Facebook has made it even easier for fans to interact with brands – at least the brands that are willing, staffed to handle the increased engagement, and of course have the feature enabled and turned on.

Message, a feature that was introduced to the world immediately following fMC in NYC on February 29th, provides a way for brands to engage in one-to-one conversation with the consumer.

The brand is able to surrender the megaphone and in turn, receives the consumer’s attention and honesty with trust being the desired outcome.

How does Facebook Message work?

When a user visits a brand’s page, the user simply needs to click the ‘Message’ button (placed prominently right next to the ‘Like’ button) to initiate the process and to start the conversation with the brand.

For illustrative purposes, I went over to the Cole Haan Facebook Fanpage to send them a message. It is important to note – users must message the brand first. The brand does not have the ability (just yet) to direct message fans.

The typical modal window appears upon click to reveal a Message field that can be written in (message length is not specified) and functionality for attaching links – here, I dropped in a link to the actual product in question to serve as reference.

It’s interesting how Cole Haan has partnered with Nike. Figured I’d shoot them a question to see if I can read more about the Nike technology in the shoes.

After I hit send, I am sent back to ‘Messages’, where I can see that my message was sent to Cole Haan. I can check on the status of the message, like I normally do when I send messages to friends, family, colleagues, etc.

What does this mean for brands?

Brands have the option of disabling this functionality if they wish – not every brand is staffed to handle the breadth of messages that could potentially be sent to the brand.

On the other hand, keeping the feature disabled (coupled with a sub-par customer service call center infrastructure) could lead to discouraged fans. The brand could appear to be distant, unapproachable, and perceived as social media dinosaurs – we all know what happened to the dinosaurs, right?

‘Social Media Darwinism’ suggests that brands that do not continue to strategize, ideate, and evolve, will fall behind in the pack – not only losing sales when it comes down to that point of sale moment, but also could lead to losing share of voice on the web and within the social space. Expect brands who have enabled the Message feature to gain competitive advantage over those who have not. 

The Facebook Message feature presents a unique opportunity for brands, who are adequately staffed to handle customer inquiries, to proactively interact with fans.

Since a Message to a brand can only be initiated by fans, it doesn’t always need to be reserved for questions and negative feedback – it can be used to gain insights into the fanbase, to identify brand advocates, to conduct market research, and to supplement brands’ current eCRM campaigns – it’s time intensive, but these fans are almost guaranteed to open the message – from an efficiency standpoint, this is near perfect.

How does a brand solicit fans to begin building a ‘Direct Message Campaign’?

There are a few practical things you need to do to start this type of communication:

  • Leverage Facebook Wall Posts to drive users to the Message Tab to share thoughts, personal information, product reviews, and innovation ideas.
  • Include a strong call to action in the actual Wall Post that will drive users to feel compelled enough to want to share with the brand.
  • Upon receipt of a message, a personalized acknowledgment message should be sent out thanking the user, on behalf of the brand.

Now a direct communication channel between the brand and consumer has been created!

What about strategy?

Before diving into the Message feature, it’s important for brands to create a Direct Message strategy that ties into your overall social, communications and marketing strategy.:

  • Will this Direct Message be a one-time thing?
  • Is there a plan for categorizing the Messages:
    • Which post did the user engage with and Message in from?
    • Is the Message even relevant?
    • Was the Message positive or negative in tone?
    • Is there value in the Message? Is there a plan to extract the value
  • How will the Messages and sender information be archived?
    • Do the messages and sender details need to be logged in a spreadsheet?
  • How frequently will Wall Posts be pointing to the Message feature?
  • Are there appropriate levels of staffing in place to handle surges in messaging?

Lysol recently tried out the Message feature on Facebook. They leveraged a wall post to point to the feature and to drive Messages. The exciting opportunity sounded enticing and hey, I am a fan of theirs on Facebook – I very well could be one of their biggest fans!

I shot Lysol a brief Message. I’m not sure where I fall within their target audience, but I mentioned how I use the product.

The channel has been open for quite some time now, and I have yet to hear back. I never learned about the exciting opportunity and was never acknowledged for sharing my positive sentiment towards the brand.

My hunch: they were most likely overwhelmed by the response and chose to go with the users that submitted cleaning novels. What they don’t realize is that social media presence influences my purchasing decisions – maybe I will try out one of the other brands next time I want to clean my place.

Don’t forget the basics

With the social space becoming more and more convoluted and full of noise, it’s becoming increasingly important to go back to the basics and engage in singular conversation with fans – learn, retain, ideate, execute, evolve, and repeat.

But don’t forget to ask fans for their input. You never know when a fan will come up with the next big idea or save your brand!

After all, brands are only in business because of the consumer, right?