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Messaging feature sets and their benefits

by Nicolas Vérité

This is an excerpt from Boost your engine of growth with chat and social value by Nicolas Vérité.

Messaging feature sets and their benefits

  • A lot of features have come and gone over the few generations of messaging.
  • Some of them stick around much longer than others.

Interpersonal assistant chatbots, for a warm welcome

A welcome bot will allow you - among other things - to handhold users through first uses, conducting them through a critical part of the customer journey, avoiding early churn. Also, it will fix a common situation with new apps: the emptiness and solitude. When you install a fresh app it should definitely show anything but the void and blank spaces.

A machinegun, marketing-driven push notifications could fit the companionship gap as well, but these are annoying and intrusive, and sometimes they come with disrupting the experience with the app. This may void user value, consequently, synthetically increasing your vanity metrics for an immediate fall once the shots are fired.

A chatbot has more empathy and emotional triggers due to its location: inside the one-to-one chat. This gives it an air of interpersonal feeling, as opposed to an external and disconnected notification center. A welcome chatbot is in-app automation (client-side or server-side), as it leverages the conversational experience (the vertical timeline). There is no absolute need for any type of AI - your chatbot can be rule-based with quick replies, as it belongs to a properly mapped user experience. Such a chatbot is an opportunity to be fun and warming, as it can establish the users’ first steps, and thus a general “connection” to the experience.

Warning: the experience of a chatbot leads to disappointment sooner or later in the user’s journey. That is especially true if the AI or the decision-tree is not fit for the job. So you have to set the expectations for your users, to prevent or delay that disappointment. “A smile is the universal welcome.” (Max Eastman)

Social, open networks, for higher discovery

Simply put, the social network sector is quite overcrowded, as the major players over there are really huge. The barrier of entry is high… Unless you are bringing a really disruptive innovation, that is proven to be a game changer, and fit for massive adoption. But then it is often a hard sell.

Instead, instant messaging is again booming, mainly thanks to its third generation. There are plenty of players here, and thus it is indeed very hard for a new app to get discovered on the stores, but the market is more accessible to businesses.

Social posting, liking and commenting are features all well known on social apps. Building the same features on top of conversational apps is a trend today, a real trend even if still a bit shy and hardly noticeable. Here is why: it allows users/customers to discover communities, places, and people. It enables browsing, searching, and interaction through all available open and public content. In other words, it indirectly gives humans more opportunities to interconnect with more humans and bots. And as a consequence, this increases their network value. It is about growing your users’ network and own branding, and to engage with their audiences.

Warning: the content inconsistency that you are used to in various apps, whether you refresh or change the device, is a real pain. Be careful about the expectations when people browse to find something. “The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” (Marcel Proust)

Groupchat, closed networks, for continuous interactions

The groupchat market is still accessible, although massive adoption is clearly observable. A multiplicity of categories and viable niches exist today, and the exploration is not over. Proof of this resides in some big players (Cisco, Microsoft, Google) jumping on the bandwagon, after the huge successes of Slack, HipChat, Mattermost, Rocket.chat, Zulip, Matrix, Ring. The model has definitely won hearts, with the numbers following suit. Expect a wave of mergers and acquisitions to follow (Atlassian already bought HipChat).

What is cool and very well understood about those apps, is that they target groups and communities, in other words, they map to organically highly interconnected networks and serve them. Just bring in one team at a time, and retain them all. Third generation IM app makers understand that brings great engagement and retention to their networks. These activities are mainly happening at the workplace, and during the workday. So there is minimal annoyance after work.

The never-ending stream of groupchat messages is much more fluid and rapidly evolving than social content. Partly because the conversational timeline is much more intuitive and easy to use than social hierarchy and weird algorithms (Facebook and Twitter were much harder to grasp for beginners).

Group chats necessitate a far lower number of people in a closed environment to generate the same engagement, as compared to public social streams. That is aimed at deeper and consistent relations, that your users have to maintain over time.

Warning: easing your users’ maintenance of their network is key to consistency. “Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” (Dwayne Johnson)

A balanced combination leads to a winning alchemy

Mixing together open and closed networks for discovery and engagement is key to users’ network growth. Don’t leave onboarding to the apathetic factory lines and lower the barrier of entry. Just provide a network, with a perceivable and obvious network value, and means to grow it over time. All these elements will contribute to and catalyse the acquisition, the retention, and referral.

An application that is fully loaded with tons of features is quite a clear signal that the makers don’t know what to do, and want to do it all. A carefully crafted feature set, with a strong focus is the path to reach your targets and fix their problems or address their needs.

Anyway, your feature sets always go through the funnel or the filter of adoption, measured by AARRR/pirate metrics. This is the path that is necessary to deliver network value to you user and customer base. “There is no decision that we can make that doesn’t come with some sort of balance or sacrifice.” (Simon Sinek)

For more insights and practical advices on how to find your optimal feature set and increase the network value of your product, read the full article: Boost your engine of growth with chat and social value by Nicolas Vérité.

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