I just had a read of Paul Ford’s Medium article on email and while I agree, I think he’s highlighted one of the main things people get hooked up on with communication software.
What a product does is not the same as how it is used.
It’s one of the big challenges I face with social media or collaboration software- trying to explain to people that there are many different ways to use a product and the importance of looking past the app as an individual consumer, to the social network behaviour and what it could do for you. It's the thing that most people missed with Instagram and their crappy little mobile app with hipster filters ugh who needs that?
"A recent study by Forrester Research found that Instagram users were 58 times more likely to like, comment, or share a brand’s post than Facebook users and 120 times more likely than Twitter users. All data indicates that users are moving away from Twitter and Facebook and shifting their time to Instagram. This absolutely proves that Instagram is the best social and mobile platform for brands to reach audiences that are willing to engage. If you’re not marketing on Instagram, you’re missing out."
200 million monthly actives apparently.
About five years ago I presented to a local government organisation that a lot of their consultation and community-level activities could be done on this thing called Facebook with the functionality of Pages.
At that time they were running about 60-70 static micro-sites (nobody really knew the exact number) and each was given between $5,000 and $20,000 per annum as a ‘web budget’. Centralised page admins could help the community groups and use Facebook product features to connect with people in real conversations and reduce the need for front end developers and designers. Long story short I was laughed at but now that same place has about 10 full-time social media employees and their main job is to manage Facebook Pages for community boards and groups. I spoke with one of the managers there recently and she said the main problem now is getting customers off Facebook,
“we have people who think the Internet is Facebook. We try and get them to click through to our website and get complaints for not making stuff available. Now we just put everything on Facebook”.
Whatever your personal preferences, Facebook has excellent functionality for ease of use and community building and just using this part of the functionality is a big improvement for the organisation. How a large FMCG or retail brand uses Facebook is not how a 14 year old high school girl uses Facebook. How you use Twitter as a single end-user is not how a large government emergency operations centre uses Twitter in a natural disaster. How Denny's uses Tumblr is just amazing and one of the best things in the world.
Most social network software works best when you have real individuals having peer to peer communications. When you add multiple users to an account like community managers or brand marketers, it gets harder to create the individual experience for your customers. When you add timezone variations and brand names and product categories and languages, it gets even more complicated. So you need software and systems to hide the complexity from the customer. A single user in your organisation firing up an account and using it the same as a consumer is not a good, scaleable solution for your company. You can’t measure anything or lead score or translate the data into real sales. People get frustrated with this idea because they don’t see why you can’t just use individual, consumer tools the same way for enterprise tasks. In most cases you sort of can. Take the common one of salespeople using their personal Outlook email accounts to send mass emails to their customers. Open the email, BCC a message to your territory list and fire away.
Meanwhile back at head office, the marketing team has an enterprise email system that schedules, tracks, optimises, and delivers the company email programme. Analysts run lead scoring software and test email headers and click rates and unsubscribes. Meetings are held with swizzy coloured graphs and pointy laser beams to try and generate a 1-2% increase in customer response. See the difference?
Yes, it’s all email and in its purest form, it doing the same thing but trying to communicate one to many in a sales environment is different from a peer to peer consumer chat with your friend about holidays.
A small change in interface design or metrics or API might be the difference between and organisation seeing the light on something and being able to use the tools to do something a lot better. In some ways we probably are circling around the same things of email or lists or social but improving the way the products are communicated (the way that Mailbox did so successfully with their marketing launch and UX) hopefully will turn into smarter use and wider adoption of better tools.