This is another excerpt from my upcoming book 'Win Dark Social, Win the Internet'.
I talked to Chris Messina about the impact of Dark Social and chatbots. Until very recently Chris was development lead at Uber. He is also the man who invented the hashtag.
How big an opportunity do you think Dark Social is for brands?
“Dark Social” — which might more easily be understood as digital channels not readily indexable by Google or other public web crawlers — are already incredibly important for brands. But we’re only just getting started. Quite often, brands take a one to many approach in their outbound messaging, or they fall back to human operators to staff largely “dark social” customer support channels. But increasingly, dark social will be a primary interaction context for providing highly personalized, relevant, and persistent engagement.
What do you think brands need to do in order to do Dark Social 'correctly'?
Brands needs to abandon the generic, one-to-many “audience” approach, where a single message is sent to millions of undifferentiated people, and invest in deeper segmentation and individualization and identity management of and for their customers. A single customer may interact with a brand across a number of channels, and it’s up to the brand to not get confused, or force their customer to constantly restart conversations. While the user- or customer-centric perspective isn’t new per se, in the dark social context, it becomes essential to maintaining the integrity of the user’s experiences and their expectations.
Do you think the public are ready for Chatbots?
The question isn’t whether the public is ready for chatbots — but whether the current app and web channels for delivering services are optimal for most basic user needs and intents. My opinion is that, no, for many use cases (not all), you don’t need to download an entire app to look up some simple information, make a request, or check the status of an existing request. A conversational context is sufficient. How many requests do users never make because they anticipate that the friction is too high to even bother?
How much customer loyalty is lost because of that perception?
It’s not about readiness — it’s about whether brands can rise to the occasion and meet their customers where they already spend most of their time on their mobile devices: in messaging and conversational contexts!
Look out for more from my interview with Chris in my upcoming book.