December 05, 2016
/ by Jim Dougherty
One of the most challenging aspects of social media listening and social care is managing messages across platforms. There are third-party solutions that can manage across platforms (Cision’s software being one of the more dynamic), but listening and responding to customers from everywhere is often one of the more difficult tasks that communications and marketing professionals encounter. Especially given that social care customers expect a response within 60 minutes of initiating a social message.
Facebook recently released a helpful mobile product within their ecosystem (Facebook Pages, Messenger, Instagram). This “unified inbox” feature within the mobile Facebook Pages app allows users to respond to customer interactions and to view a limited amount of public information about the customer for your Facebook Page comments, Page-linked Instagram comments, and Messenger conversations. While it still may seem foreign to consider Messenger separately from Facebook proper, on mobile there’s no getting around it…rather, there wasn’t until now.
The unified inbox feature may not be a game-changer in terms of what it does, but the “at-a-glance” mobile convenience will likely benefit communications and marketing professionals whose customers use the Facebook ecosystem to seek social care. Jay Baer of Convince and Convert asserts that more customer care may happen on Facebook (by extension, Messenger) than with Twitter.
What I want to do in this post is discuss how Facebook’s unified inbox works, and then go a little further in-depth about how customer service (social care) occurs on each of the three “platforms.”
Recall that this unified inbox feature is in the Pages Manager App, available for iOS and Android. In order to get the full functionality of the inbox, you have to associate your Instagram account with your Facebook Page (which, if you’re promoting posts or running advertisements on Instagram you have probably already done).
Once you’ve got the app and Instagram is associated with your Page, the middle button on the Pages Manager app should open to your unified inbox. The top row options allow you to filter on each specific platform by itself, as pictured here:
Image of Facebook’s mobile unified inbox
You can see that within the unified inbox you get all-in-one visibility of posts to your Facebook Page, messages to your Facebook Messenger, and comments on your Instagram. Of course, the capability to respond in the native apps is built-in: comments that you make on Instagram or on Messenger would naturally populate to the unified inbox. Note also that you can turn on app notifications so that you are notified at the moment anyone posts to one of your three properties.
One of the most useful integrations to this inbox is the capability to see an abbreviated version of a customer profile (by tapping on the person’s name) – giving you a small amount of context (which has not always been an option on Facebook) and a link to the customers public Facebook profile. While this feature certainly is not equitable to a CRM solution, it gives users some information to be able to listen and to respond to customers directly from the mobile app.
Because of the integration of Facebook and Messenger, social care on Facebook has multiple paths. Customers may opt to reach out to a company via their Facebook Page, which occurs when a customer posts directly to the Page. Businesses can turn this functionality off or limit the types of posts that customers can make to their Page. The importance of this kind of customer communication is primarily that it is in the public sphere, so it necessitates an appropriate demonstration of resolution, or it appears that the concerns have not been addressed.
Because of the semi-permanent nature of Facebook page posts, referring customers to off page resolution (as one might do on Twitter) may not be an ideal tactic. So Facebook page posts need to be resolved fast and clearly. Perhaps the benefit of the unified inbox feature for Facebook proper is speed. From a social listening perspective: communications and marketing professionals can respond to customers quickly from the mobile app, with easily accessible personalization.
One of the most interesting aspects of social care on Facebook has been how Facebook has split messaging via messenger and public conversation on Facebook Pages. There are three primary ways that customers can communicate with you via Messenger:
Example of a “Messenger Code”
The accentuation of Messenger chat as a standalone service offers customers a means to get social care privately as opposed to posting to a public Page. Is a great opportunity for businesses as well, perhaps providing a preferred way to resolve customer concerns akin to resolving problems via Twitter direct message or email. From a social listening perspective: Messenger allows customers a private way to communicate with and get assistance from a business, where unified inbox provides marketing communications professionals a way to respond in kind with some degree of personalization.
While social care is typically associated with Twitter and Facebook, it makes sense that Instagram would be an increasingly important source of social customer service. Instagram is the #2 social media site by monthly active users, and is demonstrated to have the most engaged members of any major social platform. Because of the way that content is posted, there is a different dynamic to how customers reach out by IG compared to Facebook and Messenger. Engagement on Instagram is primarily via comments to a posted image. It follows that where customers can be entirely proactive on Facebook or via Messenger, there is a high likelihood that Instagram social care will be in reaction to a piece of content. To foster this interaction, obviously the brand needs to have consistent content posted to Instagram for this engagement to occur .
What unified inbox does exceptionally well for Instagram social care is to give you the context of the post that a customer is commenting on. For example, you will see the post heading and a small thumbnail of the displayed image next to the comment within the Facebook Pages Manager app. From a social listening perspective, this not only accentuates speed by putting all comments in one spot with Facebook and Messenger, but also contextualizes the comments with a straightforward user interface.
Facebook promises more features in the future, so the functionality of this unified inbox may grow. It certainly isn’t a game changer in a way that a CRM solution has built-in intelligence, multiplatform social listening, and deeper customer insight. But within the Facebook ecosystem, is a really useful mobile tool to give customers what they want (speed). Also notable when looking at the Facebook ecosystem is how customizable it is. If you want to limit public posts to your Facebook Page and do all of your social care via Messenger this is usually configurable. Or vice versa. In fact, it seems that Instagram is the only platform that does not have a lot of flexibility for brands.
Of course, it is important to Facebook that your Instagram profile is associated with your Facebook page so they can sell you advertising and perhaps so that they can filter brand posts in a future algorithm similar to the way that they do it on the Facebook timeline. In fact, Facebook Pages Manager allows you to promote content directly from the app. And while the intention behind this tool may not be entirely altruistic, there is a lot of value to this feature. If you are managing multiple Pages at once, it’s a scalable value as well.
(Photo Credit: Pixabay)
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