Is Telegram popular with your customers? If it is, read this Telegram guide and learn how to use Telegram for business. We’ll explain what a Telegram business account is, how to create a Telegram bot to chat with customers and best practices for making the most of your business account for Telegram.
What is Telegram?
Telegram is a messaging app renowned for its privacy and security, support for every major operating system and ease of use as a mobile app. It had over 700 million monthly active users and was among the top five downloaded apps worldwide as of June 2022.
The privately-owned service also long held a not-for-profit stance. While Telegram has introduced a paid premium subscription, all existing features remain free, assuring users of its commitment to prioritizing their interests over profit.
As its popularity continues to grow, the channel is seeing an uptake among businesses. Let’s examine why Telegram is a key channel for customer communication.
Telegram Business Account Benefits
An impressive 64% of customers prefer communicating with businesses over instant messaging rather than traditional channels like phone calls or email. Using Telegram for business, in particular, has multiple benefits.
First, security is a key driver of the channel’s popularity. Telegram uses server-client encryption and files are stored encrypted in the Telegram cloud. Privacy-conscious users can opt for extra security with advanced end-to-end encrypted messages and voice calls.
But customer communication is not limited to 1:1 chats and calls. Telegram also has social platforms businesses can leverage to interact with customers at scale, such as Telegram Groups and Channels (more on these later).
Best of all, Telegram doesn’t limit the number of devices an account can be connected to or used on simultaneously, and chats are synced in real-time across all devices. Without any restrictions on content type or messaging windows, it’s a great channel for business.
Regions that Use Telegram for Business
In a few regions around the world, Telegram is overtaking Facebook Messenger in popularity, though it’s still behind WhatsApp globally. What spurred this development and where is this growth prominent?
Telegram was the fastest-growing messenger in Iran and Uzbekistan in 2019 while another 20 countries followed suit in 2020. As of 2021, Telegram was the top messaging app in 25 countries, up from 16 countries the previous year.
The 2020 Telegram user growth map below shows increased use in Eastern Europe and Asia, as well as in parts of South Africa, North America and South America. This continued in 2021, with Europe, Asia and Africa recording steady downloads.
A possible reason for this growth is market share saturation. The most popular apps are already in use, leading to a slowdown in recent downloads. This allows Telegram to rank higher in app stores now as other messaging app users seek it out.
Telegram was also mostly popular in countries with authoritarian regimes due to its privacy policies and security features. Demand multiplied globally in 2021 when concerns about WhatsApp sharing private user data with parent company Meta arose.
Since then, Telegram has become part of an elite club of apps that have been downloaded over 1 billion times. If you’re in a region where customers are increasingly turning to the channel, consider using Telegram for business to reach out to them.
How to Use Telegram for Business
Telegram provides an easy yet impactful experience for businesses and customers alike. Small businesses will find the free version of the Telegram app sufficient for their use with the ability to schedule messages and more.
Medium to large businesses can connect Telegram to a messaging platform like respond.io to enable auto-replies and bulk messaging, as well as automate marketing initiatives, sales cycles and customer support over Telegram.
Let’s look into native Telegram features or capabilities that are ideal for businesses.
Create a Telegram Business Account with Telegram Bot
The Telegram bot is basically a Telegram Business account. Unlike WhatsApp Business App, there is no dedicated Telegram Business app. However, using the Telegram bot allows you to create a branded Telegram account for your business.
The Telegram bot (or Telegram Business API) is free and allows you to create bots to play games, run ecommerce services or chat with customers. However, as an API, it lacks an interface and needs to be connected to a messaging inbox like respond.io to send and receive messages.
Interact with Customers on Telegram Groups
Telegram Groups work just like groups on any other messaging app. The key difference is groups on Telegram can have up to 200,000 members. Groups are highly configurable, have granular controls for chat management and can be private or public and searchable.
As Telegram Groups support two-way interaction, they are invaluable for community building. Businesses can use them to gather feedback, conduct polls or address topics of interest according to the group’s segmenting.
Send Broadcasts via Telegram Channels
Telegram Channels have the same features as Groups except communication is one-way. Only admins can send messages. They also have no user limits, making them ideal for broadcasts. For instance, Health Ministries in Singapore, Malaysia, India and Israel used Telegram Channels to update the public on Covid-19 news.
Users subscribe to channels through in-app searches on Telegram or by using channel links posted on websites or other places. Channels with over 1,000 subscribers can access channel and post analytics to measure their reach and impact.
Share Identification Documents Securely with Telegram Passport
If you’re in an industry that handles identity verification, then Telegram Passport is for you. It’s a platform that stores identification documents for use by institutions or service providers that require them for Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures.
The idea is to stop uploading these confidential documents to various places. Since Telegram stores this data in its cloud with end-to-end encryption, only the intended recipients can access the data.
Get Telegram Premium for Heavy Use of Telegram for Business
Telegram’s co-founders were adamant that its private messaging would always be cost-free and ad-free. That promise is still intact, but the channel recently introduced Telegram Premium for users who are willing to pay for additional benefits.
These include 4GB file uploads, faster downloads, exclusive stickers, custom animated emojis, and advanced chat management and privacy settings. If you often send large files, subscribe to the Premium plan. Otherwise, you can get by with the free version.
For best results, however, connect your Telegram business account to respond.io to unlock features like advanced chat automation, integration with external CRMs and extensive reporting and analytics. We’ll show you how to do this next.
How to Set Up a Telegram Business Account with Telegram Bot
As it lacks its own interface, the Telegram bot has to be connected to respond.io to send and respond to messages. To get started, we’ll guide you through the Telegram account setup using a Telegram bot.
How to Create a Telegram Business Account
The Telegram bot allows you to set up a branded Telegram account for business, which gives your account legitimacy and credibility. To create the bot, do the following:
1. Chat with the BotFather. Search for the BotFather in Telegram and then press Start.
2. Use the /newbot command. This will start the bot creation process.
You’ll need to choose a display name and then a username. You can change the bot name later, but the username has to be unique, should describe who you are and end with bot .
3. Receive the token to connect your Telegram bot to a messaging CRM.
4. Create a respond.io account if you don’t already have one and use the token to connect the Telegram bot.
That’s it — once this Telegram account setup is complete, you can start using your Telegram bot immediately.
Verify Your Business Account with the Telegram Badge
Want to assure contacts of your legitimacy with a Telegram verified badge? You’ll need verified accounts on at least two of these services, including TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Verification is currently only available for channels, bots or public groups.
Next, let’s look at best practices to make the most of your Telegram account.
Telegram Business: Best Practices
Using Telegram for business is a smart move as the channel is focused on providing fast and secure messaging, with complementary features for that purpose. But for conversations to happen on this channel, you need customers to message you first.
Let’s look at how you can encourage inbound conversations.
Telegram Business: Get Contacts to Find You on Telegram
Although users sign up for Telegram with a phone number, the primary identifier of each user is their Telegram ID. To protect your privacy and reduce spam, Telegram does not pass on your phone number or ID to your messaging CRM, just your name.
This also means Telegram users cannot be imported via CSV file to a CRM as contacts. Customers will have to message you first to become your Telegram contacts. Luckily, there are features designed for this purpose. We’ll guide you through them.
Telegram for Business: Chat Links and QR Codes
When a person clicks a chat link or scans a QR code, they will be taken directly into a chat with your brand. Every Telegram bot comes with a chat link using the t.me/username format, so it’s important that your bot username reflects your brand.
Chat links work well on websites, social media profiles, or even in emails sent to customers. They do have a limitation though, t.me links only work well when the Telegram app is installed on the device.
On mobile, users will be directed to download the Telegram app if they press the link. On desktop, users will be taken to a page where they can open Telegram Web. However, this only works when users have visited the page previously.
QR codes can drive traffic to your account from online or offline locations such as storefronts. Similar to chat links, they will only work when the app is installed. To let customers know which app to use, add a Telegram logo above the QR code.
Although Telegram doesn’t provide QR codes out of the box, they can be made with any QR code generator using the t.me link. Alternatively, generate a QR code on respond.io. Just go to Settings > Channel > Select your connected Telegram channel > Scan code.
Telegram for Business: In-App Search
Unlike other messaging app business accounts, you don’t need a verified Telegram bot to be searchable in-app. Once your bot is created, any user should be able to search for it on Telegram and send it a message.
Although in-app search may not drive the bulk of your traffic, this is the most likely way hardcore Telegram users will find your brand. Now that you know how to acquire customers as Telegram contacts, let’s explore how you can go about messaging them.
Telegram Business: Messaging Customers
Messaging customers on Telegram is relatively straightforward. Although other messaging app business accounts place limits on when and what you can send, Telegram for business doesn’t have any such restrictions.
Telegram for Business: 1:1 Messaging
Since Telegram doesn’t have a messaging window, you can send customers a message any time after they become a contact. The key things to know about messaging customers on Telegram are the sent and read receipts.
While Telegram provides sent, delivered and read statuses on personal accounts, a Telegram business account doesn’t have the same functionality. Status updates are not provided by the Telegram Bot API, even if connected to a business messaging platform.
Additionally, whenever a Telegram user messages your bot, their messages will automatically be marked as read, creating the impression that they were seen but not replied to. Use a centralized inbox like respond.io to ensure you never miss a message and track responses.
Telegram for Business: Broadcast Messaging
Like 1:1 messaging, Telegram doesn’t have any limitations for broadcasting. You can send rich media like pictures, videos, files, and text to an unlimited number of Telegram contacts.
However, contacts can block your bot if your content is irrelevant or your broadcast too often. If they do, you’ll receive a Forbidden: bot was blocked by the user notification when you message them. Keep your content relevant and broadcast carefully to avoid this.
Just like with 1:1 messaging, you’ll need to connect your bot to a business messaging platform to send a broadcast. Make sure the business messaging platform you choose has broadcast capabilities.
Telegram for Business: Group Messaging
Group messaging is important for business use cases like sales or promotional messaging. You’ll be pleased to learn that Telegram bots can be added to group chats.
By adding a Telegram bot to your group chat, you’ll be able to record group chat history in the messaging CRM your bot is connected to. While we haven’t enabled group chats on respond.io, you can help us do so by upvoting the feature request.
In short, talking to customers on a Telegram business account via respond.io drastically expands what you can do with the channel. Interested in using Telegram for business after reading this Telegram guide? Sign up for respond.io to get started.
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