One of the phrases we’ve been hearing a lot this year is ‘go where your people are’ (closely followed by ‘we need to sort out our digital workplace’ and ‘what has Trump done now?’).

The thinking here being that it’s more efficient to share content on platforms your employees are already using, rather than trying to drag them to a platform they’re not.

Maybe your organisation is applying this approach by communicating with employees through Twitter or Facebook… but have you considered WhatsApp, Messenger or iMessage?

As we reported in our 2017 Trends book, there are now more users of the top four chat apps than the top four social networks. Chat apps also have higher retention and usage rates than most mobile apps. Why wouldn’t you want to build on that for your employee comms?

More and more companies are using chatbots (computer programs designed to simulate human conversation) to communicate with customers, so we expect this technology to move into IC before too long.

Here’s one example of how chatbots are changing communication: Leeds Beckett University has launched one to help prospective students find the right course.

The university’s Dougal Scaife told BBC News: “We know that our prospective students already use lots of messaging software for communicating with their friends, such as Snapchat and WhatsApp, as well as texting, so developing a chatbot was a natural evolution.”

That sounds like a classic case of ‘go where your people are’ to us.

In another example, a piece in the New York Times described how a fan of Maroon 5 had enjoyed a conversation with the band’s chatbot. The fan said afterwards: “Having Maroon 5 on Messenger makes you feel really close to your favourite artists.”

Chris Mortimer, Head of Digital Marketing at Interscope Records, told the newspaper that the platform is a critical way for his artists to reach their fans. “Right now, a Facebook Messenger Inbox is what an email inbox was before the spammers got to it,” he said.

From an employee comms perspective, there are many potential uses for this type of technology, including:

  • Providing induction information to new starters
  • Linking to the intranet, to provide easy access to key information
  • Sharing emergency messages
  • Providing targeted news snippets
  • Connecting to HR systems so employees can check their holiday allowance or query the status of an expense claim (in fact OCBC Bank has an HR chatbot for exactly this type of purpose).

One of the big pluses of chatbots is that they provide two-way communication: you can send out messages to your employees, but people can also request information from the bot.

Imagine being able to send out three news headlines, with employees being able to text back for more details on the stories they’re really interested in. Or a colleague being able to ask ‘What’s happening in the Leeds office this week?’

Another plus is the high open rate for text messages. Think about that pang you get when you hear or feel your smartphone announce a new message. Ignoring it is just too painful sometimes. In fact, research has shown that text messages have a 98 per cent open rate, compared to 20 per cent for email. Those are figures we can get on board with.

Here at Sequel we built our first chatbot recently: it provides information from our employee handbook. Having been through this process, we think there’s huge potential for chatbots to continue the conversation.