Messenger Broadcast: Social’s tactics to achieving GDPR compliance

Facebook has confirmed that it is privately testing a new platform called Broadcast, which will allow brands to send automated messages en masse to consumers via Messenger.

Whilst the promise of being able to reach the platform’s two billion users may be enticing, marketers need to consider several factors before siphoning 2018’s budgets for the service.

From the outset, it may seem as if Facebook is missing the mark with this latest offering. In 2017, Mailjet commissioned a piece of research to evaluate the main 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 brands.

Unlike bots however, Broadcast is set to allow brands to send messages without being asked a question by the customer first, but only to users who have initiated conversation in the past. By putting consent first, Broadcast can be seen by the wider industry as considering the impending arrival of GDPR, for itself and the brands that place budget behind the network.

Consent in the digital realms – a new frontier

Times are changing and what was considered common practice within the digital space will no longer be an option with double opt-in content on the horizon. Through social media, brands have had a relatively easy time utilising social media for marketing purposes.

Using the likes of Pinterest Pins, Instagram Stories and Snap Ads, brands didn’t need permission from the user to communicate. However, the introduction of GDPR will mark the end of this era. From now on, brands will have to request permission from consumers to communicate with them on specific types of content.

Consent will be a new frontier for social platforms and one that they may find difficult to navigate. Social giants will have to innovate to find new ways to gain consent and, while social is good at adding new features to improve the offering, they often go unnoticed. However, in addition to ‘like’, ‘comment’ and ‘share’ buttons, social platforms could add ‘see more content like this’ and ‘no more content like this’ features to directly gauge relevancy.

In our study last year, 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.

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.

Urgent need to innovate on consent sharing and management

Whilst brands using Messenger leverage OAuth 2.0 (a standard way for users to give permission to third parties to interact with them on Messaging Platforms) when starting conversations with their customers, brands communicating via Facebook need to be careful they are not coming across as spammy. The experience needs to be seamless through personalisation techniques.

Mailjet’s research recently highlighted the irrelevance of messages as one of the biggest pain points consumers have about the way retailers communicate with them. In the UK, a quarter (25%) of people cited this, showing brands still need to focus on getting personalisation right.

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 brands 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.” 56% of British consumers, for example, prefer direct communication that focuses on the product itself, rather than the wider values or features.

However, there currently isn’t a good way for brands who are considering using Broadcast to ‘mass personalise’ content based on consumer preferences or behaviour. We know that social channels are notorious for collecting tons of personal data on users, but have always been under scrutiny for monetising it for advertising purposes. Hence, there is a significant opportunity for social platforms to first change the way consent is collected, by making sure their users are aware what type of personal information will be shared with brands.

Secondly, these platforms should address the unmet need for product features, that could allow brands to easily segment and create different types of messaging based on consumer interests. Knowing that consumer interests evolve quickly and that consent can be withdrawn at any moment, features for consumers to easily update their preferences and share these preferences with the brands would be a key differentiation factor.

The Rules of Engagement – Practises to follow

Regardless of whether or not Broadcast makes it to the average user’s screen, Facebook’s testing of the feature offers an insight into the direction the company is moving and the type of releases coming in the future. At present, what we know is that Facebook’s Broadcast messages follow a structure somewhat reminiscent of emails:

        Welcome Message

Main message – can be image, video, text or any combination of the three. (Recommended image size is 1,200 pixels by 628 pixels)

        Message title

        Message subtitle

        Call to action in the form of a suggested reply

The best practices for brand communication on social will continue to be waiting, before engaging. Brands will perform better if they allow consumers to express interest before making the first move. Communicating based on interest expressed by the user will allow brands to respond intelligently through a tailored and relevant message, focused on the products or topics that caught the user’s attention.

Social channels should continue to learn from their competitors by replicating the features that work, and surpass them by utilising the natural advantages of their native platforms.

Equally, services such as Messenger have much to learn from the enduring success of email. As Pook highlights: “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”.

Why? Email is a great example of an adaptive channel. Mailjet discovered that nearly a third (30%) of users want to be able to shop without leaving their inbox window, for a faster and more convenient experience. Email has been swift in answering that desire and, today, inboxes are filled with interactive content and microsite style layouts that mimic ecommerce stores. By studying users’ website browsing habits, email has been able to take those insights and transport them into the inbox for a fluid, custom-made experience. Future inboxes will do more of this and social platforms would do well to take heed and follow.

When asked what innovations they would like to see in email in the coming future, 37% of respondents said they want brands to communicate products using video instead of bots. Younger audiences in particular wanted to see more video content, up to 52% of 16-29 years olds, versus 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.

Messenger would do well to consider what engages its consumers, mainly today’s younger generation who will be tomorrow’s leading spenders. Digestible, short-form content, delivered at the most appropriate time and less spam-like content are the chief requests of these users.

As for what the latter want, a mutual conversation will be a brand’s safest bet in a post-GDPR world; ensuring that all communications delivered to the consumers are related to products and subjects they have expressed an interest in.

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