Facebook has put a great deal of focus into growing Messenger as a chatbot platform this year. Its efforts are paying off as there are 34,000 of these bots already in existence, with brands such as Manchester City, Unilever, HP, the Guardian and Domino’s all signing up.
In its latest move, Facebook has now revealed that it is bringing ads to Messenger, giving brands the opportunity to go from mass targeting within the newsfeed to one-to-one conversations, all in a single click. This latest development places emphasis on engagement and conversion, by attempting to move customers away from the mobile web.
Customers will be presented with a native brand experience where they are targeted with a typical ad within their Facebook newsfeed, but when they click on the thumbnail, description or call-to-action button, they’re taken to a conversation within Messenger. This could be a bot or it could simply be a prepared message or greeting. The user can respond to the brand and continue that conversation if they choose to do so, or act on whatever information is given to them. Getting the user targeting right will be paramount to this being successful, as consumers will only want to engage in a conversation which is of interest and relevant to them.
There have been a few early adopter campaigns already. For example, computer game Call of Duty recently saw six million people chat to a character via Facebook Messenger in 24 hours, in order to unlock a trailer.
Absolut Vodka also recently launched a Messenger bot to drive product samples and used newsfeed ads to increase traffic to this experience.
“Using News Feed ads to open conversations in Messenger allows Absolut to move beyond the call to action – it’s a call to conversation, which ultimately leads to a conversion. It’s a novel way to use Facebook ads to drive consumers from content to commerce. So far, our activation rate has exceeded execution benchmarks by 2x and we’re looking forward to continued increases in activations driven by News Feed ads over the key holiday period” explains Joao Rozario, VP Marketing, Absolut Vodka, within the Facebook developer blog.
But according to Facebook, driving individuals to Messenger isn’t enough, which is why it will also be enabling brands to send a sponsored message to consumers who it has already opened a conversation with. This will be within the context of all previous interactions, meaning there will never be a need to open a new thread. Business will not, however, be allowed to send sponsored messages to Facebook users who have not previously opened a chat with them and users can block messages they no longer want to receive.
“Sponsored messages give businesses the ability to send targeted updates, information about promotions, reminders and other relevant messages. The value that people get from 1:1 conversations with the businesses they care about is extended by this ability to consistently engage through customised experiences,” the Facebook blog explains.
Speaking to Marketing Week, Facebook vice president of messaging products, David Marcus, said: “If you want to get people to download an app now and turn on push notifications, good luck. We have app and notifications overload, so the ability to build that experience in Messenger and reach your customer base and manage the whole lifecycle is a very powerful thing.”
Previously on this blog we have written about the rise of ‘Dark Social’, which refers to the online world of social link sharing which happens privately and cannot be tracked by brands. To help combat this, Facebook will be enabling brands to add referral parameters to m.me links (which open in Facebook Messenger), so that they can easily identify how someone found them in Messenger. This will also allow brands to more effectively measure traffic attribution for bots and help them determine the best entry point to their Messenger experience. They will also be able to personalise messages based on the origin of the click.
There’s no stopping Facebook when it comes to bots for Messenger it seems, but it will most likely be another couple of years before it reaches tipping point. AI hasn’t quite progressed to the point where it can really carry on a conversation, with natural language processing capabilities, always giving a customer what they’re asking for. So in the meantime, expect to see lots of creativity, trial and error, as brands make sense of this new personalised, advertising format.