Interview with Joshua March by Adam Fraser
This is a transcript from this interview with Joshua March on Facebook Messenger.
Adam: I’m delighted to welcome back to the EchoJunction podcast Joshua March. Joshua is co-founder and CEO of Conversocial, a cloud solution that helps businesses to efficiently and securely manage customer service on social media at large scale. Conversocial powers social customer service for hundreds of brands worldwide, including Hertz, Tesco, Barclay card, and Audi, just to name a few.
Previously, Josh co-founded iPlatform, a social application agency that was one of the first world’s Facebook preferred developers which was ultimately acquired by Betapond in September 2012. Josh hails from the U.K. like myself, but is now living in New York, driving Conversocial’s global business. Josh, very big welcome back to the podcast.
Josh: Thanks, Adam. Great to be here.
Adam: Good. And a real customer service theme to the podcast at the moment because just this week’s published podcast was Jay Baer talking about Hug Your Haters, which was an entire podcast about social customer service. And now you get back on talking Conversocial.
Josh: Great. Well, I love customer service, so, glad to contribute to it.
Adam: Yeah. Now, look, Josh, thanks for coming back on. Look, obviously many listeners will recall in episode nine, we had a more general chat about Conversocial. We got a few specific things I want to jump into today, including some very exciting developments in Facebook messenger. But for those that maybe haven’t listened to the first episode, do you want to just give a brief summary of your backstory and the Conversocial story today?
Josh: Sure. I mean, you gave a really great description of what we do, and in many ways, it evolved out of that story. iPlatform was, like you said, one of the first companies in the world that was building Facebook apps for big brands. So go back to 2007, 2008 when the Facebook platform had first launched. I was really excited by the potential for businesses to really engage with their customers in this new platform.
It was great; we were building a lot of these Facebook apps for these really big brands like McDonalds, the Economist, and all these kind of things. And at the time, everyone was really excited by the potential for these apps. But as that business progressed, I realised that although these were great, they weren’t really fundamentally the future of the internet. They were really exciting for a moment in time, they had a lot of potential in different ways, but they weren’t where the world was going towards.
The really fundamental thing about social media, as far as I was concerned, was just communication, and it was part of this huge shift where everyone was moving away from desktops and moving into smartphones, where it was all becoming about social media. You’d be on these platforms, and you instantly connect with friends or through interests, comfortable speaking publicly. This kind of one to many, connect with companies in this one-on-one given way.
You’re shifting between public and private, and these new ways of interacting. That was really the crux of what social media was. I saw that as just this ten-year trend that was just going to keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. It was fundamentally going to change how companies have to communicate with their customers, and the real heart of social media is just going to break human one-on-one interaction there you can have.
What are the ways that companies can have those interactions with their customers? And it’s all customer service. So it was because of that belief that I was like, “Facebook app stuff is great, but I don’t really believe it’s going to be the real future. But I really do believe that the changes around communication are only going to get bigger and bigger. Every company is going to have to really fundamentally change how they manage communications to their customers and adapt to this new reality.”
And the deeper and deeper I got into thinking about that and investigating the space, was that I realized that there was this huge opportunity. That every company would have to move social into their contact centre, change how they manage their contact centre processes and the technologies to adapt to this new social mobile world, and that the incumbent customer service software then just didn’t understand social. All the other social vendors out on the market were all focused on marketing, didn’t understand customer service.
So, because of that, I was like, this is a huge opportunity, so I founded Conversocial as a result. At the time, it was really a small number of innovative companies who shared that vision and who were moving social into their contact centre, and yet social customer service wasn’t even a phrase and we were really the first people out there. A lot of the thought leadership, a lot of speaking, really trying to educate the market.
The first couple of years were pretty tough because, like I said, it was a very small number of early innovators. But in the last couple of years especially, the market has really heated up significantly and every major company now realizes that the customer service is one of the most important and powerful use cases for social media and that they need to manage that as a serious contact centre channel.
So it’s a really exciting time for us. Historically, the focus has been on social media, but the vision has always been about this transition to mobile and social. We’re really excited about the new messaging apps that are coming about, which I know we’re gonna talk about today.
Adam: Yep. Look, Josh, before we dive into messenger and Hyatt and the exciting things you’re doing there, I just want to flesh out a little bit more about the broader market in use case for social service. Look, in some ways, I’m asking this in 2015, and I’m astonished I still have to ask it, but even in last week’s interview with Jay, he had some astonishing stats about the number of tweets that don’t get answered and the number of companies, you know, large enterprises still only responding to good tweets or good comments on platforms they prefer, sort of when they get around to it. So, again, if you are giving the broad picture, why do brands and enterprises have to take social services seriously in 2015?
Josh: Here’s the fact: it’s where your customers are. In its purest form. Look at how people are communicating today and where they’re consuming digital media, where they’re interacting, and it’s on a smartphone. On a smartphone, it’s basically social media, mobile messaging, some photo sharing apps. Even email is decreasing significantly. People don’t really like email. It’s tons of inefficiencies. Obviously, it’s still a major channel from a work perspective, but go to the next generation, it’s basically non-existent.
In terms of peer-to-peer communication, it’s really non-existent. Everyone knows that it’s this really slow channel. So if my customer service was actually people picking up the phone because it’s really where they’re getting a quick enough resolution, live chat doesn’t really work on a smartphone, and so the point is almost kind of moot. If you want to deliver effective customer service to a customer who’s on a smartphone today, social media and mobile messaging are the best channels to do that.
That’s just when you’re thinking about where are our customers, how we reach them, and how we allow them to interact with us in a way that it’s going to make them happy and we can deliver a great customer experience. Much cheaper cost of resolution than phone or anything else. That’s even before we start thinking about social media as this massive escalation channel where someone has a bad experience, they’re going to be complaining publicly.
It’s going to impact your brand. It’s going to have backlash, and even if that’s someone tiny and they’ve only got 50 followers. That’s still 50 people who are hearing about a negative experience, and your customers are going to be there whether you’re there or not. The more that you’re there, from a non-service perspective, if you’re just viewing it as a marketing channel, that only exacerbates the problem. That just means even more of your customers see that you’re there.
If you have any kind of presence in social media, then your customers are going to have an extremely high expectation that you’re there to have a dialogue with them. So they are going to reach out, they’re going to complain, and they’re going to ask questions. And unless you are in a position to actually respond and resolve their issues properly, you engage with them in that one-on-one way in a large scale, then you’re going to be really upsetting those customers.
Adam: Josh, the stats are compelling in terms of media, where the eyeballs are, so to speak. Clearly, the mobile debate is over, and the social stats speak for themselves. Yet, notwithstanding that, even in the U.S., some companies are slower to jump on board. In Australia, we may be a bit behind the U.S. and Europe in some ways. There is still a resistance amongst banks, insurers, large scale utilities, traditional businesses if you like, to move away from the sort of call centre, email kind of channels, this “This is the way we’ve always done it.”
I’m sure you’re out and about, talking to enterprises and brands all the time. Is it that people aren’t on board; or more likely is it they’re on board but this is just difficult, there’s multi-channels and they’re kind of staring like deer in the headlights and just don’t know how to change their business processes? What is your view?
Josh: Yeah, I think that most businesses today have realized that they need to be doing this. There are still definitely differences when you go to the C level, how socially savvy are the most senior executives in the businesses. I learned that there are some businesses that just don’t get it yet. But I think it’s quickly moving into a minority. But it still could be like a third of major businesses don’t really get the importance yet. That’s something just because, at a senior level, they’re just not that savvy.
Recent look at the market and roughly break it into three-thirds, where you have a third who are super savvy, really get the importance, really get the value. They’re investing into it super heavily as a mainstream channel. They’re working on how they can push volumes away from other channels and into it. They’re ensuring they can really deliver full resolution. Excited about its potential in driving, enhance revenue and things like that.
Then there’s probably a third who they get it, they understand its importance, but they may still be struggling to fully build the ROI or the business case internally. Some people in the contact centre might get it, but the marketing team don’t fully understand why the contact centre should own social. Or marketing get it, but the contact centre don’t want it. There’s some kind of internal conflicts.
They’re definitely there, they’re definitely responding, but then they’re struggling to get the full complement of agents they need to really drive the process or they may be struggling to get their IT or security teams to give sign off on taking personal information of the DMs so they can fully resolve stuff. There’s real champions and they believe in it, but there’s some kind of internal struggle which they’re still getting over. It may take another year or so before they fully work through it.
Then there’s a third who are not really on the bandwagon yet and they haven’t fully appreciated it. They’ve got their senior level holding them back. Maybe in another year or two, they’ll progress to the next third.
Adam: So, living in the dark ages, dinosaurs. No, I shouldn’t label these people.
Josh: There will always be more conservative parts of the market that really need to see a big majority of the market with clear case studies, very clear business cases. The market is moving very quickly, and I think in a couple of years it’ll be established enough to drive the more conservative parts of the market that are not quite there yet.
Adam: Interesting, Josh. I like the third, third, third. I think that’s a helpful insight into how you’re seeing the market. Let’s jump into this very exciting development in the last couple of weeks with Facebook messenger and Hyatt, the client that you’ve been working with. So just prepare the context for listeners that may not be totally familiar with your platforms.
So, Conversocial is an enterprise social service cloud based platform where call centre teams, as they’d previously be called, can answer customer queries on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, etc. But you’ve just added Facebook messenger, which is exciting for a number of reasons. I just want to talk the listeners through the recent developments with messenger.
Josh: Sure. There’s a few things in here. First of all, I should just talk about the growth of messaging in general. Mobile messaging is now, worldwide, one of the most common ways, frequent ways for people to interact with each other on a smartphone. Especially if you go outside of the U.S., most of the world now, SMS, text messages have almost died. I mean, completely taken over by platforms like WhatsApp.
WeChat is huge in Asia. We have messenger. Facebook messenger is huge in the U.S. and in the U.K. and parts of Europe. These platforms, it’s interesting because they are often owned by social networks, often deeply integrated with the social network functionality, but the majority of it is one-on-one. They’re real time. They often have real time where you can see if the person is online, see if they’re typing.
They often have a lot of rich media so you can easily share photos, videos, complex emojis. Sometimes they have group messaging functionality as well, and they have this really persistent identity that’s often linked in some way to your social network profile. So they have many third party platforms. They share many characteristics with the social networks not often owned by them but are slightly different.
We are now calling the wider space social messaging, which we see including both the mobile messaging apps and the pure social network platforms, and they often cross over in interesting ways. Especially now with messenger, where you can start a message or chat from a Facebook page and things like that. As we’ve watched the growth of messaging, we’ve been really excited, from a customer service perspective. Because on a purely public…there’s many really beneficial things that come out from the public nature of some of the platforms like Twitter, from a customer service perspective.
Including being able to proactively engage with someone who is tweeting about an issue they’re having, who hasn’t reached out for help. A brand or an expert can see that and proactively reach out to that person, which is really powerful. So although there are lots of really big benefits of that, there’s still some things which, given private information, have to come through a private channel. There are some things which, for whatever reason, the customer would prefer to complain or ask publicly than complain about privately.
It’s definitely one of the things holding back the growth of social as a customer service channel has been a big focus on the public nature of it. I think that will continue growing, but the private nature of messaging fixes all those issues and ultimately will make a lot of companies much more comfortable in promoting it as a service channel. If you think about the functionality that these things have, the fact that it’s on your phone…so it’s on the customer’s phone, built into phone notifications.
You can have the asynchronous nature of something like email where you’re writing a message, you need to go away and look something up and you come back an hour later or a day later and message the customer again. They’re going to get that pop-up straight away. But also has that fully real time nature so that like live chat, you can see when the person is typing, see if they’re online. Which means that a customer on a smartphone can have this very in the moment experience and complain and have a real time chat with an agent in a way that we really couldn’t do on the phone before.
And live chat, because you have to be there, you have to fill in your information again and say who you were, it’s session based, it’s kind of annoying, takes a lot of time, you have to stay by your computer at the time. This has been one of the big issues of digital customer service, is everyone still phones. Although email and chat is taking up a decent amount, the vast majority of customer service is still phone calls. Which, in general, are expensive, time consuming for both the agent and the consumer, and often not that great in experience.
Whereas because this combines all of the different benefits where every time you message, you know who they are, it’s this person’s identity, has the real time live chat nature, also has the asynchronous nature, has all these benefits. It’s like, finally, this can be one of the first things that could really eat into phone calls. You can actually deliver a much better customer experience, much more convenient to the customer, very real time and in the moment.
So for all those reasons, we’ve been really excited about the messaging space in general, and we’re working on integrating with more of the messaging platforms. Now with messenger, Facebook messenger themselves, they recognized all these things, but they’re actually taking this one step further, or a couple of steps further. Because they’re saying, “Well, this is great. Let’s build these fully real time live chat and let’s make it possible that you can have messenger on websites and emails.”
So they’re building the live chat essentially through messenger. They’ve done all of those things. They’ve also then gone one step further and they said, “One of the cool things that we could do, it would really improve the customer experience if we could integrate it in deeper.” So they’ve put these things with structured messages where you can get things like transaction receipts when you’ve bought something, a physical product from a retailer, a hotel room, a plane ticket, whatever it is.
You can get that receipt into messenger, instead of an email. And as a platform, you can do cool stuff with that. So you can have it do integrations for products that you buy. So the company can include the UPS or the FedEx tracking number, and inside the messenger chat, they would automatically track the products.
You can look in messenger and see where your product is right now. The other cool thing about getting these product receipts into your messenger app is that it’s instantly started a dialogue with the brand. And if you have any questions, you can open up your phone, open the messenger app, see whatever is in there, see what you bought, start a message, start typing to an agent.
From the agent perspective, when that conversation thread comes up, they not only see exactly who you are, they see exactly what you bought, they see the conversation, they see that you’re online now. And so from the experience, from a mobile perspective, one of the big issues in mobile service, you don’t really like typing long things in, you don’t like looking up your account number, doing all these things which are kind of a pain in the ass.
Whereas on this, for the customer and the agent, it’s completely seamless. You know exactly who they are, they can resolve your issues straight away, it has that real time nature. So it’s really huge benefits and some really cool stuff that messenger are doing, including around being able to auto-update someone when a product comes back into stock, potentially deliver the transactions through it.
They really recognize the importance of customer services of the use case and are investing into it really heavily for the specifics of this functionality. Which is something we think is really huge, and like I said, has a potential not only to replace email and live chat but also has the potential to really start eating into phone calls, which is where it starts driving massive, massive ROI to companies who are investing into it.
Adam: Josh, that’s a great summary. Interesting and impressive developments on so many levels. There’s a lot to unpack in what you just said about messenger and then Facebook specifically. But just to give context for listeners about how new and cutting edge this is, just talk about how many people are currently working with the Facebook API on the messenger platform. You’ve announced you’ve gone live with Hyatt. Tell us a little bit about Hyatt jumping into this as one of the first global companies to use this functionality.
Josh: So there’s not many, so far. We’re the first social vendor. There’s one other vendor that’s publicly live, which is Zendesk, on the live chat side. There definitely will be more coming, but we’re one of the first, like I said. One of the big benefits that we have, as an overrule social service vendor, is that our customers are using our platform as part of their Facebook page as well and we can sync up the data so that if someone posts something publicly on your Facebook page and then messages you, then we know that they’re the same people and we’re threading those messages into the same conversation. Which is something that traditional live chat vendors can’t do.
That’s a little bit about that. There’s more coming, but we’ve been working very close to the messenger team. They’re a great team. They’re super excited and getting a lot of feedback from companies into it and developing very quickly. With Hyatt, there’s a number of things in there in terms of who are the ideal brands for this. Retail is up there and consumer products. Travel and hospitality, really key. Things like hotels, airlines where you often want to deliver a pretty concierge service to your customers. Hyatt, one of our customers, very, very innovative, really quick moving, forward thinking, and really see just huge value that social service brings.
The primary motivator was that they were prepared to move quickly on it as well. We can’t just switch it on for a client, they need to do things like add the messenger buttons and relevant parts on their websites and start working on how they can structure integrations where they’re doing ties over their CRM system. A big part of this is definitely the implementation, and I think with Hyatt, it’s mainly that they’re super innovative and fast moving. Really powerful use case and ready to move from their side, which I think is really important. From our perspective, we obviously work with a lot of highly innovative companies, which is great, and that’s one of the best parts of doing what we do.
Adam: I’m interested, Josh, in the push/pull. Was this something that Hyatt management were aware that customers were demanding? They wanted to be able to communicate via messenger. Or was this a bit of a Steve Jobs, it’s our job to know what the customer wants and they’ve just sort of taken a leading thinking position and built it? I’m interested in the push/pull. It’s very early days, what’s the experience been like to date? Is there a lot of volume coming through the messenger?
Josh: So when you obviously have high volumes of this coming through Facebook. It was pretty hard to start a private message chat, and it wasn’t real time. So you had to find the page, find the small message button, send the message, you potentially wait for a response, there weren’t any real time APIs. So the customer experience wasn’t great. What Hyatt and others saw was a massive growth in messenger as a communication channel between their customers.
A lot of their customer base was using messenger actively. A lot of these service inquiries and hospitality break on real time and in the moment. So it’s like our customers are here, we know that social services in general has been growing. We know that they’re using messenger significantly individually. But right now it’s pretty hard for them to use that as a service channel, and so how can we enable that and make it easy?
That’s the kind of core thinking from a lot of our clients, as well as understanding all the huge benefits that can come out of this. So Hyatt’s been live for a couple of weeks. We don’t have any public data that we can share yet in terms of specific volumes, but I can say there’s been an immediate jump in the private message volume that they’re seeing.
It’s really cool from the outside to see – and this is across everyone doing it – really cool to see the kind of fully real time nature where someone messages and almost all of the messages are coming in the platform in under a second. You see big drops in first response time and response times as a result. Which is really cool.
Adam: Across the spec, they’ll have huge success with this. And again, Australia may have some differences culturally or regulatory wise to Europe and the U.S., but I still talk to senior execs here which they’ll say, “We only get x queries on Twitter per month, why do I need to worry about this?” It’s the push/pull.
If you proactively make it available, turn it into a customer experience differentiator, publicly push it, then guess what, people will start…maybe they want to communicate via those channels but because you’re not managing it and facilitating it, the volumes aren’t there. There’s always going to be leading first move, as I guess like Hyatt, that joined the dots and gave it a go. I suspect the data will validate their positioning.
Josh: It’s worth calling out here, Facebook is doing amazing stuff on messenger. It’s also worth calling out new innovations that Twitter are making on the customer service side as well. They have also recognized that customer service is one of the key strategic use cases for Twitter, for major companies and brands. They’re investing into it super heavily as use case. Even the small innovations they’ve made, like removing the character limit on DMs have had a pretty profound impact.
We’ve seen that some of our customers have seen their DM volumes more than double since that change was implemented. I was out there at the developer’s conference flight just a few weeks ago in San Francisco. Their customer service was one of the key things that they were talking about on the key notes. They said that they’re really investing heavily into this, and I’m expecting a lot of innovation to be coming from the Twitter side as well.
Adam: Absolutely. I’m sure that WhatsApp, WeChat and even SnapChat and others will be looking with interest at this space. Josh, just to touch on one issue. The issues about privacy and security are never far away whenever we talk about any social network sort of related communications. Maybe not so much Hyatt specifically, but more broadly now in this space, is your Facebook ID almost becoming your digital passport?
As you said, when I message Hyatt, they may know that I’m a frequent traveller, I like a room in a certain position, I like a certain newspaper, etc., is that becoming the defector approach, or do you find brands still have other added security and authentication levels before you’re acknowledged to be who you say you are?
Josh: There’s a few different things here. Obviously, it does depend on the brand. The first thing to say is that social networks, anything to do with Facebook, they take security really, really…it’s one of their biggest priorities. They take it really seriously. You take Facebook for example, multi-factorial authentication. They check, monitor what computers you’re logging in from. In many cases, the social networks are more secure than an email address.
Now, no company you work with is looking at just your Facebook name and then matching you over. They’re requiring you to give an email, give an account number or something like that, the first time around. So they can verify who you are. Or they’re using like a Twitter login or a Facebook login as part of that registration flow so that you’ve logged on securely onto their system and you log on securely onto Facebook or Twitter, and then they just match the IDs. Either of those ways allow a company to form that connection.
So you’re on the social and you have the customer profile. Once that connection is made, that’s stored permanently. That may be just in our system already integrated with their CRM system. That means that following that whenever the person Tweets or messages, they’ll see exactly who they are and help them out. Now, obviously there are more challenges when you get to things like finance. If you’re in a heavily regulated industry where it’s finance or healthcare, it can be really hard to do anything requiring personal data within social media.
Now, again, that’s something which I think will be resolved pretty soon. I think that both Facebook and Twitter are very cognitive of that and are working on ways that you can provide that more secure authentication. But it can definitely be a challenge for those industries. But if you’re outside of those heavily regulated industries, it’s completely legit to be asked for private information over private message, like an email or account number, which will then allow you to sync that conversation up.
Adam: So Josh, it’s interesting. You’ve obviously been working with Hyatt specifically, but with Facebook for a reasonable period of time to make all of this happen. So, a couple of sub-questions. To the extent you can share, how have you found working with the 800-pound gorilla in the room, the world’s biggest social network?
But secondly, I’m interested in the mixed messages I’m getting out of the networks in terms of API and open access, where many commentators are looking into, say, Twitter in particular, and certainly LinkedIn, as almost closing the gate and building a walled garden and almost sharing less data because obviously there may be strategies to monetize.
You know, the big data aspect of the networks that they control over time. Now, I know this is slightly different, but ironically, Facebook even now appear to be the most open when it comes to APIs. So just interested in your thoughts of how have you found Facebook and what’s your view on the broader networks and their strategies to APIs?
Josh: Yeah. I mean, we’ve been working with the social networks, basically as long as it’s humanly possible to. Like I said, my last company, iPlatform, which Conversocial was kind of born out of, first started building Facebook apps in 2007 when they first launched the iPlatform, literally day zero. we were one of the first ever preferred developers for Facebook as a part of their official developer program. Similarly, we’ve been one of Twitter’s certified products and certified partners for a long time.
We were white listed on Instagram. We’ve actually just been announced as an official Instagram partner as part of their new program. We’ve always worked very closely with the social networks, to ensure that our vision and our strategies are aligned with theirs. It was actually one of the core reasons for setting up Conversocial, was that we realized that there was large enterprise contacts in space. There are a lot of things about it as a traditional enterprise software market that meant that it’s something that big social networks really wouldn’t get into themselves.
From our perspective, we’ve always enjoyed working with them. We think it’s one of our core competitive advantages, is that we have years and years of experience of working with them, both from a technical perspective, how we work with these rapidly shifting third party platforms, these APIs changing a lot. They’re innovating very heavily and we’ve got to be innovating on their side. And also from the human basis that we’ve always been part of their official programs.
We have deep relationships. We speak regularly with their different partnership teams and their engineering teams, and there’s a lot of two-way feedback. Part of that is also that by being an official partner, they look at what we’re doing frequently and we make sure we’re aligned. That ensures we’re never in a dangerous position where we can be shut down. Which we’ve seen some people have happened over the years.
I think what we have seen from a general API openness perspective, I was kind of interested reading that. When I first read it, it was one of the questions. I was like, “Oh, really?” Because from our perspective, we’ve seen more and more APIs have become available and actually look at what Twitter’s doing.
They just announced a whole raft of APIs and get them parts of the data. What I would say is that a lot of these platforms are opening more APIs; they’re developing more sophisticated ways of interacting with them. But they recognize that it doesn’t necessarily make sense to just have a platform where anyone can just plug in and start doing stuff.
A lot of them have gone down the routes of these more formal partner programs where they really want to work closely with a select number of partners and ensure that those partners are aligned with their strategic vision, ensure that the partners are doing the right things on the platform. Even small things like working with Twitter as a partner, they will check that you are using all the correct compliance APIs so that if a consumer deletes a tweet, they want to make sure that we’re instantly deleting it from our platform. Because that’s a big part.
It’s very hard for them to verify that everyone is doing that. If it’s a completely open platform where they have a program, like they’re certifying a partner, then they can really make sure that people are following the rules that they set out. That ensures that they’re maintaining data protection for the consumers, ensures that you’re having a minimum standard of vendors who are working on the platform.
I’ve seen this two-way thing where, in some ways, they’re closing down on the number of people who are able to get full access to the platform, because they just want to ensure that it’s high quality. But with those partners, they’re constantly innovating and expanding and deepening the ways that you can interact with them.
Adam: It’s interesting times. It’s ever-changing almost quarter to quarter. I appreciate the perspective from where you’re sitting at Conversocial, Josh. Last question on the messenger recent development, then I did want to explore a couple of broader social service questions.
So, in terms of functionality on messenger, I think you touched on it earlier, but images, video, is it compatible at this stage? I guess a related question would be the big trend in live streaming in 2015. I know you’re seeing live streaming becoming part, I’m already thinking, say, at Hyatt, where you could be booking and actually looking at the specific room you’re being offered and looking at different aspects of the hotel. Is that in play yet?
Josh: So rich media, definitely, big part of the messaging experience. Actually, we’re seeing rich media as a growing trend. We’re about to launch functionalities supporting rich media across Twitter, across Facebook in general, allowing agents to post photos and images and that kind of thing, which we think is really, really important. We also obviously support platforms like Instagram where it’s all about rich media and experiences.
So I think rich media definitely has become part of the language of how people interact and communicate through these social platforms. That’s super, super important. We haven’t seen much use of support of live streaming from a service perspective. Definitely interesting. You see individual pockets of people using video in some ways, but nothing specifically on the live streaming point of view.
Adam: Okay. If I was an aggressive marketer, I would say this is the second world exclusive in two weeks we’ve had on the EchoJunction podcast, because Jay Baer revealed something very secret about the name of his book and the direction of his new book, Hug Your Haters, talk in last week. Fantastic to hear about what’s happening in messenger. One of the first of a few brands that are rolling out, and to get the perspective, it’s very interesting. So I’ll certainly link up in the show notes.
You’ve got a Conversocial customer case study with what Hyatt were doing anyway, and obviously the announcement with what you’ve just launched with Facebook messenger. So people who are listening can understand this really important trend, as you say, as we move more to one-to-one from the one-to-many origins we’ve come from. So Josh, if we can get back to the final part of the interview. Escalate back to the broader social service.
I listed them earlier, but correct me if I’m wrong, or if there’s more, that Conversocial facilitates social customer service across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube. Obviously Facebook Messenger we could now add. Look, various guests have come on, and you’ve touched on it earlier, but Joseph Jaffe [SP] in particular talked about Twitter as the best platform by a mile – that wasn’t his specific phrase – for social service.
So my instinct would be that Twitter would be the most popular, maybe followed by Facebook. People may be surprised to even see Instagram, Google+ and YouTube listed. Not exact to the nearest decimal point, but broadly across your spread of enterprises and brands, where is the greatest volume of social service taking place?
Josh: Obviously, there are geographic and vertical differences. The biggest amount of volume is definitely in Facebook and Twitter. If you look in the U.S., Twitter actually has a much larger volume for social service issues than Facebook. As you start going international, parts of Latin America, across Europe, then Facebook starts to become much bigger and much stronger.
So globally across all our customer base, it’s probably roughly even. But certainly in the U.S., Twitter is much bigger, and in other parts of the world, Facebook is more dominant. When you go beyond that, Instagram is certainly an interesting one. We’ve seen very strong growth in Instagram, especially among kind of retail, fashion retailers posting images of products, getting people and asking questions in the comments about those products. We also see use case in hospitality. We have hotel brands monitoring both your, a, posting photos, travel destinations, things like that.
Obviously you get a lot of engagement. But also from a proactive monitoring perspective. Retailers are doing this as well. People are tagging images they’re posting with the location. So your hotel brand, for example, can monitor for anyone who is posting photos which are tagged with a hotel location, and seeing “Is this someone who is posting a bad photo of the hotel, and they’re like ‘Look at what I’ve just seen,’ or whatever it is?” Monitoring that so they can alert the hotel or actually fix the issue.
Adam: That’s interesting. So Instagram has sort of been noted more broadly as probably having the most engaged. Clearly it’s not the biggest, but the most engagements. You’re starting to see that filter through into the customer service area. That’s fascinating.
Josh: Yeah, exactly. It’s still early, but it’s certainly growing very quickly and it’s in pretty strong engagement. And like you said, it does drive a lot of engagement. So if you’re posting photos of products, there’s a lot of questions, a lot of comments that come in as a result.
Adam: Yup. We touched on this, Josh, six-plus months ago, but the world moves quickly. I know Conversocial, and I’ll link up again into some of the white papers and thought leadership you guys have produced in terms of best practice for social service. As the volume more broadly in social grows, are we…I think previously we chatted, Josh, about it’s best to have a social specialist, not have someone that’s answering the phone and emails jumping into social. Firstly, is that still the view? But secondly, are we getting to a depth where even you’re a Facebook expert, you’re a Twitter expert, you’re an Instagram expert, or can one person manage all of the different social platforms?
Josh: The general trend that we’re seeing, as this keeps scaling up and up and the teams are getting bigger, is that you’re not necessarily going to have an agent who is purely a social agent. But you will have agents in your contact centre who have social as one of their core skills. They would have been given additional training, they understand the processes.
They’re essentially a fully social agent. But as this is getting bigger and needs a lot more agents, and workload needs to be managed and optimized in better ways, you’ll often have these agents who, some of the time, they’ll be on a shift doing email, live chat, or whatever it is, maybe picked up the phone.
Other times they’ll be on a shift doing social. That allows you to be much more flexible in terms of what’s playing. We’ve seen that as a model that’s definitely increasing in propensity and working well at larger scales. Still not seeing anyone trying to blend the channels together in one shift. We see people doing these more traditional channels and then switching to social. Now, in terms of Facebook agent, a Twitter agent, it depends is the answer. I don’t think there is a strong trend.
We have seen clients who found it is more efficient to have an agent on any one shift focusing on just one of the platforms. So if your volumes are large enough, that’s definitely something we’ve seen that works well. That’s just because there are nuances, whether it’s a character limit, the mechanism of going between private and public. Even just the way that people communicate can be different. We have definitely seen efficiency increases from when you have completely dedicated teams. So that’s an organizational structure we’ve seen, but I wouldn’t say that there’s a specific trend towards it.
Adam: Maybe something in five, 10 years’ time when another x percent of the market is shifted toward these channels, that that could evolve. So Josh, last couple of questions. I think you touched on it briefly, but Twitter has had something of a turbulent year. I’ve blogged a lot about it. I’ve talked a lot about Twitter to various podcast guests.
Given its importance to social service, and obviously it’s a partner you work very closely with, just interested in your general observations about where Twitter is going. They’ve eliminated the 140 character limit. What are you seeing? Are you still sort of bullish more broadly on Twitter?
Josh: Yeah, I think that they’re making some really bold choices. What Twitter have at the moment is that it’s an amazing power user tool. For people who are able to get past that initial kinda who do they follow, work it out, who are prepared to share stuff publicly and understand the ramifications of that, they love it.
And extremely heavy users, extremely heavily engaged, has become a pulse of the world in many ways. Which is super powerful, right? They’ve already achieved an amazing thing with that. The question for them is, from a business perspective, how do we 10x? And to 10x, we need to go beyond these kind of power and heavy users, and make it much, much easier for a much more casual user to engage and get huge value out of it.
We’ve seen some of the stuff they’re doing, like Twitter moments, where they’re collating the content you need to be following and make it much easier to get access to that. They’re doing a lot of stuff to move Twitter across and out into the world and make it easier to consume. And out here, they’ve also recognized that it’s the super powerful service channel that’s the super important way of consumers interacting with brands, and now investing super heavily into that. Is there a simple answer of Twitter needs to do this to get what they want to do?
I don’t think so; I think there’s going to be a host of things. I think it’s going to need experimentation. I think it’s going to need bold decisions. I think what’s clear is that they’re now doing all those things. Because there’s such strong core of heavy power users who drive immense value from it and also drive an immense amount of value in terms of the content that’s being produced, and they’re prepared to make the bold choices needed to expand beyond that. I’m really bullish on them.
Adam: Can be interesting times for Twitter and the market more broadly. Look, Josh, final question before we do the adapted quick fire round. We are in mid/late November. I did an entire show on predictions two weeks ago. But just quickly, we’ve touched on a number of important themes in this chat, but if you’re looking into 2016, what are the two or three key trends in the social digital landscape you’re expecting to see?
Josh: You know, I think that the biggest one, for me, is still going to be mobile messaging. In 2015, mobile messaging really won from a consumer perspective. But at least in the west, companies are only just recognizing that this is a super powerful channel, and the platforms themselves only just opening up for brands to really use them as an engagement channel. So I think in 2016, from my perspective, it’s really going to be the year that brands move large scale into these messaging platforms. There’s a lot of prior noise on how to do that if you look at what’s happening in Asia where WeChat is this huge, huge brand channel.
So I think that’s going to be a really key one. From the service side, I think the exciting thing about this is, companies for the first time are going to be going, “Wow, we can actually decrease phone calls,” and really actively promote people to be moving through these channels. I think we’re going to see a lot of innovation in the kinds of functionality that the consumers are going to get with brands with messenging. I think that will drive a lot of interesting changes around with customer service, from marketing, and just how companies are interacting with their customers.
They’re no longer selling them the product and then waiting to hear back from them, but suddenly they’re selling them a product and that product is connected. If something goes wrong with that product, they can alert the company straight away. Now there’s really interesting opportunities there for proactive customer service for example, which we’re really just getting into.
Adam: Josh, fantastic stuff. I really appreciate your time to come back on the podcast. I’m actually just standing here thinking it’s only seven months since we had our first conversation and the pace of change in this sector. So much has happened. I really appreciate the insights you’ve given myself and our listeners to Facebook messenger. That’s a real cutting edge development. So thank you very much for your time.
Josh: No problem. Great to speak to you again.
Adam: So look, because you’re a returning guest, I have updated and adapted the quick file round. So we’ll just have a bit of fun at the end. Are you all set?
Josh: All set. I’m ready.
Adam: Question one: Joshua March, founder of Conversocial, Meerkat, Periscope, or Blab? Which is your personal favourite, and which do you think will have more users in 12 months’ time?
Josh: Yeah, I’m going to have to say Periscope. Obviously they’re the ones owned by Twitter. I’m not a heavy live streamer personally, so my use is really only consumption. Basically all my consumption happens on Twitter, which is someone I’m following is posting. And the majority of people on Twitter are using Periscope. So I don’t really see much of the other two, and I have very little usage of them. So it’s going to be Periscope for me.
Adam: Okay. Good answer. Josh, question two: if you could have a one-on-one with any living person on the planet, who would you choose?
Josh: I feel it’s a bit of a cliché for tech entrepreneurs, but it’s going to be Elon Musk. Huge fan of what he’s doing. I’m a big believer in the power of technology to change the world and make the world a better place. I believe it takes courageous people to really make that happen, and he’s one of the leading people really creating positive change in the world through technology.
Adam: Presumably you’d choose an Eco-friendly, power efficient restaurant.
Adam: Good answer. Now that would be an interesting dinner. Elon Musk. And final question, Josh, if you could only follow three people on Twitter, who would they be?
Josh: So I chose Benedict Evans, who is an analyst at Oppress and Horowitz. I knew him in London. He’s a super smart guy who is really one of the leading thinkers in the changes that mobile technology are bringing into the world in terms of communication, internet of things, how one interacts with each other, with companies. I think it’s great following him, and a lot of really, really powerful insights and a great person to be following if you’re interested in how are things changing now and in the future.
Another one is Paul Graham, who is the founder of Y Combinator, who is really one of the, again, most inspiring and insightful thinkers in the general startup world. Just starting and building companies and managing companies. Great writer as well and just a wealth of experience. He’s also good at Tweeting, very insightful tweets. And then finally, I think it would have to be TheOnion, which is probably one of the funniest satire accounts that there is. You need some laughter in your day as well.
Adam: Great stuff. Josh, I’ll link those up on the show notes. Thank you once again for being on the show again. Before I let you go, where would you like to send people who may want to learn a bit more about either you or Conversocial online?
Josh: So for Conversocial, best place to go is the website, ton of content, conversocial.com. Ton of content and resources, white papers, videos on there. For me, personally, probably the best place is obviously on Twitter, and that’s @JoshuaMarch. I tweet everything that’s going on there. You can also find me on LinkedIn, and again Joshua March, where I do most of my company blogging and posting as well.
Adam: Excellent. Josh, thanks so much for coming back to the podcast.
Josh: No worries. Thanks, Adam.
Here are the show notes from the interview with Josh March of Conversocial.