Why it matters:
- A robust 68% of consumers start their purchasing journey on social media sites ranging from Facebook and Instagram to TikTok and YouTube, with Facebook emerging as the leading platform for social commerce, according to Coresight Research.
- On Meta’s social platforms Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, an estimated one billion conversations unfold between people and businesses weekly, whether that’s direct messaging brands, browsing product catalogs, interacting with Instagram Stories, and more, according to Meta.
- Against that backdrop, businesses large and small are increasingly tapping Meta’s direct messaging platforms Messenger, Instagram Direct, and WhatsApp, for marketing, customer service, and even to drive sales, as people want to connect with businesses the same way they interact with family and friends on these social networks, says Nikila Srinivasan, VP of Business Messaging at Meta.
A hefty 68% of consumers start their path-to-purchase on social media sites, scrolling platforms from Facebook
to TikTok to research products and services, and even clicking to buy, according to Coresight Research.
Although video-based sites like TikTok and YouTube are gaining ground, Facebook remains the dominant platform for social media shopping, the consulting firm found.
That’s in part why Facebook parent Meta is bullish on the growth of its direct messaging platforms: Indeed, small businesses and larger companies ranging from furniture brand Joybird to Universal Pictures are increasingly courting customers via Messenger, Instagram Direct, and WhatsApp
to meet customer service requests, spread marketing buzz, and churn sales, Nikila Srinivasan, Vice President of Business Messaging at Meta, told CO—.
These instant messaging platforms enable conversational interactions in real time that echo the digital chit-chat consumers have grown accustomed to on social networks with friends and now expect from businesses, too, she said. “We’re living in a messaging-first world, and people want to interact with businesses the same way they connect with family and friends.”
It’s a sign of the times, and recalls communication theorist Marshal McLuhan’s famous phrase, “The medium is the message.” The medium — in this case, social media — where communication unfolds, holds equal value to the message, the theory posits. “By meeting their customers where they are, it’s a huge lever to help businesses drive commerce and build deeper connections with customers,” Srinivasan said.
Here, Srinivasan shares how businesses large and small are tapping Meta’s messaging platform to boost their customer acquisition reach, fuel sales conversions, and help SMBs drive “personalization at scale.”
CO—: How does Meta define business messaging?
NS: From Meta’s perspective, we would define business messaging as any interaction between a person and a business over a message thread on our messaging apps: WhatsApp, Instagram Direct, and Messenger.
CO—: What’s important to say about how companies are using messaging apps to drive business?
NS: When it comes to business messaging, there is an enormous opportunity, and we’re seeing strong demand from all types of businesses, including B2Bs and B2Cs, across our messaging services. We’re living in a messaging-first world, and people want to interact with businesses the same way they connect with family and friends. By meeting their customers where they are, it’s a huge lever to help businesses drive commerce and build deeper connections with customers.
Businesses are using messaging for marketing, customer service, providing useful updates, and even driving sales.
We believe that every connection is an opportunity, whether that’s to gain a loyal customer or make a sale. In terms of driving on-site conversions, we continue to see strong results with ads that click to message. Ads that click to message bring customers to an app (WhatsApp, Messenger, or Instagram) where they can interact with a business directly in a one-on-one conversation. Continuing the conversation can help close the deal or drive customers to your Facebook shop or website to complete a purchase. And in some markets today, we’re able to offer end-to-end shopping experiences that even include in-app payments.
Increasingly larger businesses are taking advantage of our WhatsApp Business Platform
to reach new and existing customers at scale and engage in personalized and valuable conversations. We see [business messaging] driving results for companies both big and small.
[Read: 3 Emerging Social Media Strategies Businesses Must Know to Grow]
We’ve recently started making it possible for small businesses to send customized messages to their customers in a faster and more efficient way. So, instead of having to manually send the same update to multiple customers, like birthday greetings or even messages about a holiday sale, this new feature will give businesses the ability to send personal messages with their name and customizable call-to-action buttons.
Nikila Srinivasan, Vice President of Business Messaging, Meta
CO—: How does messaging help small businesses and startups level the playing field with big businesses?
NS: Messaging is the best way for businesses to connect and build valuable relationships with new and existing customers. The ability to send useful, expected messages — these messages are “expected” because Meta requires businesses to secure permission before contacting customers, ensuring messages are expected and valuable — effectively levels the playing field for small businesses by offering personalization at a scale otherwise unavailable to them through other channels.
CO—: How is Meta offering SMBs the ability to personalize customer messages at scale?
NS: We’ve recently started making it possible for small businesses to send customized messages to their customers in a faster and more efficient way. So, instead of having to manually send the same update to multiple customers, like birthday greetings or even messages about a holiday sale, this new feature will give businesses the ability to send personal messages with their name and customizable call-to-action buttons.
And tapping into business messaging with Meta meets people where they are, with more than 3.8 billion people using at least one of our apps every month. There are one billion conversations
between people and businesses every day on our platforms. For smaller businesses, they’re able to unlock access to tools … to effectively boost leads and sales, while also fostering greater customer satisfaction and loyalty.
CO—: What are notable examples of how businesses are driving a return on investment via Meta’s messaging apps?
NS: Universal Pictures used marketing messages in Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp to build fan engagement and generate ticket sales for its Blumhouse film M3GAN. Using Ads that Click to Messenger and Ads that Click to Instagram, Universal Pictures invited fans to opt-in to marketing messages generating buzz around the film while growing its contact list of interested moviegoers organically. Using marketing messages, the studio tracked 100,000-plus showtime look-ups sent through marketing messages,and exchanged tens of millions of messages with fans encouraging them to see M3GAN in theaters.
[Read: 3 Simple (Yet Effective) Facebook and Instagram Tools That Enhance Customer Relationships]
[Another] great example is Joybird, an online furniture brand with retail outlets across the U.S. in cities including New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Joybird revamped its presence on Facebook Messenger by launching an ad campaign targeting people over the age of 25 living in the U.S.
The campaign encouraged people to start a conversation and when someone clicked on the ad, a chat window automatically opened. From there, they were greeted by a Messenger-powered digital assistant and prompted to begin the conversation. The conversational flow in Messenger would guide customers through the shopping experience. Using the customer’s responses, the digital assistant would send tips on interior design to help people shop better. By revamping its presence on Facebook Messenger, Joybird saw a three-times increase in overall return on advertising spend, and a 16-times increase in messaging connections.
[Another] example is General Motors in Brazil. During the first quarter of 2023, they got 66% of all generated leads coming through WhatsApp and sold over 1,000 cars through conversations started on WhatsApp.
CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.