A new era of direct marketing is here.

Direct marketing has come a long way since the first direct mail campaign in the 1800s. Even in the past few years, direct messaging channels enabled marketers to reach people in a more personalized, targeted way.

While tried-and-true tactics still have their place, messaging is a fixture in our daily lives and is changing how consumers want to interact with brands.

In this article, we’ll break down the leading direct messaging strategies and how you can use them to transform your social media outreach.

What is direct marketing?

First, let’s start by defining direct marketing.

Direct marketing: Reaching a segment of your target audience with a specialized message designed to inspire action. It can deliver short-term wins (Example: Registering for an event) or help foster long-term relationships (Example: Joining a loyalty program).

Here are some examples of direct marketing tactics:

  • Telemarketing
  • Email marketing
  • Targeted online ads
  • Direct mail campaigns
  • Messaging campaigns

Unlike traditional marketing and advertising campaigns, which are meant for mass audiences, direct marketing delivers tailored messages to a select few. The key to its success is reaching people at the right place, where they’re already active and engaged.

That’s where direct messaging marketing comes in.

Direct messaging marketing

Direct messaging marketing is a subset of direct marketing that uses SMS marketing, web messaging and social media messaging to reach a precise person or group of people with a specific message.

According to Zendesk, direct messaging is the fastest growing channel people use to communicate with brands. It’s transforming the customer experience and pushing brands to broaden their direct marketing strategies.

Taking a page from the conversational marketing playbook, direct messaging boosts a brand’s ability to connect with their audience one-on-one.

Yet, it delivers the same benefits (and more) offered by direct marketing practices of yore. Direct communication. A clear marketing message. Audience segmentation. Attention-grabbing CTAs.

3 messaging strategies for your next direct marketing campaign

With different forums for direct messaging, how do you know which is right for your strategy? Let’s break down the three leading methods and how you can use each one to impact your business goals.

SMS messaging

SMS messaging is the newest frontier of direct marketing. It provides immediate communication, increased customer engagement and ample opportunity to learn about your audience via response data. As an emerging channel, brands who harness its power today have the advantage tomorrow.

It’s important to note SMS messaging does come with stipulations. Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, brands may not send a SMS message to consumers without their consent. When reaching out to new people, an opt-in message must be the beginning of your exchange.

A screenshot of a text message Unique Vintage sent to promote their 50% off sales ending tonight and a link to shop the sale.

After that, the best SMS marketers use this channel strategically and sparingly. Overwhelming people with messages could lead them to opt-out. Share links, timely information and discount codes to maximize your engagement results.

Web messaging

The rise of internet commerce hasn’t eliminated the consumer desire for human interaction. Just like in a brick and mortar store, people want help while they shop online. They want to hear about exclusive deals, time-sensitive sales and what’s next for your brand—all with a personal touch that makes them feel V.I.P.

Luckily, website messaging can help you replicate the in-store experience. Tap into your support team to operate the chat. Make sure they’re reaching out to visitors, sharing important news and pointing out the best offers.

A screen of the exchange between a visitor to the Amtrak website requests to learn more about the loyalty program and Amtrak's virtual assistant, Julie. Julie sends the visitor links where they can learn more.

Since most teams can’t be available 24/7, use a chatbot to help fill this role while you’re away. Chatbots can also welcome visitors, help them navigate your site and answer common questions.

Social media messaging

People want you to slide into their DMs. That’s right—70% of people agree they expect to have conversational experiences with brands on social media.

In the last few years, it’s become clear brands must see social marketing differently. From the explosive demand for customer care to the emphasis on building community, social media is now the place for ongoing dialogues between brands and their audiences.

A GIF of a Twitter follower messaging the Sprout Social chatbot on the platform and selecting the "Requesting a Demo" option from the chabot's menu..

With social media messaging, you provide an unforgettable customer experience that includes live chat services, product demos and other proactive direct marketing strategies. For example, try creating a “personal assistant” chatbot in a messaging app to send important reminders, provide mini consultations and even help your customers complete a purchase.


How leading brands create social media messaging campaigns

The best brands use social media messaging to listen to their community, join relevant conversations and proactively engage with their following.

Let’s dig into the steps they follow to build messaging campaigns that make an impact.

1. Set goals

The first step is to set your campaign’s goals. What action—or actions—should people be inspired to take when they receive a message from your brand?

Common goals include gaining new leads, increasing sales and strengthening customer loyalty.

Even if a campaign has a short-term engagement goal, like registering for a one-time event, the most successful campaigns focus on building long-term relationships. They transition engagements into conversions—like new CRM contacts, customer retention and winbacks.

2. Find your audience

Next, you should determine how you’ll find and grow your campaign audience.

How targeted should your audience be? There’s no clear-cut answer. It depends on your brand’s goals. For example, if you’re trying to implement online ordering via your DMs, widen your net.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to reach a new audience, focus on key people. You can use social listening and platform demographics to determine when, where and how to reach your segmented audience.

A screenshot of Sprout Social's Listening tool, where an example of age/gender breakdown and device demographics for an audience are shown.

3. Get creative

To prevent messages from feeling invasive or irrelevant, write copy that stops people in their tracks. Let your audience know what’s in it for them as soon as possible. Conjure a sense of urgency that includes a powerful CTA (Example: 50% off sale today only).

Accompany your message with eye-catching visuals, including emojis, GIFs and other multimedia content. It will give your message more power to grab your audience’s attention. But make sure you adhere to your brand’s guidelines.

Once you’ve crafted your message, you’re ready to start your campaign.

5 direct messaging campaigns that work

Here are five examples of brands winning at direct messaging to inspire you.

1. Hellmann’s Brazil: WhatsApp “Whatscook” campaign

When Hellmann’s Brazil launched their first WhatsApp campaign, “Whatscook,” they had one goal in mind: build brand loyalty. At its core, their campaign provided a service their audience needed—help figuring out what to cook for dinner.

By registering on Hellmann’s website, people could connect with the brand on WhatsApp for 10 days. They had access to one-on-one guidance from a chef who helped them use the ingredients in their fridge—and Hellmann’s products—to create a bespoke meal.

A screenshot of a video from Hellmann's reporting on the success of their whatscook campaign. The text reads whatscook, the first live recipe service using WhatsApp.

The campaign paid off and turned up the heat online. It immediately generated online buzz and PR. More than 8,000 people signed up for Whatscook, 4 million people were reached and 500+ meals were shared on social media. Hellmann’s Brazil successfully provided a relevant service and built real, memorable connections.

2. Domino’s Pizza x Stranger Things: “Mind Ordering” app

Domino’s Pizza is known for going all in on technology. They first introduced Dom, their pizza bot who takes orders via Messenger, in 2016. They’ve continued to invest and build upon Dom, and their messaging strategy, by integrating the bot on their app.

They recently partnered with Stranger Things, one of the hottest shows on Netflix, to create an immersive “Mind Ordering” app. The app lets users order their favorite pizza with “telekinetic powers”—also known as facial recognition software. By saving an Easy Order to your Domino’s pizza profile, you can place an order with the nod of your head.

A screenshot of a YouTube video from Domino's promoting the new Mind Ordering app. The setting of the video is the lab in Hawkins in 1986. It also features two Stranger Things stars in character at their local Domino's.

The online buzz inspired many to try the new app. According to Sprout’s Listening data, this campaign garnered roughly 4.4 million potential impressions in the first month it launched.

The new app helped Domino’s introduce customers to the ease of ordering via direct app messaging. This campaign is a great example of how marketers can use a one-time event to increase sales in the short-term and encourage brand loyalty.

3. Vetta Capsule: Early-access text marketing

When Vetta launches a new clothing capsule, it often sells out in days. They recently launched a new text marketing list so their superfans can get exclusive early-access to new and restocked products. Vetta customers are eager to exchange their phone number if it means they can get first dibs.

Screenshot of VETTA’s text messaging campaign offering a customer exclusive updates on VETTA’s popular blazer dress and pants being back in stock.

4. Dior Beauty x Jisoo: WhatsApp campaign

French luxury beauty brand Dior Beauty partnered with K-pop star Jisoo to promote their new product Dior Addict Shine Lipstick. Dior combined Jisoo’s star power with the popularity of WhatsApp to appeal to a younger audience.

In an Instagram story, Dior shared a link to connect with them on WhatsApp. In the messaging app, people could exchange messages with a Jisoo-inspired AI chatbot. During its conversation with users, the chatbot sent links to content about the new lipstick.

The campaign was a triumphant success. The chatbot reached its full capacity in one day. Dior masterfully displayed how using direct messaging can demand urgency and successfully reach a specific target audience.

5. Hyundai Australia: Test drive Messenger campaign

Hyundai Australia supercharged their Facebook ad strategy by infusing direct messaging into their campaign. In their ads, they included a CTA urging people to book a test drive via Messenger.

If someone clicked on the link, they automatically entered into a DM exchange with a Messenger chatbot to schedule their test drive.

Screenshots of Hyuandi Australia's Facebook ad campaign and a chat between their Messenger bot and a customer interested in a test drive side-by-side.

Meta reports the ads led to more highly qualified leads for the brand, with a 27% lower cost per lead than previous lead generation campaigns.

How your brand can benefit from a direct messaging campaign

Now you’re ready to start building your new direct messaging marketing campaign.

Today, with modern messaging forums, your brand has new, engaging ways to build personal relationships with customers.

Remember, even though direct marketing has evolved, its primary purpose is still the same. Connect directly with your audience.

Looking for more content to support your direct messaging goals? Learn more about how to use 1:1 messaging to improve the customer experience and satisfaction.