There’s been a big announcement on messaging from Meta that smart comms people need to be aware of.
If you’re a Facebook or Instagram page admin or have been using WhatsApp this is going to be something for you.
If you work in leisure, a political campaign or customer services then there’s also things for you here, too.
So what’s the skinny?
In short, Meta at their Conversations business messaging event have unveiled tools to make it easier for Facebook and the closely linked Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp into customer service channels. All of this opens up a range of new options for the organisation.
The Meta argument goes that people are happy to talk to family and friends on WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram DMs why shouldn’t we make it easier for them to speak to organisations that way, too?
The changes map a direction of travel that show people move away from the big public market place to small intimate spaces, Mark Zuckerburg said at the event.
“In recent years the way we connect online has seen some meaningful shifts. You might remember in the early days of Facebook we used to share everything to our wall. Then our feed out in public for all to see and react to.
Today, most of us use our feed to discover interesting content and stay up to date. For deeper levels of interaction messaging has become the centre of our digital life. It’s more intimate and private and with encryption more secure too.”– Mark Zuckerburg, May 2022.
People would rather speak to people where they are without having to call a hotline or send an email that often gets ignored, the Meta argument runs.
Does that mean Facebook will make it easier to be contacted?
As one wag put in the comments, does this mean that emails to Facebook that simply disappear will be replaced by customer services that work? Well, don’t hold your breath.
More places to be told you’re an idiot?
Now, the first reaction of many public sector comms people is to shrink from having an extra place to be told that you and your employer are idiots. That’s absolutely fair enough. But before you reach for the reverse gear hold on. This can change things for comms people on a few fronts.
Social media as a proper social media channel
The first shift this makes is with customer services. If Facebook, sorry Meta, are keen to do away with calls centres and contact emails then this means they’ll make it easier for customer services to answer questions. Listening to the chat, they think savings can be made through setting up FAQs so some of the answers can be automated.
Of course, customer services for small business with a small product line isn’t the same as customer services for local government’s 1,200 services.
But this is more ammunition for the discussion that yes, customer services should take ownership of incoming routine queries that ask for an answer. That’s as opposed to incoming snark, for example.
Social media as a transactional channel
The second shift is with catalogues. Setting up catalogues means you can make it easier to monetise a channel and introduce e-commerce. You may have a legacy route of selling tickets through the box office’s legacy systems. This does offer a new route that seems worth experimenting with.
If you’re a Facebook page admin for events, theatre, museums and leisure this is an important door that’s opened up for you.
WhatsApp integrated into the Meta Business Suite
I’ve been advising people for several years to use the Facebook Business Manager platform to admin not just a page but to keep oversight on dozens of other pages. It’s a brilliant – and free – tool for the person with overall responsibility for social media management to be using.
Of course, the name of the platform has now changed to Meta Business Manager and there’s a strong hint that WhatsApp will be added to the platform in the near future.
What it could mean for WhatsApp for Business broadcast lists
In training, I talk about WhatsApp for Business being the best way for comms to tap into the UK’s 45 million WhatsApp users. Go down this route, you’re able to message up to 256 people who have agreed to be sent messages on a particular topic. Importantly, subscribers won’t see each other’s names or phone numbers. In other words, its GDPR compliant.
There’s nothing in the announcement that undermines this or makes it harder.
Meta are making the WhatsApp API available for free
Previously, you had to be a company to use the API and the company declined to make it available to the public sector. Now, the API is being made available to any business. Working with an API is above my skill set but I’m sure there will be people in the public sector who may come up with good ideas they can make real.
This would, on the face of it, also throw WhatsApp into the mix for future political campaigns.
WhatsApp has been growing like topsy without an obvious way for comms and marketing people to plug into it. This looks like the beginnings of that plugging in.