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In his best-selling book Zero to One, Peter Thiel argued that “all happy companies are different” - yet they all share at least one trait: they all seek to reach their fans and customers in the most direct and efficient way possible.
With declining, organic reach on social media and the everlasting downward spiral that is email marketing, so what’s the best way to engage with fans and consumers in 2019?
You’ve probably guessed it: Direct-to-Fan messaging. Yet, let’s clear one thing up right away: we are not talking about chatbots, clunky automated conversational experiences which act as a buffer between you and your fans, actually pushing the consumer further away from you and your brand rather than building a stronger relationship.
We’re also not talking about using your messenger chatbot as proxy for your website - do you really think people stop googling stuff and now look for your latest tour dates in Messenger? Probably not!
When we talk about direct-to-fan messaging, we mean “sending the right message, to the right group of fans, via the right channel, at the right time/in the right context” - and therefore achieving maximum engagement and ROI per message, without frustrating your fans - even better, you’ll be able to do so while delivering actual value to your fans.
"Direct-to-fan messaging is all about sending the right message, to the right fan, at the right time and via the right channel”
Sounds good? Let’s start, by diving into the details of why messaging has become such a powerful channel:
A Growing Channel
The two biggest messaging apps, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have between 1.3B and 1.5B monthly users each. What most people don’t know, is that the top-4 messaging apps, have already surpassed the top-4 social networks back in 2015, measured by their monthly user engagement. Need one final stat? Last year, 7.7B messaging accounts were active each month. That means, that the average fan uses at least 2-3 different messaging apps.
...and while Facebook (the newsfeed app) or Snapchat’s growth is slowing down, messaging apps are growing faster than ever before. Best of all, the big wave is still to come: there will be once specific moment, when this channel will really pick up widespread adoption between consumers and brands, which is when we all have our credit cards saved in Messenger and you can actually purchase things from within Messenger with the tap of a button.
Imagine your favourite artist sends you the tickets to the upcoming show in your city via Messenger, and you’ll just pay right there, on the spot. Or when Nike sends you the pre-order link to their latest sneaker-drop and you’ll put in the order without ever leaving Messenger.
This will happen - I suspect within the next 12-18 months - and then messaging as a channel is going to explode. Now, because you know this already, you have another advantage at hand: you can start building an audience now, while competition is still low. Get a head start, it would be a wasted opportunity not to.
The Value for Artists & Brands
Let’s start with the obvious one: you’ll have a direct channel to your fans’ inbox. Not only that your fans will receive all (!) of your messages, they’ll also read them. Messaging is historically private, a medium usually reserved for communicating with friends, family or co-workers. Because of this, we all assign a super high relevance to each message we receive on messaging apps. Think of it, how many of your friends do not read or respond to a message you send them on Messenger or WhatsApp. It’s socially unaccepted that you don't read/respond. In a business to consumer context, we benefit from this: gone are the days of reaching only a low percentage of people via news feed. Now, you can get on top of everyone’s personal inbox.
Compare that to email in a private (B2C) context. I log into my email every morning, followed by a simple action: I select and delete 10-20 emails, before even opening them. That’s the relevance I assign to the average email: I expect to delete it. (Note: For now, email is still king in B2B communication, so please don’t generalize this observation).
This relevance, associated with Messenger as a channel will give your messages the superpowers of relevance and subsequently engagement. You’ll see open- and click rates way above industry standard, above anything you’ve experienced before, ranking up to 10x as high as email.
You’ll also witness the speed of engagement: People do not only have Messenger sitting on their phones, they also have push notifications enabled - which means people are in an always-on mode. If you reach your fans/consumers via Messenger, expect that 1 in 2 people will open your message within the hour.
Don’t take my word for it: Here’s a look at the average Open Rate and Click Rate from all campaigns sent via Sendmate to fans and consumers on Messenger in September 2018:
92.4% Click Rate | 20.6% Open Rate
Now, let’s compare that with email, where according to Mailchimp’s own research the respective numbers for Marketing newsletters stack up as follows:
16.48% Click Rate | 1.74% Open Rate
...and that’s average. If a few more things come together (timing, targeting, copy, incentive) you can achieve click rates as high as 60%. For example, check out this and this case study. That’s 6 out of 10 fans clicking through to your ticketing site, pre-order link or video, based on a message they’ve received from you. That level of engagement is unrivaled.
Yet with great power, also comes great responsibility. Let’s talk about this in the next section:
The Value for Fans
There’s a famous saying: “marketers ruin everything”. The story goes usually as follows: Some marketer discovers a new, high potential opportunity to market to their consumers. Because the new opportunity hasn’t been discovered before, the upside is massive - so the marketer fires away, leveraging this opportunity at its maximum.
Because marketing is always public, other marketers see this and catch on, firing away with even greater firepower (usually, it’s never the biggest pockets that are in the need to look for new, more efficient solutions).
As more and more marketers jump aboard, and the opportunity becomes more and more public, more and more people squeeze the lemon - and at some point, even bad actors will come on. They’re not here for the long-term, they’re short-term driven and only look for the benefit in the here and now. While some folks are slaving away at the opportunity, fans and consumers slowly start tuning out.
It’s too much. The value is little. The damage is done. The consumer and the opportunity - gone!
Think of the email newsletter. TV. Banner ads. They all shared the same fate.
So how can we make sure our newly discovered direct-to-consumer channel will NOT suffer a similar fate? The answer is simple: relevance.
Nothing pains us as consumers more, than being interrupted by an irrelevant message. Andy Carvell from SoundCloud once compared push notification to tapping on your consumers shoulder. They’ll interrupt what they’re currently doing and turn around to you. You have their undivided attention. Now, you better have something relevant to say.
To put it differently, because Messenger is such a direct channel, each message comes at a cost - the cost of interruption. Now you need to make sure, that your fans get more value out of this message than the cost of sending it, so the net benefit for the fan becomes positive - otherwise they’ll tune out eventually.
By targeting your messages aka segmenting your audience with just a few clicks, you don’t have to hit up your European fans with your South American tour dates, speak to your French speaking audience in English, or send the link to the female merch collection to the boys.
Stop wasting your fans' time and attention. As you’ll usually onboard your most engaged fans to Messenger first, you should also be able to reliably share the most important and relevant content with each of them.
Relevance is king, it's the silver bullet. All else comes after. All else fades in importance. The question of relevance should drive our decisions of what to communicate, to whom, when and how. We need to be obsessed with relevance. Every day. Relevance is all there is.
Naturally, different people will expect different things. So how can you be relevant to everyone? Frankly, targeting is only one part of the equation. The second important factor is “managing expectations”.
Your communication - such as your art, your products and your brand - need to have a clear value proposition to the fan and consumer. As a fan, this is what I get from granting you access into my most personal communication channel. Often this includes, getting access to (temporarily) exclusive a) information, b) content or c) offers.
Welcome Messages - the first message a fan will see when opting into a new Messenger channel - are a great way to be clear upfront and to manage these expectations. Here are 3 examples:
- “We’ll keep you posted about new music, videos and concerts in [insert your city].”
- “We’ll send you a daily digest, of our top articles.”
- “We’ll notify you, when a new project launches on our platform.”
Building different kinds of audience lists (e.g. via tags/labels) also allows you to segment your audience based on interests and expectations. Your audience is not one homogeneous pool of people, so don’t treat it as such.
As a fan, this gives me the opportunity to opt-in to one list, but not another. I might be interested when you’re on tour, but I don’t sign up for the daily tour diary.
Some fans will yearn for a daily update, others will stick to the most important communication points. Both needs and expectations are different. Frequency and content are best managed by setting the right expectations first, and then by using relevant segmentation and targeting.
As in any personal relationship, you have to stick to your promises - no excuses. Don’t mess with what you’ve promised. If your fans/customers get an idea that you’re either mis-using their trust or that your messages are generally not relevant to them, they’ll tune out quickly.
Don’t let yourself get away with things. You’re accountable and responsible for content you send out. Make relevance and the net value of each message, the golden rules of if and what to send to whom.
Be in Control
Being in control, of getting reliably and efficiently into your most engaged fans’ inbox is key to be successful in the long-term. Today, many of us see themselves confronted with having to spend an ever-increasing ad budget for the privilege of getting our message in front of an audience, we’ve already built in the past - in most cases, that’s neither efficient, nor sustainable.
Algorithms change. We know, Instagram is flying high these days, but it only takes a slight change in algorithm and suddenly you might not get your IG story in front of most fans. Channel fatigue is a real thing (e.g. newsfeed), especially if we’re bombarded by less and less relevant content.
Think of it: How long, until it will be hard to break through the noise on your current favorite social channel? It’s not a question of if that will happen, it’s a question of when. A factor of how many people use the service, how much content is posted each day and how many people the average user follows.
Building a direct relationship with your fans is the best way of protecting you from such shifts and navigating this ever changing environment. Last but not least, it will help you to stay less dependent on external parties (the super-smart marketing guy at your label, your one in a million tour promoter in France etc.). By building an arsenal of tools, establishing the trust of your fans and gaining expertise over the years, you’re taking control of your own fate.
Direct-to-fan messaging, is one game-changing differentiator which you can start with little time and investment today, before everyone and their friends catch on. You’ll be rewarded for your leap of faith, by reaching your superfans directly, efficiently and reliably via a channel which they use every day when communicating with friends and family - and which fan, wouldn’t want to be “friendly” with their favourite artist or brand?
Now, if this made you curious, we’re happy to talk through your specific use case and help you understand the value for your specific case. Simply reach out to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or book a call with us here.
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