Social Wise: Leveraging AI and APIs to Enhance CX on Social Messaging Channels

By: Rick van Esch, VP SaaS Business at Sinch

The human brain is wired to communicate. Through communication, we form relationships, advocate for our needs and determine (and, eventually, convey) our identities. Communication helps us create and maintain our personal brand within various contexts — which is partly why social messaging channels, which are built for communication like our brains, are so popular.

For individuals, deciding what elements of the self to express — and on which channels — is so deeply ingrained in our minds at this point that it seems intuitive. By engaging with content and communications published by others on different channels, we learn which parts of our own self-image to share by channel. For example, we learn that Instagram is best suited for flashier, fun photos that you want the younger folks in your life to see, while Twitter is more effective for sharing streams of consciousness or opening up a dialogue on current events.

So, how can brands do the same?

IDC estimates that the top five social messaging platforms (WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Viber) have approximately 6.7 billion subscribers, so these are key channels for brand presence — but not all social messaging channels are created equal. Where you connect with your customers matters just as much as how you connect with them. Below I outline three tips for how brands of any size can strategically expand their social messaging presence to maximize their CX investments and boost customer engagement.

1. Know Your Audience

Engagement efforts must be centered on the customer. It sounds obvious, but far too many brands overlook this. Who are your existing customers? On which social messaging channels are they most active? Then, consider: which portion of your target audience are you not currently reaching via social messaging channels? Where are they more active? By looking into existing and target customer data — as well as broader statistics on audience demographics — you can determine which social messaging channels will be most effective for boosting your CX.

While larger global brands may have the budget and manpower to engage with customers on most or all social messaging channels, it doesn’t always make sense for you to take this approach. An ecommerce brand that only ships within the U.S., for example, wouldn’t gain much from being active on WhatsApp, which has a relatively low U.S. user base. My team recently worked with an innovative ecommerce retailer targeting 16-25 year olds. Through this kind of audience analysis and discovery, we determined Instagram as the most relevant social messaging channel for this audience. From there, we can get to the fun stuff.

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2. Level Up Your Customer Engagement

Okay, so you’ve decided which social messaging channel(s) to hone in on for customer engagement, and you’ve dusted off your brand’s account or created one if it didn’t already exist. Don’t think you can just rely on your social media team (if you have one) or customer service personnel to respond to every social media message you receive — for most brands, maintaining responsiveness on social messaging channels would require a significant amount of moderating (and thus hiring a team), and even then customers may be disgruntled by wait times. A recent survey found that nearly one in four customers had waited a day or more to hear back from a business on social media, despite the implied immediacy of those platforms, and most customers were less likely to buy from a brand with prolonged wait times. While live service agents and social media staff will always have a hand in responding to customer inquiries on social messaging channels, you can actually ensure immediate responsiveness at scale — without hiring a fleet of staff.

Remember the “fun stuff” I mentioned? Enter: artificial intelligence (AI), and more specifically natural language processing (NLP). This technology — which typically powers chatbots — can be integrated right into your social messaging channels to provide customers with always-on customer interactions at scale. NLP has evolved heavily over the past few years, and can comprehend over 100 languages, understand customer messages even with typos or slang, and run analytics on customer conversations to provide increasingly relevant and personalized insights.

NLP-powered platforms can help your company easily respond to frequently asked questions, check inventory and order statuses, and guide customers through a purchase, all within a given social messaging channel — delivering a rich experience customers would normally expect from a branded mobile app. Other, more proactive applications of NLP that are becoming increasingly popular — especially among ecommerce brands — include checking in on an abandoned cart or following up on recent purchases with bespoke offers. AI and NLP are key to creating a truly personalized two-way dialogue with customers on social messaging channels.

For some, these solutions may sound daunting, but as more Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) vendors integrate NLP into their software offerings, a smart, automated social messaging inbox is becoming more seamless and accessible to businesses of all sizes. Plus, NLP activation will be far more cost-effective in the long run than going on a hiring spree to keep customers happy on your social messaging channels.

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3. Extending Your Brand Persona

Just like consumers, brands have the opportunity to express their personas on social messaging channels. You can bolster your brand persona by automating customer engagement on the right social messaging channels. You can even customize the tone of an NLP interaction to align with your persona — one obvious example would be infusing the personality of a brand mascot into a chatbot — differentiating your customer experience even further.

Social messaging channels play into our human craving for communication, and the 1:1 engagement they’re built for opens up a world of possibilities for your brand to connect with people in a new way, and establish your reputation in a crowded space. So go ahead — slide into those DMs.

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