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GUEST COMMENT Messenger broadcast – a silver bullet for social’s encroaching GDPR conundrum?

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GDPR comes into force in May, but there is still much work to be done. Here Judy Boniface, Chief Marketing Officer of Mailjet takes a look at how an initiative from Facebook could help you meet the


Facebook recently confirmed it is privately testing a platform that would allow retailers to send mass communications through Messenger to its purported 1.3 billion monthly users. Reach is, of course, a tremendously attractive number for Facebook, but there are several factors which marketers ought to consider before investing next year’s hard-won budgets.

Against the backdrop of tightening European data regulations, Mailjet commissioned a piece of research earlier this year to assess the major communication updates in development among social media and digital marketing providers and discovered that just 2% of consumers want to use chatbots to communicate with retailers.

Certainly, Facebook has struggled to drive ubiquitous adoption of Messenger bots among users. Since launching the functionality in 2016, Messenger has augmented bots with group chat capabilities, begun suggesting them through its AI assistant M and built a bot discovery section into Messenger.

Unlike a bot, this latest incarnation dubbed ‘Messenger Broadcast’ would allow businesses to send out messages without being asked a question first — though only to users that initiated a conversation with the company in the past. Access for retailers remains fundamentally rooted in earning the consent of users before engaging with them via Messenger Broadcast.

A universal dilemma

Under GDPR social media will be cast into the world of “opt-in” marketing, where the ability of retailers to reach out to consumers will hinge on clear approval for the use of data in a prescribed way. While Instagram Stories, Snap Ads and Pinterest Pins have all seen brands move into the social space fluidly, these platforms have never had to secure such tangible permission from users.

Becoming compliant in a way that earns consent could prove challenging for social media companies. When asked about major updates in brand communications through social channels, 35% of people responded saying they haven’t noticed a single one. In fact, only 6% of consumers had noticed Instagram’s ‘buy button’ and the platform’s Explore page change.

It paints a clear picture that while these channels are innovating, users don’t currently notice changes to the day-to-day experience. To win consent, Facebook must evolve services including Messenger to suit the more immediate needs of consumers and in doing so tee-up brands for success.

Where retailers are falling short

By contrast, consumers notice acutely when communication isn’t tailored to them – the biggest pain point consumers have about the way retailers communicate with them is the irrelevance of their messages. In the UK, a quarter (25%) of people cited this, showing brands still need to focus on getting personalisation right. For retailers considering Messenger Broadcast, remember consent is not a one-time thing.

British consumers do appreciate a direct approach, favouring brand communication that focuses on the product (56%) rather than extraneous values or features. According to Chris Pook, CRM director, of shopping site Lyst, “Personalisation isn’t something the modern shopper is daunted by anymore. Consumers are calling for retailers to use technology in ways that make their experiences more relevant. Increasingly we will see brands building saliency through personalised design elements that are guided by behavioural data insights.”

So while retailers sending messages via Messenger are compliant through OAuth 2.0 (industry standard enabling platforms to have access to user’s data) Facebook will need to be careful here to avoid feeling spammy and keep the experience seamless through responsive design and personalisation techniques.

Lessons from direct marketing

Looking ahead, the growing dependency on social media, teamed with the adaptability of today’s users, means we’re not far from seeing the traditional inbox transformed by the likes of Messenger.

“Importantly, while social is still learning, we should expect channels can learn from one another. As a steadily evolving format which consumers are acclimatised to, there’s a lot the giants of the social realm can learn from email as it continues to innovate and mature”, points out Pook.

Email, for example, has responded to the way consumers use websites. According to Mailjet research, nearly a third of people (30%) are also looking for the ability to shop or checkout directly within an email to make the experience easier. Today our inboxes are full of interactive content with microsite style layouts, making them highly shop-able.

As email has, social media must stay up to speed with consumer behaviour and often this means experimenting with new techniques and tech that enables this. Rather than bots, 37% of respondents want to see brands communicate with them using videos of products. This is most important for the younger audience; 52% of 16-29 years olds want to see video content compared to just 21% of over 60s. Similarly, 24% of the 16-29 age group want to see brands using interactive ads compared to

12% of 45 – 59-year-olds and just 8% of over 60s.

Best practices for 2018

As a tested feature, Messenger Broadcast might never roll out to the public, but the company’s prototypes offer a glimpse at what the company is working on that might potentially see a wide release in the future. It appears that messages composed via Broadcast contain the following elements:

  • A welcome message

  • The main message, which can be image and text, video and text or text-only. (The recommended image size is 1,200 pixels by 628 pixels)

  • A message title

  • A message subtitle

  • A call to action in the form of a suggested reply

Seem a tad old-fashioned?

Best practice brand communications on social channels should always hold back, as in a natural conversation, till user interest is confirmed: “Hey, we’ve got new news about our summer line-up – anything you want to hear about?” It is then up to the user to respond with the info they want to view more on the subject.

If Messenger wants to keep growing, it must continue to copy the best features of its competitors while innovating where it has natural advantages. A two-way conversation will be retailers’ safest bet in a post-GDPR world. This rule not only means a significant reduction in unsolicited spam, but it reflects the fact the younger, millennial generation wants digestible, snappy content.

Photo credit: momius (Fotolia)


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