Why Messaging Matters

I’m writing a series of posts about messaging for businesses. Even with a simple sentence like that, there are a lot of definitions that need to be fleshed out, but generally I’m thinking about businesses using channels like Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, SMS, What’s App, and the like, for two way communications (not advertising, not broadcast).

Although there are limitless examples of advertising and broadcast channels, there is a really manageable number of true communication channels. It’s possible to look for patterns in how they arrive and evolve with the goal of helping us think about where this newest channel – messaging – might be headed.

Let’s start by taking a look at good old direct mail. The channel started with people writing letters to each other. It was person to person correspondence. That might have lasted a long time, but at some point business started communicating with people using the mail – invoices, reminders and confirmation of orders became normal.

Let’s think about other channels like the telephone, email, IM and text messaging in a similar manner. These channels start as a way for people to communicate with each other. Over time, businesses realize that they need/want to talk to people on this new channel. Email definitely worked that way, right? I wasn’t around for the invention of the telephone, but I bet it was similar. With each channel there was probably a little bit of friction – I’m sure there were managers resistant to calling people instead of telegraphing them. There were definitely managers resistant to email the non-profits supporters and cutting back on direct mail (they still exist).

Enough history – why am I writing about this? I believe the newest communication channel can be labeled Messaging and it’s going to fundamentally different from the channels that came before it. I’m thinking through the implications and looking to better understand the different brands of messaging, and the way that different companies approach different brands.

Messaging is in a really interesting place. Right now it’s almost exclusively for P2P communications, but it’s quite clear that will be changing soon. Facebook Messenger will be opening up for business and Application 2 Peer messaging is expected to grow while traditional Peer 2 Peer messaging is shrinking. It’s a really exciting time to watch messaging make this transition, and to try to understand where it’s heading.

Messaging will be more interesting than the channels that came before it (email, phone, mail, fax). Where previous channels were a protocol, messaging is, for the most part, branded. SMS might be the only messaging protocol. Every phone call is the same – there is no difference between service from AT&T, MCI and Sprint. With messaging there will be big difference between Line, Facebook, Whats App and the like.

Why should you listen to me? I’m hoping the content speaks for itself, but before the content arrives it’s helpful to know that I’ve been working in Messaging for over 7 years. I’ve had thousands of conversations with companies, government agencies, non-profits and public services, discussing how they can approach Messaging as a channel to communicate with populations. I’ve worked on some of the largest and most visible messaging campaigns ever and I spend every weekday thinking about this stuff.

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