When it comes time to rank the buzziest marketing buzzwords of this century, then 'real-time' and 'always-on' are almost certain to place in the top ten.
Are we chasing speed for the sake of speed like a crazed pack of Clarksons (and look how that ended), or is there a genuine need here that we're looking to fulfil?
Whether it's communicating a key message to an audience, or a one-on-one conversation with a customer, the drive to immediacy and responsiveness has been unrelenting for the best part of a decade.
Now, as Twitter enters the live-streaming fray with Periscope, and Facebook introduces a whole new breed of Messenger apps, we might have just hit terminal velocity.
So maybe now is the right time to ask ourselves: are we chasing speed for the sake of speed like a crazed pack of Clarksons (and look how that ended), or is there a genuine need here that we're looking to fulfil?
A first step to answering that question might be to take a look at how these new tools are already being used.
Twitter's live-streaming app has already been picked up by a handful of early-adopter brands and assorted celebrities like Mountain Dew, Spotify, DKNY, Jamie Oliver, and Jimmy Fallon. With the output being mainly the freewheeling, behind-the-scenes reportage that you might expect from brands who are looking to 'connect in a very real way' with their fans.
In both cases the gap between organisation/brand and the customer/audience has shrunk considerably
Meanwhile, over on Facebook, fashion retailers Zulily and Everlane are two of the first companies to begin using Messenger as a 'customer connection' tool. Not only can customers purchase items from the app, but also exchange receipts, shipping updates, offers, feedback and queries in one, consistent chat thread.
It's true that in both cases the gap between organisation/brand and the customer/audience has shrunk considerably. But while Periscope simply ratchets up the sense of 'this is the real me' authenticity that made the old school text-based Twitter so valuable for the bigger names; Facebook Messenger is on its way to creating a singular identity for business customers to interact with, no matter what that interaction might be.
Arbitrary business silos
At first glance it seems to be the latter that could be the genuine game changer. It moves arbitrary business silos out of the customer's way and gives brands the opportunity to talk to their audience in an environment and at a pace where they feel most at home. These feel like real advancements to the customer experience that could only by stymied by organisational inability to scale to a version of 'always on' that doesn't mean up to an hour's lag between contact and reply. And when you think of the streamlining and centralising of channels and resources that would result, that upfront effort suddenly looks very worth it.
These feel like real advancements to the customer experience that could only by stymied by organisational inability to scale to a version of 'always on' that doesn't mean up to an hour's lag between contact and reply.
With its Messenger-for -Business Facebook has delivered what could be a scalable, flexible, intuitive and (most importantly) eminently useful suite of tools that benefit both customer and business.
Socially-enhanced live streaming, at least as far as brands are concerned, feels more like a solution looking for a problem. Its value and its attraction will be dependent on spontaneity and serendipity, two things that brands aren't exactly used to working well with. For brands to achieve their 'Oreo moment' their product, context, audience, message and platform will need to perfectly align, but before that happens expect to see an awful lot of shoe-horning of old ideas into new channels.
As customer perception of a brand becomes increasingly dependent on their interactions with it, and utility and convenience become the killer apps in the battle for loyalty and advocacy, Facebook has made a large and clever play to own the platforms we’ll be using to deliver that experience.
The big question is: how big a slice of your customer communications are you willing to give over to one large, unpredictable entity?