For most businesses and customers, social media is becoming their primary communication channel and a catalyst for building relationships with one another. It’s the public social profiles, posts and ads that make it possible to reach a wide audience, but it’s the private, personalized experiences with businesses that bode well for customer loyalty.

Starting today, Sprout Social will be expanding Messenger API support for Instagram for customers in phases over the coming months. This new functionality enables businesses to manage customer conversations initiated on the network with greater efficiency while providing a more engaging, cohesive customer experience.

Martha O’Byrne-O’Reilly, Head of Messaging Developer Partnerships at Facebook, shares Sprout’s passion for business messaging as a way for brands to build unbreakable relationships with customers. We recently sat down with O’Byrne-O’Reilly to discuss the ways companies can use social messaging to take their business to the next level.

What role does social messaging play in the customer experience?

MOO: When we think about the ways we interact with businesses, the communication methods available to us are all over the map. You might sign up for text alerts to get a discount, order a product online, get a confirmation email but then need to call a service number to get customer support. The customer experience is extremely disjointed.

Twilio commissioned a survey and found that only two out of 10 people in the U.S., Great Britain and Australia thought businesses were effectively communicating with their customers. People today have lost their tolerance for friction in any form. They want to engage on their own time and in their channel of choice, which is increasingly social messaging.

Social messaging is convenient, accessible and efficient, for both customers and businesses. That’s why more than 3.1 billion people and 180 million businesses, from Fortune 500 companies to independent coffee shops, use our family of apps to communicate with one another every month–numbers that have almost doubled in the last few years.

What other factors have influenced the shift to social messaging?

MOO: 2020 was a challenging year, but at the same time, it was a year of accelerated digital transformation. While everyone around the world sheltered-in-place, people relied on messaging to stay connected with friends, loved ones and businesses. During the height of the pandemic, total daily conversations on Facebook apps grew by over 50%, and voice and video calling on Messenger and Whatsapp doubled.

Small and mid-sized businesses are adopting messaging for the first time in lieu of in-person interactions to show and sell their products. We’re also seeing larger, enterprise companies invest in messaging as storefronts go digital or call centers become remote and the volume of customer support inquiries increase.

Messaging is not a fleeting trend though. It’s here to stay, especially as use cases expand beyond one-on-one communication and customer care.

Looking ahead, the hypergrowth in messaging coupled with digital commerce is creating a new wave of conversational commerce.
Martha O’Byrne-O’Reilly
Head of Messaging Developer Partnerships at Facebook

How do you envision the future state of social messaging?

MOO: Messaging can support a customer’s entire journey with a business. In a survey across multiple markets globally, we found that 81% of people use messaging to ask about products, 78% to get support and 74% to make a purchase or appointment.

Sometimes the most transformative shifts occur when two trends collide to form something powerful and new. Looking ahead, the hypergrowth in messaging coupled with digital commerce is creating a new wave of conversational commerce.

We view conversational commerce as using chat or voice assistance with the intent to drive the purchase of goods and services. It encapsulates the full range of reasons people chat with businesses, from asking about store hours to booking appointments, tracking deliveries and resolving issues. And it’s happening in all the places where people are spending time online, which is predominantly social and messaging platforms.

The businesses that have a social messaging strategy in place—ready to consistently meet their customers’ needs in the moment—will be able to see a strong return on conversational commerce.

How can businesses effectively use messaging to create seamless customer experiences?

MOO: Facebook’s research found that over 66% are more likely to buy something from a business they can contact via messaging, which is why we’re dedicated to giving brands more ways to provide an asynchronous, productive customer experience.

As a consumer, I’ve used a well-known athleisure brand’s Messenger experience on Instagram to make a purchase, and it felt like having a personal shopper from the comfort of my couch. Someone asked me questions about my preferences, presented new options based on my feedback and continually personalized the private conversation.

Empowering businesses of all sizes to deliver that kind of efficient, tailor-made service is why we’re so excited to launch Messenger’s API in Sprout.

As different parts of an organization, from sales to customer service, get more involved with social messaging, connecting the API to a social media management system like Sprout will help keep workflows organized, improve response times and unlock opportunities to personalize conversations.

All great relationships start with a conversation

No matter where a conversation begins, whether through Instagram DMs, Story replies, Shop inquiries or mentions, businesses can get a holistic view of the customer and the interactions they’ve had right in Sprout’s platform.

This functionality will add to the Sprout platform’s already robust integration with Instagram, including features that let brands more easily manage Instagram DMs, reporting and analysis. We’re confident that this new solution will help brands tap into messaging as the true epicenter for building customer relationships and driving sales.

This is just the beginning. Together, Sprout Social and Facebook look forward to the new possibilities that will emerge as our customers continue to see messaging differently.

Capitalize on the full potential of Instagram for brands by integrating messaging into your holistic strategy. Download this guide to gain best practices, engagement ideas and other tenets necessary to create a high-impact Instagram strategy.