Facebook has recently taken steps to try and centralize customer service and brand-to-consumer conversation worldwide. Of course they are not calling it that, but it seems pretty obvious.
Subtle Changes, Big Implications
Facebook is endowing business pages, of which there are now more than 50 MILLION, with advanced messaging and chat functionality to channel and respond to inbound inquiries. Pages are now displaying responsiveness badges for the speed which they reply to private messages. And only pages that respond to 90% of inquiries within 5 minutes earn the top “Very Responsive” badge.
They are also letting page admins put up “away-messages” so users can know when they are not hovering over the page banner waiting to immediately respond to inbound messages — something I had hoped to leave behind with AOL instant messenger and high school.
The Snowball Effect
Essentially Facebook is doing a number of things, each of which has a compounding snowball-like effect.
- They are creating an environment that breeds mild anxiety and self-consciousness in page owners and brands due to the incentive to hover over their pages and wait for new private messages to respond to.
- They are creating lots of incentive for users to send private messages to pages because pages are now all but obligated to respond in order to maintain their response time badges, (which further necessitates page owners to hover over their page and try to respond to inbound messages within 5 minutes.)
- They are also creating an industry around page management.
- They are publicly punishing brands that do not respond instantly and to all inbound inquiries on Facebook.
- They are centralizing brand discourse by drawing users to their platform because they are forcing brands to respond faster and under the threat of greater brand perception penalties than anywhere else on the web.
The end result is incentivizing all brands and all users to come to Facebook to talk, complain, argue, and praise one another. The next step may be world domination.
I’m only half kidding. This is absolutely brilliant and may change the game for pages as the media begins to pick this up and brands across the board begin to feel the pressure to maintain their public image with regard to responsiveness. It may indeed result in a ton of additional user traffic and engagement on Facebook as well, as it becomes the go-to platform for brand interaction.
It would only take a little bit of groundswell and Facebook may become known as THE place to communicate with brands. After that, the bandwagon effect may take over, and we may see that these small incentives create the initial movement needed to redefine the marketplace.
Is it inherently good? I don’t really know. Facebook is using this approach to invent new interaction points for users and brands, no doubt to solidify Facebook’s internet prominence and expand their financial viability through advertising. Users may find it easier to interact with brands in this new ecosystem. Some brands may benefit, others may lack the agility needed to maintain a good responsiveness rating.
But what is certain is every brand needs to pay a little more attention to the inbound private messages their page receives and answer them as promptly as is feasible.