Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Instant Messaging for Marketing?

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Instant Messaging for Marketing?

Article excerpt

Let's say you want to reach young people. Maybe you have a product or service to sell, an organization or cause to promote, or a celebrity or politician to publicize.

You've probably heard about instant messaging, or IM, a way to communicate instantaneously, or in "real time," using a computer or computerized device. Despite the fact that IM has been around for nearly a decade now, it's all the rage among the 18- to 27-year-old Gen-Y crowd, a key demographic. It's even approaching the popularity of e-mail. According to a recent survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 46 percent of Gen-Yers use IM more than e-mail. Why not harness the immediacy of IM to spread the word?

That would be a really bad idea, says Sean Carton, and he should know. Carton is a founder and "chief experience officer" at Carton Donofrio Partners Inc. , an advertising and interactive media consulting firm in Baltimore, dean of the School of Design and Communication at Philadelphia University, and author of eight books about technology.

But Carton also has some good ideas on how you can use IM to create or strengthen client or customer loyalty.

What you first have to do is understand the differences between how people use IM and other communication media. At first glance, you might think that IM is like e-mail, with people typing to each other. But it's really more like talking on a cell phone.

Just as people react negatively to having their cell phone space invaded by people they don't know who are trying to push information in their face, so they react when strangers use IM to disrupt. "Instant messaging is about communicating one-on-one with people you trust, with friends," says Carton. "It's a personal experience."

As hated as unsolicited commercial e-mail is for most people, unsolicited IM pitches would be a thousand times worse. If you want to create instant enemies, buy a list of IM handles.

On the other hand, if you want to build friendly relationships using technology a la mode, cede control. Make yourself or your organization available to those interested in what you have to offer ... when they want. IM can be a quick and convenient way for people to get answers from your marketing or customer service department. It's particularly appropriate for organizations that already have a strong online presence, from airlines to universities.

People don't have to go offline and slog through a voice-mail menu or send e-mail and cool their heels until it's returned. Studies have shown that e-commerce sites often lose sales because customers can't get their questions answered quickly. …

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