I am—which is to say, all the time—you notice things. I’ve noticed human beings need stories. We crave them. Joan Didion said, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

 

In fact, stories may be why we’re alive; some scientists theorized humans developed language to communicate where the food was. All I know is we live in a stressful and lonely digital world, but if the right person comes up and says, “Let me tell you a story,” humans come racing. We love stories, we long for authenticity, we yearn to feel whole, sane, not angry, connected, if only for a few minutes. I want to tell stories and I’ll continue to look for new ways to do it.

 

Check out the stories of other successful entrepreneurs here.

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.

 

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

Since launching in 2016, Instagram Stories have become a rapidly growing feature now used by over 500 million people around the world on a daily basis. Since then, Facebook has continued to invest in the growth of Stories through the addition of the feature into the Facebook app in March 2017.

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Mark Zuckerberg is so confident that “The future is stories” that during Facebook’s third-quarter earnings call 2018 that he mentioned stories a total of 71 times!

 

In this article, I’m going to share with you how your small business can use Facebook and Instagram Stories to bring your brand to life.

 

What are Stories?

 

As I discussed in a previous article, Facebook-owned Instagram originally launched the Stories feature in August 2016 as a direct copy of an already popular Snapchat platform. In 2017, the company went on to launch Stories on Facebook as well.

 

The feature allows users to post photos and videos, typically in real time, that vanish after 24 hours. Add media to your story, a colored circle will appear around your profile picture letting users know you’ve shared something new.

 

Stories can be up to 15 seconds. You can add up to 100 stories in a 24-hour period making it highly flexible and a great on-the-go vlogging (video blogging) platform for users and businesses alike.

 

Fortunately, you only need to add about three Stories at a time in any 24-hour period to stay relevant and at the top of your followers’ feeds. I wouldn’t recommend going too crazy with volume unless you have the time and the assets to go for it. Excessive volume tends to have diminished returns, though, so be strategic about the content you post.

 

Why Stories have become so valuable

 

If you’re looking to grow your business through Instagram and/or Facebook, the Stories feature holds incredible value. Here are just a few reasons why.

 

Stories are Interactive.

 

Stories aren’t just a one-way form of communication. Viewers can reply to your Story and initiate a privateconversation with you. This is golden! It’s as good as having your prospect or customer’s cell phone number. You can build personal relationships with your audience and earn trust through the transparent, organic nature Stories provide.

 

Stories are real-time.

 

This makes it really easy to create video content quickly without any technical or editing skills required.

 

Stories can provide Additional Calls to Action

 

If you have over 10,000 followers, you’ll have the feature to include ‘swipe up’ links in your Stories. This is great for adding a call to action that leads your audience outside Instagram. For example, a blog post, product offering, or lead magnet.

 

Even if you don’t have access to the ‘swipe up’ feature, you can use Stories to remind and encourage viewers to click the link in your bio where you can place a strategic call to action.

 

Or, all Instagram users have the ability to link Stories to your IGTV videos. IGTV is a separate app for longer vertical video (15 seconds up to one hour), but the app is very integrated with the main Instagram app.

 

Plus, unlike the main Instagram app, any URLs you add to your IGTV videos in the description or comments are hyperlinked. So, by adding a swipe up to your IGTV video where you then direct people to an external link, you can get traffic from your Stories. I’ve seen Buffer do this strategy well, even though they have the swipe up to outside links feature, they also experiment with swipe up to IGTV videos.

 

Stories improve your reach dramatically.

 

Not everyone sees your feed posts. Stories help combat the diminishing reach on Instagram. Stories are still shown to followers in chronological order. This means the more often you post, your profile Story will place higher ranked at the top of your followers’ feeds.

 

 

How to Get Started with Facebook and Instagram Stories

 

When it comes to getting started with Stories, it’s as easy as choosing your topic, creating the content either in the Instagram app or using a third-party tool then publishing it to your Story.

 

1.  Choose Your Topic: Stories invite your community into your daily life. You can use them to document your day and/or to incorporate some of these strategic ideas for building engagement:

 

        • Offer a behind the scenes look into your brand, people, products and processes.
        • Share tips and tutorials that leverage your knowledge and expertise.
        • Host a Q&A using the questions feature.
        • Conduct market research and get to know your community using the polls feature.
        • Offer platform exclusive offers and discounts encouraging loyalty.
        • Go live and start a conversation with your community. Try also inviting users onto the screen with you to create more intimacy.

 

2. Create Your Story Content: All of these features are included natively within Facebook and Instagram stories making content creation a breeze.

Don’t worry if you’re camera shy, there are still a number of ways you can tell stories and share insights with your audience as you build confidence using the platform.

You can even use low-cost tools such as Canva to create Stories as images/graphics, or Wave.video to create short vertical videos that captivate your audience and invite them to start a conversation with you.

 

3. Publish your Story: To publish an Instagram or Facebook story, you click on the camera shown at the top left of your home screen then use the navigation at the bottom to choose your format.

 

Best Practices for Facebook and Instagram Stories

 

There are no set rules when it comes to Stories but there are some best practices to follow.

 

1. Post Consistently: The only way to engage your audience is to be present. That means showing up on a daily basis and taking the time to really invest in the Stories feature as a key strategy for growth. When you invest in your audience, you earn their attention and they will start to invest in you.

 

2. Plan Your Content in Advance: By planning your content ahead of time, you are far more likely to post consistently. Your stories will also tend to be more intentional and aligned with your goals for the platform.

 

You can also schedule your Instagram Stories in advance using a third-party app. Three great tools that allow you to plan, upload and schedule your feed posts and your Stories include AgoraPulse, Planoly, and Plann.

 

3. Make Use of Interactive Features: From polls to questions, GIFs, countdown timers, locations and @ mentions, there is a wide variety of interactive features built into both Facebook and Instagram Stories. Take advantage of them liberally! These features are all designed to spark engagement in a quick, fun and entertaining way. This is an easy way to get to know your audience and start building relationships with them.

 

And, keep in mind that people absolutely love to touch their phones. (Some studies say as much as 2,600 times a day or even more!) The more you can give your audience an excuse to tap a sticker, or slide the poll, or send you a heart, the more you’ll increase your engagement and loyalty.

 

4. Track and Measure Your Success: Anytime you invest your time and energy into marketing, it’s imperative you track the return on that investment. It’s no different with Stories. To access your Story metrics, just swipe up on any Story.

 

Be sure to measure your traction in terms of growth and engagement not only on a macro level but on a micro level too. You want to know which content is engaging your audience and which content you might want to limit. By honing in on the analytics, you can continuously improve your Story content and the loyalty among your community.

 

You can always go back and review the views on a particular Story within your ‘Archives’. These can be accessed by visiting your profile and clicking the clock icon on the top left.

 

Now it’s your turn to bring your small business to life with Facebook and Instagram Stories. This is an opportunity to connect with your audience and invite them into your business. You no longer have to tell your community why they should buy from you because they get to experience the benefits first hand.

 

 

About Mari Smith

 

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Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events.

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

 

Web: Mari Smith  or Twitter: @MariSmith

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Mari Smith is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

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