Finding the best messaging apps for your PR and marketing efforts can seem daunting at first. So many options are available and each has different features and potential applications. Where do you start evaluating? You can’t try them all. My assessments of the most popular messaging apps should help you narrow the choices.
The last few years have seen huge shifts away from traditional social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to more direct messaging – especially for business use. Messaging apps offer substantial opportunities for PR and marketing, and smart brands are using them for customer service, customer communications, and content promotion. A recent article on the Glean.info blog examined the multiple ways businesses use messenger apps for PR and marketing.
I’m going to look at two distinct types of apps:
- SMS Messaging Apps
- Messenger Apps
The platform you chose will of course depend on your specific business needs. You have some choices to make early on. I’ll go through why some are better in certain cases and why having both types might be the best approach. Then I’ll list some of the best apps – so keep reading!
SMS Messaging Apps for Marketing
Think of these like email marketing but with direct text messages to your customers’ phones. The benefits are obvious. Your message is going straight to the user who will definitely see it. You can’t not open a text message – well, most people can’t!
One report says that text messages have a 98% open rate, compared to 20% for email.
When you get a text message how long do you wait before reading it?
One caveat is that SMS campaigns cost more per message sent, but those costs are coming down as more programs become available.
Direct text messaging apps can effectively reach existing customers or other users. You can send offers, offer support, and book appointments. You’re only limited by your imagination.
The best apps have integrations with other email and scheduling solutions, making your workflow more efficient.
There is one major drawback. Just like email marketing, you can only message existing customers. You need to have their phone number in the first place.
Let’s have a look at some apps.
The Best SMS Messaging Apps
Probably one of the easiest platforms to get started and use. If you’re familiar with any email marketing software, the TextMagic interface will be very easy to use.
You can set up alerts, schedule sending, manage different user lists and have two-way text chats. Everything can be controlled from your online dashboard.
Costs: $0.068 per message sent. It offers a pay-as–you-go model, allowing you to pay only for messages sent. No account fees.
ClickSend is a bit different. It has a multi-channel approach. You can set up and run marketing campaigns using SMS texts, email, phone and even mail. You can combine campaigns such as both emails and text messages.
It’s not as easy to use at first because there are many options. The app is planning to integrate with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger – which could be a major improvement.
Costs: $0.0093 per message for the first 2,000 messages. The pricing goes down for larger volumes of messages. No monthly fee.
SimpleTexting shares many similarities with TextMagic in terms of ease of use and functionality. It is slightly more marketing oriented, with features such as surveys and polls.
Again it integrates well with other platforms and allows mass texting and importing user lists.
Costs: from $25 / month with 500 message credits. It offers scaled monthly rates for larger sending credits – $625 for 50,000 credits.
Many companies offer similar messaging services, but these three are a great starting point. Thanks to their convenient user interfaces and speed, they are great for smaller businesses.
Remember that with SMS text messaging for business use, there are rules and regulations – just as with mass email marketing.
Using Messenger Apps for PR and Marketing
In this section we’ll talk about direct messenger apps, from WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to Snapchat and Instagram. Their approach is different from the SMS text messaging services.
Most of these platforms have a social sharing element as well as sending messages. This means they can be more efficient when trying to gain new customers or leads.
There is crossover: Facebook Messenger is widely used as a customer support channel and when combined with a company Facebook page can be a great marketing funnel. You don’t need to be restricted in your use of these apps.
Finding the Best Messenger App
You’ve heard the saying “be where your customers are.” That advice is on point when picking a messenger platform that suits your needs. You need to know what platforms your customers or clients are using.
Usage statistics give an overview of the different messenger apps. WhatsApp is the most popular worldwide with over two billion users. It’s the favored messenger app in India, Brazil and much of Europe.
In the United States, Facebook Messenger is the most widely used with 106.4 million users, followed by Snapchat with 45.98 million and then WhatsApp with 25.58 million users.
WeChat and QQ Mobile have huge user numbers, but they’re mainly in China – great if China is your target market but not if you’re selling in Iowa.
Where your customers live can influence the marketing channels you choose – as can factors like age. Snapchat and Instagram are most popular with the under 25 crowd.
The Best Messenger Apps
Let’s take a quick look at three of the best apps used in marketing and PR.
One big advantage of using Facebook Messenger is that many of your customers and clients are already using it and are familiar with how it works. Add in the advantage of the huge reach of the main Facebook platform and its advertising potential.
Messenger can be used effectively for customer support, appointments, marketing offers and much more. Chatbots can be used for basic customer support as well as more advanced marketing. It’s hard to look past Facebook Messenger.
You can’t ignore WhatsApp for marketing and PR, although right now it presents challenges. There are no ads (for now) and you can only have groups up to 256 people (for now). So on the face of it, WhatsApp may not be a good match for larger businesses.
Most people expect changes soon that will make the platform more attractive to brands and their marketing efforts. Already, innovative companies are finding ways to gain exposure using WhatsApp.
I’ve included Snapchat in this list because it is very different and is being used very successfully by many brands today. Snapchat is very popular with users under 29, especially in the U.S.
Because of the short span of Snapchats (most disappear in under 24 hours) the app isn’t suitable for activities like customer support. But it is proving to be extremely versatile in attracting new users and creating a buzz.
Brands are using Snapchat stories to run time-sensitive offers, share new products and generally engage users with fun filters and competitions. Its advantage is its social aspect that allows brands to reach a greater audience.
The Best Approach?
You have many messaging platforms with varied advantages and disadvantages to consider for your marketing and PR efforts.
The best advice is not to try them all. Instead focus on one or two and make them work for your needs. Of course large brands can afford to be almost everywhere, but smaller businesses need to focus.
There’s definitely an argument for trying several marketing channels and testing what works best for a specific business model. It also pays to be creative in your use of messaging apps and social messenger apps – with an eye to the future.
Bottom Line: Brands have a plethora of messaging apps at their disposal to meet their PR and marketing needs. Brands can select the best messaging app for their needs by examining pros and cons of different platforms with an eye toward their business objectives and audience demographics.