Could Social Messaging Apps Replace Email Marketing?

Published on September 22, 2017

Earlier this year, Facebook announced that its Messenger service had cleared a major benchmark, reaching 1.2 billion monthly average users (MAU); this probably shakes out to anywhere from 400 to 600 million daily active users (DAU) for the messaging and chat service.

That’s a huge deal. For context, those numbers dwarf the DAU rate for Instagram Stories and Snapchat by a wide margin, for instance, positioning Facebook Messenger highly within the social chat space. 

Of course, Messenger is still massively overshadowed by major email platforms; it is estimated that we collectively send more than more than 200 billion emails a day, at a rate of about 2.4 million emails a second.

That’s also a huge deal. And yet the fact remains that for marketers, Facebook Messenger is increasingly looking like a welcoming new frontier, while email has lost some of its luster.

Though we still believe that email marketing is one of the fundamental keys of any successful digital marketing campaign, it does occasionally get discouraging to see major efforts result in only small increases in clickthrough or engagement. In other words, email marketing is still viewed as a dependable workhorse – but at the moment, some marketers are looking at Facebook Messenger and other platforms as a hot young colt, ready for its first big race.

But is this just wishful thinking, or is there something to it? Could email marketing actually be supplanted by Facebook Messenger-based campaigns – for the benefit of your business?

The reality is that we can’t be sure yet. But there have been studies that indicate that switching some of your email marketing efforts over to Facebook Messenger could yield higher engagement and response rates, at least in the short term.

Specifically, we’re thinking of the results of a series of recent experiments from our colleagues over at HubSpot, who set out to see if Facebook messenger could be a viable replacement for email in their marketing efforts. Their findings are positive… if still inconclusive.

First up, HubSpot sought to see if they could use Messenger as a touchpoint for content delivery in the place of email; when they gave users the option of receiving content via email or Facebook Messenger, 20% opted for Messenger. Among those who selected Messenger, the average open rate for the subsequent content delivered was 80%, with a clickthrough rate of 13% - an improvement over the campaign’s email metrics by 242% and a staggering 619%, respectively!

While you may be tempted to freak out over those findings (and for good reason), we would say that you may benefit from taking them with a few grains of salt.

For one thing, there’s the novelty factor to consider. It would be nice to see if these (incredible) engagement rates continue over the long-term, or if they decay and come down to levels closer to those of the email option as the novelty wears off and consumers become more accustomed to seeing branded content in their Messenger inbox. It would also be interesting to see what the engagement rates would be among Facebook Messenger users who didn’t specifically opt in via another campaign; in other words, if users weren’t expecting their branded content to arrive via Messenger, would they be as eager to click through it?

In our view, the other big takeaway from HubSpot’s trials came from the use of Facebook Messenger as a substitute for another form submission, triggered by Facebook ads or a digital newsletter. When HubSpot created a conversion path that used Facebook Messenger as both the form and the delivery mechanism for certain content, the brand saw a 477% reduction in our cost per lead.

Again, while those findings are stunning, they may not necessarily translate for your brand right now. Specifically, it’s important to consider that creating this workflow would require a pretty significant investment of time and money – muscle that your business may not be able to put forward to the degree required.

So is Facebook Messenger a viable option for replacing the functionality of your email marketing? At the moment, we would say no. Email is still a powerful tool, capable of reaching your audience anytime, anywhere. Facebook Messenger, for all its potential and growth, still isn’t there yet.

But, hey… Check back with us in two or three years, when it could be a whole different story.

Until then, Geek Chicago is here to answer all of your content marketing questions! Whether you’re looking for guidance with SEO, social media, email, or web development and design, our team is here and ready to help. Drop us a line today to get the conversation started!