Facebook is Testing a New Private Messenger Chat Feature
Reverse engineering experts have become aware of tests being conducted by Facebook currently, which will use a new post type for the purpose of directing viewers through to a Messenger private chat grouping. Basically, this new capability will permit users to promote a Messenger private chat group, and bring in all their other connections to the group. Functionally, it works very much the same as the Instagram offering for its Joint Chat sticker feature, which works in tandem with Stories.
Why Facebook is introducing this new feature
You may or may not be aware of this, but social interaction these days is undergoing a dramatic shift from public conversation to private areas, where discussion cannot be viewed by anyone except group members. Both WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger currently have about 1.3 billion users in the fold, and are still seeing massive growth, compared to the snails-pace growth of the social platforms in general.
This is understandable, given the fact that the surging increase in social networking has also given rise to a number of risks associated with public posting. Users have indicated in surveys that they are becoming much more cautious about what they post, and that they’re much more inclined to interact with small groups, rather than broadcasting their thoughts and feelings to the general public.
The prevailing opinion is that it’s nice to have the ability to broadcast a post, but that for the most part, conversations are more meaningful when carried out among selected friends and online connections. The social platforms are aware of this trend, and are taking steps to accommodate it, one of which is the new chat feature referenced above.
Facebook has also placed much more emphasis on groups in recent months, which aligns the platform with the trend toward group discussion, as opposed to the more public approach. Instagram has also gotten on board with the group mentality, working on a new Lists feature which allows users to share Stories and posts with friends of their choosing. This of course, generates a level of exclusivity and personal intimacy with individuals on their Lists within Instagram.
Implications for business
This significant trend presents something of a problem for businesses, assuming that they are interested in tapping into the shift from public to private conversations. It’s fairly difficult to create brand connections on a private or intimate basis, because it can very easily cross the line and become intrusive for individuals. The best approach for most businesses is probably to focus more on brand communities and on building up business groups, where the discussion can trend toward enhancing your business standing.
In order to do this, a typical business would have to create some really compelling content which highlights their expertise and authority within their field. It would also be necessary for a business to be highly responsive to any group communications, and that means a business would require a dedicated person or team of people to constantly interact with community groups. So all is not lost for businesses, even with this shift toward more private interaction. It will just take a different approach for most businesses in order to keep abreast of that change and become part of it.
A new business approach to interacting with users
Businesses wishing to adapt to the growing trend toward private interaction should take their cue from current users, and create brand groups on Facebook, where the discussion can center around the brand and its product offerings. It would also be a good idea for businesses to investigate all the various opportunities provided by the dominant messaging apps in use today, at least with regard to your own specific target audience. It will be necessary for businesses to provide value to group users, so that connections can be made in a more personal way, rather than in a business mode.
There’s one other aspect of this shift from public to private which needs to be considered. It is entirely possible that the reason for users making this tremendous shift all at once is that they’re trying to avoid the intrusion of brands, products, and advertising in general. This would of course create a much more difficult problem for businesses, because it would require pitching products and services without being overt about it, and without pushing people away by your efforts.
This would present a major challenge to businesses, and would require some very delicate interactions with users. But in order to maintain contact with a brand’s target audience, it may be necessary. The bottom line is that private interaction is increasing by leaps and bounds, which means all brands need to consider a new approach for tapping into small groups. The most successful brands will adopt an approach which can use this huge trend to their benefit, so they can prosper by the shift which is in progress.
Facebook’s view on messaging
In light of the tremendous increase in messaging across all social platforms, it makes good sense for Facebook to be exploring ways which involve connecting to private group discussions. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has stated several times in the past that the future is in private messaging, so it isn’t surprising that his platform is providing more and more tools to support that shift. When this feature is rolled out to the general public, it should provide a new approach for brands to generate discussion around their products, especially with their more dedicated followers.
For instance, all you’d have to do is ask other users a question which is somehow related to your industry, or to ask them for their opinion on a certain product or business process. This of course, will require that the new chat post feature becomes a post option on Pages, which at this point is not at all certain. The likelihood is that this new feature will be made available to at least a select group of users within a month or so, with the general rollout soon to follow.