Instant Messaging As A Business Tool

by Jason Falls |

An IM messFor the better part of a year, I was an instant messaging junkie. In my former life in sports, my publicity colleagues and I would chat all day on a variety of topics. We even conducted a group chat one day to discuss an upcoming tournament – a legitimate business application using instant messaging. While I was participating in social media, I didn’t actually think what I was doing was innovative or groundbreaking. We were just using technology to make our jobs easier.

Now, admittedly, most of the time we were just jerking around, wasting valuable time chatting, but we inched out some useful business objectives every now and then.

In order to exercise some thought toward all the different social media tools available for a client recently, I pondered how a brand might use instant messaging to connect and communicate with consumers. Certainly, this would have to be permission-based. Random corporations or brands popping up on my IM asking me what I’m up to or even offering me coupons would piss me off. I would never recommend that.

Certainly, some brands offer live chat portals and perhaps even an IM handle for customer service functionality, but they’re mostly uniquely dedicated functions for that purpose.

As I drove to work Wednesday, I wondered out loud via Utterz (imbedded in this post) if people would actually befriend a brand in their instant messaging clients. One way I posed that question was, would you feel comfortable “friending” a nameless, faceless brand rather than a person? I then postulated that doing so would mean they might be able to message you deals, coupons or other brand messaging, but you could also know that if you IM’d them, someone would respond.

Doug Haslem, who is infinitely smarter than I am in the first place, responded with his own Utterz in which he correctly pointed out, “That immediately K-O’s the idea that it’s faceless and human. That’s a good thing.”

A new found fellow blogger friend, or as others have started calling social networking friends we find on-line, digital colleague, Paisano, also chimed in with an Utterz response. “I think there is a business need for instant messaging. It does have to be monitored or controlled because, you’re right. It is addictive,” he said.

Chris responded with a text saying, “Personally I would not use a brand with my IM client. If I had a music player on my blog I might allow someone, a brand, that I use regularly to sponsor that widget.”

The way I see this issue, the only people who would feel comfortable allowing a brand to connect with them via instant messenger are those who are most passionate about the brand. I don’t mind getting information from Southwest Airlines about flight deals because I love Southwest Airlines. I don’t mind getting information on new Sony products because I dig Sony. But (no offense) I’d rather not hear from Advance Auto Parts, especially considering I don’t know the difference between a gear casing and Richard Gere.

Sure, the customer service element of IM offers consumers the fastest and often most efficient way to communicate with a company or brand, but I think consumers would best use this knowing that only they can initiate the conversation.

But am I right?

  • Would you befriend a brand on IM knowing that gave them permission to initiate chats with you?
  • Would you reach out to a brand for something other than a complaint, customer service issue if you could?
  • Is offering your brand up as an instant messaging friend not a brilliant move provided you have the manpower to respond?
  • Are brands opening up a can of proverbial worms by opening that fast, easy line of communications?

Debate, discuss and decide in the comments. Perhaps we can work together to establish some guidelines.

Other Posts You’ll Find Interesting:

  1. Current Stats And Commentary On The Instant Messenger Market
  2. Instant Messaging Spreads The Word – And Trouble
  3. Instant Messaging Roundup
  4. 17 Tips To Be Productive With Instant Messaging
[tags]instant messaging, IM, instant messenger, chatting, IM business application, brand, consumers[/tags]

About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).