For years now I have been suggesting to my clients that they need go to where their contacts are and not put in huge efforts to bring them over to where they want them to be. If your clients are on Facebook, go to Facebook. If they are on Snapchat, Reddit, or a certain group on Linkedin, that’s where you need to go. (A well-researched strategy will tell you the best places for your business)

So now that messaging apps (SMS, Hangouts, Messenger, iMessage, Allo, Facetime, Spaces, Duo) are emerging as a preferred method for certain types of private or small group communication, business people need to figure out the best way to use these too. It is social networking.

Messaging is networking

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 5.18.02 PM
Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 5.18.02 PM

In many ways, messaging has become a more social medium for businesses than the popular social sharing platforms they obsess about creating content for.

But here’s the problem: many business people are waiting for one messaging app to emerge as the dominant one so they use 2 or 3 they think are leading so they’ll be in the right place when the leader is crowned - and ignore the rest. To put that into context, imagine choosing to only use the telephone and rejecting mail.

I often get a question like this: should I use this app or that app for my SMS?

My recommendation is to use ALL messaging apps and use whatever you prefer for SMS. There is never going to be one app and in the past year I have allowed Google Messenger, Hangouts, and Facebook Messenger to handle my SMS. It didn't make a bit of difference from one to the next.

If there are important connections - i.e. people - on any particular messaging app, you should be on it. The connection is more important than the vehicle that delivers it.

If connections don't lead to conversations, is it social? [tweet this]

Think of all of these messaging apps as social channels or even as different social environments like a cocktail bar or a pizza joint. Use the channels on which you can reach the people you want to reach at that time. Get to know your client's and partners preferences and meet them there.

And don't throw content at them on messaging apps! These are very different utilities than social networks. Messaging is for networking, conversation, relationships.

Where is the efficiency in only using one app for messaging?

Spaces, Linkedin, Facebook, and Hangouts Messages. They are all the same in your notification tray.
Spaces, Linkedin, Facebook, and Hangouts Messages. They are all the same in your notification tray.

There's no need for one all encompassing utility. All of these apps are free and all are very usable.

First of all, most of us only use an app when we get pulled in with a notification. If there are 3 notifications for new messages on your phone, why does it matter if they are from three different apps or 3 messages from the same app? You're going to click on each, one at a time, anyway.

Any decent mobile device made in the last few years can handle this kind of multi-app use without a hitch. And on laptop/desktop there are browser tabs.

We all have preferences. So do your connections.

"Social networking is personal content. Social media is professional content." - Mike Elgan

For the record, my preference is Hangouts (it records all conversations in my Gmail where I can search for them later and I can use it on all devices - Mac, Android, iPhone etc). So anyone who wants to reach me is most likely going to reach me on Hangouts during most times of the day.

But if I know that YOU prefer SMS (or something else), then I'll message you there if I want to reach you.

SMS happens to be the dumbest of them all as it is device-specific (only on mobile devices) and conversations from the past are impossible to dig up in the future - essential for collaborating. I know several people who are best reached through the messaging feature on LinkedIn, I have friends who feel locked into owning an iPhone because they can't part with iMessage, and the largest number of people can be reached through Facebook's Messenger.

Evolve with your network

Part of knowing your network is knowing the best channel on which to reach each person.

Each step in our online social evolution keeps bringing businesses back to a reality that many still don’t want to face: you must connect, personally, with your customers.

That’s what social is.