The Next Wave – Messenger Marketing

BY Tacita McEvoy 6 MINUTE READ

“Messaging is one of the few things that people do more than social networking” – Mark Zuckerburg, 2014.

Zucks’ famous quote explains the $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp and the standalone Facebook Messenger app which we’ve been forced to use – why have a stand-alone messenger platform on mobile and not desktop? Well, it’s because they’re gearing for the next wave of Messaging.


Before we were broadcasting our lives one-way we were engaging in chat rooms and sending emoticons and nudges on MSN Messenger. MSN users were shifted to Skype in 2013, where they stayed away from any social media functionality.

So as our social feeds get more and more overcrowded by sponsored messaging and Game of Thrones memes we’re looking to get back to basics. Not sure if this means the revival of the chat room, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could connect with new people without the fear of being ‘catfished’. One saving grace is that people are starting to use LinkedIn as a means to connect with new people in a professional capacity, as we’re able to view employment references and work experience before replying to an unsolicited message.


With the information overload of the World Wide Web it’s become impossible to consume all the media we’re exposed to on a daily basis, and then we still have to find time to post about our own lives. With limited time we’re sometimes faced with a choice – post or chat, and it’s always chatting. In a nutshell, we’re spending more time chatting than posting and brands want a piece of this pie – and they’ll get their fix soon enough.


We’ve been left in the dark by the Dark Social phenomenon for years – how do we know if consumers share our brand stories off social platforms through messages i.e. iMessage from Dan: “Dude did you see those new Nike sneakers on Facebook – just bought a pair in store.” Eek! This gives marketers the chills when thinking of a dismal click-through rate on a social media campaign that has actually been performing well on a messaging platform.


So what does the face of messaging disruption look like? We can gain some insight into the future by looking into the past at what didn’t work. Unfortunately, the Mxit craze of most SA millennials’ youth never survived, but why did this golden child of messaging die a quick painful death? Rapid innovation was not possible – Mxit rose during the Nokia era where enabling your WAP settings opened up hours of chat at almost no cost. But with the launch of the smartphone Mxit failed to serve a premium app offering and its loyal users soon migrated to WhatsApp without worrying about their lost moola. Innovating quickly is key, but as former FNB CEO and Mxit chairman Michael Jordaan commented to Fin24: “Mxit could have been WhatsApp if it had acted two years faster”.

It had the perfect chat hybrid: one-on-one private messaging and group chats, chat rooms where you could meet new people and a business offering where brands could interact with fans in real-time. The next chat platform that is able to integrate brand communication seamlessly, without too many bells and whistles, will rule the roost. It’s possibly why WeChat’s all-in-one offering has not monopolised outside of Asia, where the government and corporate sponsorships also play a big part in standardising one platform for all.


With no sponsored content, no media space, and no place for spammy direct messages from unknown numbers, WhatsApp has kept their offering a true messaging platform.

But there is a business solution in the air and WhatsApp can’t help but tease us in their T’s & C’s: From Whatsapp.com/legal -We will explore ways for you and businesses to communicate with each other using WhatsApp, such as through order, transaction, and appointment information, delivery and shipping notifications, product and service updates, and marketing. Marketing Managers make sure to set some budget aside in 2018 for messenger marketing.

But being an early adopter is key and some brands are already using the basic WhatsApp features to their advantage. Here are some tips to get started.

  1. Create and display your WhatsApp number Your WhatsApp number should be included next to your social icons on any communication. You can add the ‘Click to Chat’ link provided by WhatsApp, which opens a chat on mobile or desktop. All you need to do is add your international number (+27) at the end of this link https://api. whatsapp.com/send?phone=
  2. Create an engaging persona We gravitate towards messaging for the personal connection, so brands need to do just that – create a personal experience for the user. This can be done by creating a fictional character that represents the personality of the brand. A great example of this is when Absolut Vodka created the fictional Doorman ‘Sven’. The public had to message Sven on WhatsApp and persuade him that they should be invited to their launch party, and yes, he did receive videos, voice notes and a few indecent proposals as means of persuasion – but he stuck to his persona and nothing really rattled him.
  3. Start building an authentic database The Absolut example is great because users went to the brand instead of the other way around. In one go the brand had a cell phone number for their database and the user had the brand’s details saved on their phone without any hard-sell or spam. An authentic database is key to converting users into fans. Becareful about sending unsolicited WhatsApp messages even to an opt-in database; make them come to you.
  4. Make use of the ideal customer service tool Within the multitude of app notifications and inbox messages what you check first are your WhatsApps. Customers being able to message a brand and get instant responses is first prize, so when creating a customer service chat number ensure you are adequately staffed as unread/ unresponded blue ticks can put a negative sentiment on your brand and create more frustration.
  5. Be careful with groups Many SMEs communicate promotions with fans through WhatsApp groups, but these groups are limited to 256 users – which seems like a little but remember how annoyed you get when you look at your phone after a 2hr meeting and there are 50 messages on Lisa’s bachelorette group. Creating small groups for departmental communication or your running group can work but when sending promotional material on WhatsApp it’s better to send directly to individuals so that you get one- on-one responses without spamming a group


The big question on our minds is will the business offering be monetized or will we need to pay to advertise? Or an even bigger question – will users need to pay for WhatsApp – 1 Billion users each paying $5 a year adds up and has surely crossed their minds. With our Facebook feed being a circus at the moment there have been talks of a paid ad-free account. Would you subscribe?


While WhatsApp seems to be the mobile messaging king with 1 billion users, Facebook forcing us to use their messenger app has put them in the lead with 1.2 billion. Having a stand-alone app enables Facebook to add more features tailored towards messaging only.

Some awesome Messenger innovations include ‘M’ – your virtual assistant on messenger (Coming soon to SA). M recognises what you and your friends are talking about and gives you suggestions to make your life easier. Saying thank you? – M provides some cool thank you emojis. Paying a friend back? – M provides a handy peer- to-peer payment button. Chatting about what to have for dinner? – M suggests some local restaurants you might like. Thanks, M!


What we love most about the FB Messenger innovations are the chatbots. If you haven’t started experimenting with chatbots you’re going to be left behind, but if you’re already in the dark, a chatbot is an automated response on Facebook Messenger. It uses AI to identify a customer’s query and provides an automated response. It can be as broad as sending a standard promotional message to everyone who comments on your page to providing answers to specific FAQs.

In the US, chat and e-commerce are already merging with bots. Through machine learning bots are able to identify what e-commerce items you might like and send you ideas through Messenger – and guess what, you can even check out and pay within a message – wonder what the auto-response would be to ‘Can I really afford these shoes?’

We all know that open honest communication is key to any relationship – and that’s exactly how brands are going to retain customer loyalty. If you’re going to invest in messenger marketing make sure to spend time on the copy, and remember that tone of voice and personality are your new UX and design.


For All The World To See

BY Tacita McEvoy 5 MINUTE READ

Poor Generation Z and Alpha; for most of them, their online brand starts from day one in hospital,
in mom’s arms as she smiles for the Facebook and Instagram post. #newborn #babygirl #instababies. . . Before you even know your name, your online brand has already been kick-started.

Most of us have zero control over how, or if, we build our digital brand. That short bio on your company’s website, your name on a conference attendees list, that online family tree to which aunty Audrey added you—there’s no avoiding it! What we can do is take some control and craft our brand to start benefiting our work and personal lives. If you need more convincing, just think: Do you really want your colleagues, family, friends, and frenemies telling your story for you, for all the world
to see?
Take your online brand into your own hands. Here are five tips to get you from a zero to the hero you want to be known as online.


Before you get too overwhelmed, take stock of where you stand. Google yourself and see what comes up. Brace yourself, you may be shocked to see that old MySpace profile or your mention of coming third in the high school science fair; don’t forget to look through Google Images, too. Make a list of the shockers you want removed or get pushed down in the rankings. After your audit, it’s time to clean up.

Contact the sources of the mentions you want removed if you’re unable to do it yourself. Don’t forget to go through your social profiles from the very beginning and delete any incriminating photos. While you’re doing this, it’s also worth changing your social media privacy settings so that your personal photos are not automatically visible to the public.


Now that you’re pretty squeaky clean on the search engines, what’s next? Before you think of updating, posting and sharing, there’s an important exercise you need to do first: getting to know your brand and how you want to be perceived to the world. This can be quite daunting if you’re a private person.

Here are some questions to help you get started:
What do you do, or what do you want to do? Even though you may not be in your dream job, you can decide what you want to do and tailor your personal brand according to your dream: You could be working at a coffee shop, but your personal brand is a fashion blogger and designer. Taking control of your brand is believing you can be whatever you want to be.

What is your brand voice? Are you funny, professional, academic, analytical, conversational or controversial? The key is to keep it consistent throughout all your online communication— be the most authentic you, and don’t change per medium or audience.

What is your competitive advantage? What skills and strengths do you have to stand out from the crowd? People with strong personal brands are clear about who they are and maximise their strengths. Once you know what your skills and strengths are, you can build your brand around them and become a thought leader in your industry.


Blogging, tweeting, vlogging, podcasting . . . the list goes on and on. It can be tricky when having to choose a medium to express and promote your brand. If you’re new to the personal-branding game, there are a few basics to tick off:

Social media: To truly catapult your brand, you need to dive head-first into social media—but you can pick your poison. Twitter is great for starting and jumping onto conversations around industry topics and current affairs; but you really need to be all-in with Twitter, because a tweet now and then won’t get you far. Facebook is a better avenue if you want to share industry news and information around your business or what you do. Plus, if you have a business page, you can put ad spend toward your content and really reach a more defined target audience—this is probably one of the best ways to get your brand out there quickly. When you think of an online résumé, you immediately think LinkedIn, as it’s a powerful tool you can use to build your personal brand quickly and is highly favoured by the Google search algorithm.

LinkedIn has all the personal branding tools available, from showcasing your work history to gathering recommendations to publishing articles on LinkedIn Pulse. We can’t forget about Instagram and SnapChat, either. Remember that some influencers are so good at building their personal brands that they make a career from endorsing products to their network. The modeling industry is also changing, as some agencies are doing away with the traditional Z Card and sending clients their models’ Instagram profiles— which means the more followers, the more bookings.

Content creation: If you had to answer the question, “How do you build an awesome personal brand online?” in two words, the answer would be? Content creation. The key to separating yourself from everyone who has a LinkedIn profile and blog is consistent content creation. How often do you need to push out content? People who are serious about building their brands do weekly vlogs and on a daily basis update their social profiles with relevant content relating to their ‘why’. Some people don’t like to do off-the-cuff videos and want to spend more time editing. That’s fine, but take time each day getting some sort of content out there—a tweet, a short blog post—as it all adds up.

Your hub: Social media profiles are fantastic tools to build your brand, but a personal website is a great hub to consolidate your content and express yourself in any way possible. Even if you don’t get to building your hub straight away, it’s worth buying a domain name that will represent your brand— this can be your name or what you do. Visit GoDaddy.com and spend some time seeing what names are available; a .com is always going to be first prize.


‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ has never been more relevant than when it comes to your personal brand. Associating yourself with thought leaders within your industry will elevate your brand. You can do this by tapping into a conversation on Twitter, connecting on LinkedIn, or sending them an email to meet up over a coffee. Once you make a personal connection, even over one coffee, you’ll feel more comfortable engaging with their content and asking for feedback around yours. Even better would be to secure a mentor who has perfected his or her personal branding strategy. Learning what has worked for others could eliminate a lot of trial and error, so research the personal branding gurus. Check out American serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk— he’s killing it when it comes to personal branding.


Back to blogging, tweeting, vlogging, podcasting and snapping—it sounds like a lot of work! You may have a passion for business but not for social media or blogging, now what? Well, your brand is your best investment to guarantee future earnings. If you need to get an assistant, tech-savvy friend or agency involved to help build your brand, it’ll be worth every penny. Begin small with a ghostwriter to start producing content, and a designer to conceptualise the look and feel of your brand. If you don’t have the resources to get help, don’t let that hold you back—just start. Your first blog post may not be perfect, or you may stutter in that first video, but you’re getting your message out. Don’t mind the haters! Not everyone’s going to like your content, and those haters have definitely not done a vlog before. It takes guts.

Now you may be thinking: I don’t want to be branded, put up a politically correct facade, or delete that Facebook photo from that night out I don’t remember—well, you don’t have to. The beauty is, you have control over how much or how little you want to share, but we all have a voice and something to share with the world. And that’s what your personal brand is all about.

Snap, pin, post, tag, buy

BY Tacita McEvoy 5 MINUTE READ

“I googled you on Facebook!” shouted a fellow hiker to an old friend he bumped into on the mountain. Wait . . . what? That doesn’t make sense; as a self-proclaimed techie, overhearing this abomination left me cringing, but also made me think: Could the social media giant reduce our beloved Google to a mere verb? 


Every month there are new plays made by the social powerhouses, and mind-blowing innovations become reality. The social landscape is on a takeover path, and there are quite a few changes in store for us in 2017. Here’s a glimpse of what to expect. 

Augmented reality and wearables

AR plus social media is a match made in heaven. Immersive experiences are the future of how we connect and share online. 2016 will forever be known as the year of Pokémon Go, the app that got us off our chairs and into the real world, bumping into other fanatics on street corners. When it comes to wearables, the hype around Google Glass might have been too soon, but there’s no doubt that the future of social will be whatever and wherever we want it to be. Imagine: instead of viewing your friend’s holiday snaps, being able to share a cocktail with the person in Bora Bora during your lunch break. 


Social commerce, or scommerce, is the next phase of the e-commerce experience. Scommerce will be the driving force behind mobile shopping, making it natural for users to do purchases on the go. The expected explosion of the buy buttons on Instagram and Pinterest are yet to contribute toward sales, but why? This could be due to the information overload we’re already experiencing on these platforms, the lack of inventory structures and browsing capabilities. But instead of taking e-commerce to social media, why not take social to e-commerce? In the movie The Intern, Anne Hathaway plays a founder of the fashion e-commerce startup About the Fit; they introduce a new feature enabling users to see what other shoppers put in their carts in real time. This creates a demand for items, and makes online shopping more interactive and social—which is something we’ve been waiting for.

Lenses, filters, masks and more

Social media has created a demand to showcase our best selves online. With beautifying apps and colour-saturation filters, everyone is a supermodel. Snapchat took the filter culture one step further and embraced augmented reality through live animated masks; the app now has 10 billion daily video views. As new platforms pop up, the big players need to keep up. Facebook acquired the Masquerade face-tracking and 3D effects–rendering SDK (software development kit), and is now offering face masks on its live video—basically Periscope meets Snapchat. All we can do now is wait for the next big thing, and hopefully it improves our selfies. 

Total domination, or niche segmentation

As seen by addictive Snapchat filters, innovation is exploding in the social media space, but what all the big players do is recreate their ideas on their all-inclusive platforms. Is the space being monopolised by the heavy hitters, or will platforms start to segment into niche networks? Until recently, there were three major players in the social media space: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, which each filled slightly different niches. This has changed to include Snapchat and Instagram (now acquired by Facebook). As each social network becomes overcrowded by ads, and their newsfeed algorithms can’t keep up organising relevant content, there will be no other option than segmentation. Moms will flock to their specialised social network to share their magic moments, and the fitness fanatics will post their #inspo posts on their niche network.

Social search

Back to “I googled you on Facebook.” Social media will become the future of search engines. When you hear about a new restaurant, it’s now a toss-up between googling it or searching for its Facebook page to view up-to-date patron reviews and real images. Apart from search, there has always been a debate between the influence of social media on search engine optimisation. The Twitter Firehouse deal with Google in 2015 was a game changer. Google is now indexing selected tweets, which provides real-time updates to your search results page. Brands are latching onto Twitter as a part of their SEO strategy, which actually alters the core of the conversation platform to be more broadcast-focused. It’s early days for social indexing, but the merge between search and social will come sooner than we think; if only Google+ had hit it off, the war would’ve been over before it started.

The everyday influencer

If ever there were a social network killer, sponsored content would be the number-one suspect. The advertising content overload on our newsfeed is enough to make us run for the hills. What we’re mainly interested in is what our friends are doing. With the rise of social came the rise of the ‘social media celebrity’: an influencer in the space with a large following of fans interested in their content. Brands pay big bucks to get these influencers to curate posts about their products, which results in sales from loyal followers. With any advertising message, trust is the determining factor. Do you trust a brand is the best because it says so, or because the insta-celebrity says so, or maybe even because your friends say so? The rise of the everyday influencer is imminent; brands will enlist a larger number of users to review their products or services, and post their experiences to their network.

Changing the way you work

Social media has changed the way we stay in touch with our friends and family, but what about how we work? Some organisations have banned social media sites in the workplace for productivity reasons, but some have embraced the platforms as a means to improve efficiency, staff morale and project management. Workplace by Facebook is an app that allows organisations to build teams and collaborate on projects without the distraction of sponsored content or one’s personal newsfeed. But surprisingly enough, Workplace for Facebook, even without the ads, is not a favourite business communication tool. Slack has become the social network where we spend our workdays. Traditionally a business communication and project management tool, users are now sharing music and making lunch plans through their Slack channels. The key to workplace social networking is focus: We want to be able to interact without being distracted with funny cat memes and ads for Dunkin’ Donuts.

Time to go live

Live video has been around for ages, from watching sports matches to being able to see your local radio DJ in studio via webcam. But social media live streaming is still in its infancy. Facebook Live, YouTube Live and Periscope Pro are the frontrunners, though the live revolution has not even started in earnest—it’s looking for someone to take the lead. We’ll be able to broadcast our very own reality TV show at the tap of a button. 

The way we communicate personally and in business is evolving at an overwhelming speed—we just can’t keep up! But should we just roll up on the couch and not give SmileVine a go? (Before you google that, it doesn’t exist yet . . .) I guess the key is to incorporate social media into your business and daily life and just go with the flow. Take it easy and see what works for you and your business. You may miss a few trends, but don’t worry: There’ll be something even wilder just around the corner.

Tacita McEvoy is the founder of the Cape Town–based digital marketing agency Social Media Now, and a partner in the accelerator/incubator Idea Camp.