Rob Frankel - Branding Expert

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Instant Messaging for Profit.

As if the telephone, telegraph and all that other tele-stuff weren't enough to overload you with communication, the internet now brings you instant messaging. Okay, so the internet didn't just bring it out. Instant messaging has been around for quite a while. But now that the web is moving from analog infancy into digital puberty, I thought we should take a minute to re-examine this little critter and see if we can put it to new and better uses.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, instant messaging allows you and one or more people to all chat with one another simultaneously in one little screen. Most of instant messaging began in closed on-line services and grew to become one of the media's favorite sources for warped reporting of ratings-inspired horror stories, usually involving at least one ex-Marine an an under age child.

Balderdash, I say!

In my humble opinion, instant messaging has gotten a bad rap. People confuse it with chatting and with good reason: they're pretty much the same. Most of the programs that allow you to do this take up very little memory and hardly any disk space. Even better, they're almost all available on both Mac and PC platforms, so those whiny excuses about "not having it for my machine" are history.

And before we go any further, let me suggest you try any of these three: AOL has one, appropriately called "Instant messaging". I have no idea what the link is, but knowing AOL, it's probably plastered all over the site hawking a keyword like "Instant Messaging". Duh. For those of you sworn to smiting the AOL beast, you have two reasonable choices: ICQ or Peoplelink.

For what it's worth, I prefer Peoplelink, because it's fast, simple and -- okay, I'll say it -- prettier to look at. Virtually all Instant Messaging applications come with an obnoxious chirp/signal that let's you know that someone has just sent you a message. I suppose this is of considerable benefit to our blind friends who would otherwise tap around their monitors with a cane, but personally, I find it annoying..

Now, why would anyone want to use instant messaging?

Well, among the really cheapest of the cheap, it does allow you to communicate globally with callous disregard to long distance rates. I'm not talking about exchanging cookie dough recipes with grandma here, but real client situations. At Frankel & Anderson, we have clients in Europe, where the transatlantic can really mount up. When they are logged on to our site to view their work in progress, we can simultaneously exchange edits and ideas.

True, it's not as quick and efficient as using the phone. But my data tells me that by far, most of the netrepreneurs out there are budget-conscious types. There's no reason why a few time zones should keep them from utilizing your talents. And for those types, instant messaging is a great marketing tool.

Of course, using instant messaging also has its side benefits -- literally. You can be on line with everyone and send private messages to just one member. Suppose, for example, that you're in Miami, your vendor is in Paris and your client is in Seattle. The client is pleading poverty and your vendor is getting a little annoyed. With a private message, you can quietly backchannel the kind of glare usually reserved for use over the tops of conference tables. Something like, "EASE UP, JACQUES! WHAT WE LOSE ON THIS JOB WE CAN RECOUP ON THE NEXT!"

Sneaky, eh? Heh, heh.

So why would anyone offer free instant messaging? That's a whole different story. Supposedly, by tracking your name and e-mail address, these companies will make money charging for something -- to anyone who will pay for it. I have no idea who, because nobody I know would click on a banner ad in the middle of a chat session.

But they'll do something with the data, which supposedly pays for the service that's free to you and me.

Free. I like that.

Rob Frankel

Copyright 1998, FRANKEL & ANDERSON * Advertising, Marketing & Killer Creative SM

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