Business Translation: Direct Private Messaging (DPM)

Direct messaging (DM) has huge business value impacting employees, prospects and customers, and marketing, sales and operations. I have not seen an aggregated summary of DM, including what it is, its limitations and opportunities, so here it is.

I prefer to refer to DM as Direct Private Messaging (DPM), which is the ability to send a private message directly to a customer(s) or any other person(s) associated with your channel or platform. A direct personalized and or segment level message creates engagement, response and ultimately customer satisfaction, lower costs and or higher revenues.

The key channels with DPM include mail, email and cellphone. Digital platforms today include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest. These channels and platforms differ on protocol, level of personalization, message and recipient sizes, allowable recipients and other features.

Below is a summary of the nine service "Names." You will also see that there are five different protocols being used. The IM protocol is used across all digital channels but branded differently.




Mail is actually having a comeback, getting ROIs in the 25% range with over sized postcards to house lists. Direct mail is experiencing the highest response rates since 2003 according to the DMA. Mail has the ability for mass 1:1 personalization, i.e. mail merge. There are no message or recipient limits. Depending on the list it might require an opt-in process. Millennials love getting mail because they don't get much of it.

eMail uses an IMAP protocol and has the ability for mass 1:1 personalization. House email lists are getting ROIs over 100%. There are limits to message and recipient sizes based on the carrier when going direct. 3rd party providers might have less limitations. Depending on the list it might require an opt-in process. eMails are flooding in boxes, but since the cost is so low, ROIs are still high.

Cellphone use the SMS/MMS protocols for "Text." There are applications that can provide 1:1 personalization to a group of recipients though the size is general limited to 10 based on the carrier. You can messages up to 160 characters, along with attachments. You can create groups which can be aligned with specific content.

Facebook offers two DPM tactics, including "Chat" and "Messenger." Chat is based on the IM protocol where Messenger uses SMS. Neither supports 1:1 mass personalization. You can send a 20,000 character message to up to 5,000 "Friend" recipients with Chat. You can create up to 1,000 lists with 5,000 friends in each. So you can create specific content for each of these lists. You also get read confirmation. You can not reach out to followers with Chat.

Messenger allows you to send a 320 character message to up to 150 friends or non-friends. Non-friends would have to "accept" a message. Can not use Messenger with followers, and at the time of this article Facebook is testing out "Rooms" for groups. So you can create specific content but need to reselect recipients every time you want to send a message with Messenger.

Twitter has their "Direct Message" feature which uses the IM protocol. Does not support 1:1 mass personalization. You can send a 10,000 character message to up to 50 followers or those who DPM you first. The default settings for twitter users is to receive DPMs even though they are not following the sender. There is read confirmation. You can send up to 1,000 DMPs per day or to 50,000 followers per day, i.e. 50 recipients times 1,000 per day. You can't save groups but you can create lists. So you can create list specific content then DPM to followers within the list.

Collecting Twitter handles is rare. Below is Oracle's effort.


Instagram has "Direct Messaging" using the IM protocol. Does not support 1:1 mass personalization. There is no character limit but can only send to 15 followers, non-followers or those who have already accepted a prior DPM. Non-followers can receive/accept message requests. You can send as many DPMs as you want. You can save groups of up to 15 members. You have the ability to send group specific content.

Snapchat offers "Chat" and "Snap" which both use the IM protocol. Does not support 1:1 mass personalization. You can send an unlimited number of DPMs containing up to 80 characters to up to 16 friends. You can save an unlimited number of groups. There is DPM "open" confirmation as well. Mutual friends can be added to groups by group members, exposing prior DPMs to the new members. Because of this feature, Chat and Snap in my opinion are no longer private when this happens.

Pinterest
has "Messages" also using an IM protocol. Does not support 1:1 mass personalization. You can send a 9,000 character message to up to 9 friends. You can send Pins or you can chat.

There are concerns about DPM spamming. If you follow the same governance as eMail then you will be okay. Some ideas on how to use DPM include:

  • Thank new followers for their interest on your brand/account (just once, this is being polite, not spamming).
  • Send promotional codes or coupons to the people that already follow you.
  • Keep your followers informed of changes on the site, new products. (don't use in excess)
  • Directly interact with your customers and provide personal, quick responses to their customer service questions or needs.
  • Use DPM for team collaboration on projects, design, brainstorming, etc.

In summary, multiple channels and platforms offer DPM and can provide high value to a business or organization. Mail and eMail offer the highest level of personalization at scale. Facebook Chat because of the list capability and large number of recipients can be highly effective. The key is to build friends. The other platforms can be useful but need to be evaluated on a case by case basis for your business.

If you are interested in DPM, then my suggestion is to use the DPM summary table as a baseline of current DPM offerings and features, and keep on top of platform changes. Some changes will provide more valuable like increasing the number of recipients, and others will take away value. At the end of the day, digital platforms want to make sure they control communications and how DPM impacts their advertising revenue.

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