Putting the “I” and “Me” in SocIal MEdia: The Resurgence of Private Messaging

May 1, 2014


Posted By: Mindbenders Media
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Were Mom and Dad right all along? Was all of that picture posting and making my private thoughts public just a fad that they routinely cautioned against?

Not exactly. But, believe it or not, the new frontier for social media seems to be not-so-social forms of communication. Think less one-on-one billion and more one-on-one. Less “sharing” and more “caring”.  Less “plural” you and more “singular” you. Let’s look at a few of the more widely known social media platforms, how they have reacted to the renewed focus on private messaging capabilities, and how brands can rise to the demands of private messaging to communicate with consumers:



Facebook redesigned its private application “Facebook Messenger” in October 2013. What the Messenger takes away from the “sharing” aspect of social, it gives back 10-fold in its ability to make a brand more caring. Facebook Messenger provides a platform for brands to deliver exclusive content to a select user or answer private requests that send real-time alerts to the user’s phone. And let’s not ignore the fact that Facebook recently purchased Whatsapp for a cool $19billion… Whether the social media giant is merely seeing the writing on the wall, or authoring it themselves, this acquisition is a major indicator that the role of social media is changing.


If you’ve ever “DMed” someone on Twitter, you know how Twitter’s private messaging application works- yes, you still have only 140 characters to get your point across. DM, like any private messaging feature, though, should be used carefully as someone who does not feel intimately connected to your brand could be put off by an unsolicited message. Instead, use this feature to remind a select group of followers about a sale, or as a way to take customer service issues out of the public space. If someone recently mentioned that they love a specific line you carry, DM that person specially to give them a heads up when a new product from that line gets delivered to your store. Keep it personal.


Publicly, Instagram is the ideal place to photographically represent your product- even better if you can show your product in use (either staged by you or collected from other user-generated content). In December 2013, Instagram launched Instagram Direct, which gives users a private way to talk, share photos and post videos. In this way, you can reach out to (or find) brand influencers. You can also use Instagram Direct for contesting as Gap did just hours after the feature launched. One way more and more businesses are beginning to use this feature is to connect with media outlets and pitch exclusive stories through video. No matter how you use Instagram Direct, make sure your message is just that- direct.


In February of this year, Pinterest announced the ability for users to have unlimited secret boards. While this does not particularly impact a business’ ability to be seen (or interact with users) in any new way, it’s yet another sign that users are turning to social media platforms for more personal reasons and are not necessarily looking to broadcast opinions for feedback. Users typically pin to secret boards when planning for their most special, personal moments, by either not sharing the board at all, or only inviting a select group of friends to see pins. By being active on Pinterest, you give your brand the opportunity to be a part of that. Nothing could be more sacred in a business/buyer relationship. Embrace the secret board pinner.


This app is unique in its whole-hearted embrace of a singular mode of communication: video. This presents an entirely new frontier for broadcasting unlimited six-second videos that are, in essence, ads. By keeping the content entertaining, and above all else, relevant, brands can make great connections with their users. One six-second video can instantly reach thousands of your fans. Earlier this month, however, Vine introduced Vine Messaging. This feature will allow businesses to push exclusive content in ways previously unavailable on Vine and will make that relationship with your brand all the more valuable. A person will only receive private messages from added friends or followers.


The entire concept of Snapchat began as a one-on-one communication platform, making it, you could argue, slightly ahead of its time in an age when broadcasting messages from “me to a million” was all the rage. Despite this, the app took off virtually overnight, hitting just over 30 million users in under 30 months. This growth encouraged brands to utilize the platform as yet another weapon in their communication arsenal. And the app continues to evolve. Earlier this morning, in a somewhat predictable move, (not to be outdone by emerging rival Whatsapp), Snapchat expanded its capabilities to include private text messaging and one-way and two-way video chat (Facetime? Skype? AOL IM, anyone?!). Surely this was intended to impact personal interactions, but won’t this affect how brands value Snapchat moving forward? Only time will tell…

Whether it’s the countless studies showing users are starting to feel a sense of “false intimacy”, the mobile takeover, or the general concerns over internet privacy, there’s no doubt social media use is shifting. With Facebook’s recent acquisition of WhatsApp and other chat messaging platforms picking up steam, people are coming to expect a different experience from social media and brands that engage through its various platforms.

Now, more than ever before, it is important to put some of your brand’s storytelling eggs in each “media” basket- some in social (across multiple platforms), some in traditional (across multiple outlets), some in earned (across many forms). Certainly, viewing patterns on TV have shifted. Listening for radio has evolved. It’s inevitable that the use of social media would some day change (dare we predict that one day it may – gasp – die out entirely!). It’s important for businesses to strategize accordingly. In the meantime, it’s important for businesses to continue to communicate as a typical user would on each platform and feature within. Remember, a person likes to be treated like one IN a million. Not one OF a million.

If you want more information on what Mindspike thinks about the future of private messaging within social media, feel free to, well, message us!

Photo credit: cletch / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)


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