Since Facebook’s inception more than ten years ago, social media users’ preferences are shifting from the semi-public forum to the private message. Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger surpassed one billion monthly users in 2016, with Tencent’s WeChat clocking in close behind at roughly 800 million monthly users in Q4 2016. Each new medium in the history of communication provides different methods of accessing audiences ranging in size. Radio’s increasingly controlled frequencies allowed licensed broadcasters to reach listeners within a certain range, television gave big networks simultaneous access to an unprecedented number of viewers within a specific country, and the internet provided a largely unregulated arena in which content producers ranging in size and notoriety could connect with other users worldwide. Social media provided a completely novel method of interaction. Each individual user or entity could broadcast to global audiences more heterogeneous than ever from their personal computer. While an exciting prospect, this method of communication entails a high level of utterances with a dearth of meaningful feedback that’s essential in propagating communication. This piques our interest here at RapportBoost.AI, prompting us to look deeper into what’s driving the switch from social media to direct live messaging, and what it means for online sales from chat (a subset of “Conversational Commerce).
The Numbers: Messaging Apps Join the Billion User Club
Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat join other billion user apps including Facebook and Google services such as Search, Maps, Play, Gmail, YouTube. We often make the mistake of thinking that new technologies are going to change human behavior when more commonly, humans use new technology to facilitate existing behavior patterns. All of the direct live messaging apps in the billion-user club effectively replace longstanding institutions in the real world, like paper maps, television, and snail mail, with the others making it easier to navigate vast repositories of information that’s more accessible than ever before. If in the pre-internet age we made consumer decisions like where to eat and what to buy with the help of friends, store associates, and local advertising, in the mobile age we look to digital personal assistants to fill the gap. Gartner reports that from 2015 to 2016, Personal Assistant usage increased from 31% to 35%. Furthermore, rather than to use a different app for every need, mobile users are trending toward apps that fill a variety of needs at once by acting as points of access to information. Just like visiting the library or TV, users are looking to chat apps and virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Assistant to query for answers on topics ranging from botany to stock prices and today’s weather report.
While market research points to the utility of messaging applications, psychologists, and tech insiders are giving a humanist perspective to the trend. A new study published in Harvard Business Review shows that the use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being. Interestingly, this phenomenon correlated to both quality and quantity of use. While psychologists have long held that humans thrive with plenty of positive interactions with other people, this study’s findings suggest that social media use has yet to fill in for real world social interaction. Social media lacks the one-to-one ratio comprising most human interactions, empathy for the listener and sensitivity to the listener’s environment, and in many cases, the near immediate response times prompted by conversational cues and turn-taking. YouTube Co-founder Chad Hurley suggests that the negative feelings elicited by social media could be related to the quantity and nature of updates in a user’s feed. He contends that old-school social media feeds can be distracting and discouraging, causing users to compare their individual pursuits to the vast accomplishments of other’s in their feed, who tend to post positive milestones rather than events marking defeat or failure. The one-on-one, simple interface afforded by messaging apps allows users to diminish the information overload associated with social media, while increasing quality of interaction through AI informed emotional and behavioral actions.
Messaging apps aren’t just an avenue for users to replicate one-on-one conversation, they’re a point of access to swaths of information. The top four direct live messaging apps – Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Viber and Whatsapp – have unrolled new ways for users to access online content. Facebook launched bots on Facebook Messenger in 2016, so any company can guide consumers through live chat assistance. Viber’s Chat Extensions let users integrate information from six apps into their ongoing chats. In China, users interact with WeChat bots, called ‘public accounts’, to order food and goods directly to the home, make travel reservations, and more. These innovations create space for marketers to not only access customers using their preferred method of contact, they can leverage customer bases once dominated by traditional social media. With the top four messaging apps surpassing the top four social networking apps at nearly three billion monthly users, messaging apps let marketers leverage one quarter of the world’s population. Through the one-on-one interaction that users favor in today’s buzzing mediasphere, companies can use a combination of live human and artificial intelligence to deliver product information, sales assistance, and suggestions to consumers in a way that more closely resembles live chat sales and support interactions in the real world.
Learn more about the live chat agent training solutions from the team at RapportBoost.
By Tony Medrano & Meredith Lackey