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What Is Instant Messaging and Why Should You Use It For Business

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7 minutes

Imagine waking up on a Monday morning, you hear your alarm and reach for your mobile to turn it off. When you have your phone in your hand, what do you do? If you thought of checking WhatsApp, Instagram, or Facebook, you and I are on the same page. A study from IDC (International Data Corporation) found that 80% of smartphone users check their mobile devices within 15 minutes of waking up each morning.  Most of these users check their email account, social media, and their instant messaging apps, like WhatsApp, Messenger, Telegram, and others. Either to respond to their loved ones or to use it for business.

Whether it is to say hello to your family or to send a message to your boss telling her you are going to be late for today’s meeting, you use instant messaging almost all the time. These apps have become part of our daily lives.

Since before the Covid-19 pandemic, instant messaging has been becoming even more popular. With many businesses shutting down their physical stores, they became more dependent on social media and messaging platforms. It initially started as a platform to share your personal experiences and photographs with your family and friends. Now the number one tool businesses use in order to generate new customers.

Even though we use instant messaging all the time, many people are not familiar with its concept. Because of its sudden growth, it can be a challenge to define what instant messaging is. Answers often have a wide range and fail to capture all of the different elements and uses of instant messaging.

Women using instant messaging app

What is Instant Messaging?

We understand instant messaging, or IM, as the exchange of near real-time messages through a stand-alone application or embedded software. This means an exchange of messages between two users or more. The messages can come in the form of text, audio, video, voice notes, and files. And if it sounds familiar, it is because you use it every day! Instant messaging has billions of users worldwide. The most popular is Whatsapp with more than 2 billion users, and Facebook Messenger with 1.3 billion users globally. It started as a good way to communicate with your loved ones, but now instant messaging is a great tool to promote your business.

Understanding instant messaging is important. It can provide good insights into its potential, both personally and in the workplace. Learning where it comes from may give us a better understanding of where it comes from.

But attention! Do not get confused instant messaging and social media work together but are different. The most important difference is that social media promotes one-to-many conversations, such as sharing a post on Facebook for followers to like and comment on. Meanwhile, messaging apps deliver more engaging, one-to-one interactions, allowing brands to connect with individual customers in a more meaningful way.

The History of Instant Messaging:

Being an industry that is so big and that everybody uses, you may care to think, how did it all start? How did we get from sending letters in the mail to having full chat conversations in tiny boxes on our mobile phones? The first instant messages were for programmers, emergency communications, and computer chat rooms. This was before they entered the realm of our everyday lives.

In 1969, UCLA student, Charley Kilne, attempted to transmit the text “login” to a computer at the Stanford Research Institute over the first link on the ARPANET, which was the precursor to the modern internet. After the letters ‘L’ and ‘O’ were sent, the system crashed, making the first message ever sent on the internet LO. About an hour later, recovering from the crash, the full text ‘LOGIN’ was successfully sent.

The term “Instant messaging” became present in 1997 with the launch of AIM (America Online Instant Messenger), which used its proprietary OSCAR instant messaging and TOC protocols to allow registered users to communicate in real-time.

Woman chatting on computer

While AIM was the first to appeal to the masses, many other messaging programs soon followed it. Yahoo! launched its Messenger in 1998. Microsoft released MSN Messenger in 1999, renaming it Windows Live Messenger in 2005. Adding photo sharing, social network integration, and games. But there was the issue of having multiple chat clients and missing out on messages if you were signed on to one and not the other.

All of those chats were programs that you logged into specifically to chat, and it was when instant messaging became integrated into our everyday actions. Checking our email, opening a social media page, or turning on our mobile phones, became one of the main source of communications. Apple computer users could log on to Apple’s iChat for its Mac OS X operating system starting in 2002, followed by iMessage in 2011. 

Instant Messaging as we know it

And then there was MySpace, the largest social networking site from 2005 to 2008. It was a popular platform for sharing new music, which even aided in launching some musicians’ careers. MySpace was one of the first social networks to integrate a chat on its platform in 2006. Twitter released direct messages in 2006, while Facebook released Facebook Chat in 2008, followed by Facebook Messenger in 2011.  Instagram emerged in 2010 and had its direct message feature, with voice and video added in 2014.  WhatsApp was founded in 2009 and today is the biggest instant messaging app in the world. The 2010s are considered to be the dawn of messaging apps. Everyone was and is using them to talk to everyone through a mobile phone.

Importance of instant messaging for businesses 

When it comes to social media, many brands try to use the same sale strategy they implement in their physical store. They ignore their social media and messaging channels, struggle to reply to comments and in many cases, they don’t respond at all. This negligence can easily lead to a loss in client loyalty. Faced with poor customer service, 39% never use the offending company again, 37% would change suppliers.  

Start using instant messaging for your business 

Here is when instant messaging starts to play a critical role in the customer service experience. Social media customer service helps distinguish a business from its competitors. While most consumers expect a brand to respond in the first 24 hours, more than 40% of social media users expect businesses to reply within sixty minutes. Replying to your clients early and being attentive to their needs on chat can help you connect with them faster. And even get help getting new customers. 

IM is not only important for clients, but also you can use it within your business. Instant messaging improves communication in the workplace. It is more efficient than email because it allows messages to appear immediately, saving lots of time.  With IM, workers can remain in constant contact with each other every time. The Covid-19 pandemic has not only made messaging apps essential for businesses' client service but also for coworkers who are no longer seeing each other at the office. Being Discord, Slack and Microsoft Teams are the most used.

Instant messaging is used by more than 4 billion people around the world. Adapt your business and your workplace by taking advantage of it. Benefit from all the tools that IM brings for your business and use it to its full potential now that it is growing more than ever!

Written by
Community manager at ChayAll.com. A journalist from Colombia with a love of new trends, culture, music, and cats.