What Facebook Messenger’s evolution means for advertisers

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As Facebook Messenger becomes more popular, it gives brands that many more methods – and that much more incentive – to connect with its millions of users.

Messaging apps now provide extra benefits to consumers by enabling photos, stickers, GIFs, payments, location and transportation services, and video calling. These rich media features will only continue to grow and short messaging services (SMS) will begin to lose their value.

Facebook Messenger was the fastest growing app of 2015 and now has 900 million monthly active users.

Messenger made leaps and bounds in terms of improvements, such as video calling, payment processing, better location sharing, automatic photo sharing, and many more. It recently launched a trio of features that are shifting Facebook Messenger from a place to chat with friends to a platform where consumers can chat with companies and customer service bots.

  • Messenger Codes, the equivalent to Snapchat’s snapcodes, enable users to easily find people in Messenger; simply scan a code someone shares with you to get the conversation started. Messenger Codes can be used on business cards, online, or in-store to give others a one-stop way to find you.
  • Messenger Usernames and Links provide users with a unique Messenger URL based on your username. These will show directly on your Page with the @ symbol before it. They’re short, personalized URLs that you can share anywhere online (email signature, website, social networks) and can send directly to your contacts. This will let consumers send a message request to anyone on Facebook by name, eliminating the need to know someone’s phone number.
  • Messenger Greetings are customizable notes from the business that appear in a new message thread before messages are sent. Businesses should take advantage of this feature to set the tone and show the brand’s personality before interacting with the consumer.

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The new suite of tools will help Facebook users connect with and converse with businesses more easily than ever. Messenger Links will automatically open a chat with a business in Messenger. Messenger Codes will serve the same purpose and can be scanned anywhere with a phone’s camera. Companies will start to see their Facebook page usernames being promoted across the site.

What should marketers be doing now? Claim the username you want to represent your company in the network.

The new consumer hotline?

Messenger has the potential to eliminate the need for a company’s toll-free customer service number by becoming a virtual call center and even a personal assistant to customers. This transition seems natural, as the shift from desktop to mobile is happening at exponential rates.

Messaging a business directly eliminates the need to wait on the phone to speak with a customer service representative, ask questions about products, or make an appointment. Imagine being able to connect instantaneously as a business with a customer and vice versa?

The convenience alone will build positive sentiment towards your company by making the connection easier.

Will Messenger be monetized?

It is rumored that Facebook will launch ads within Messenger this year. With the launch of new features, it would be a natural transition to allow ads within Messenger.

Facebook is currently testing “Sponsored Messages” and “Click to Message” ads among a small set of advertisers via its chatbots, allowing businesses to send re-engagement messages to users who are already in conversation with them.

To combat privacy issues and avoid annoying consumers, whose natural ad blocking mechanism may feel violated, Facebook will only allow brands to send ad messages to people who have voluntarily chatted with a company.

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With Sponsored Messages and Click to Message consumers are able to tell the bot exactly what they are looking for instead of being funneled to a website and having to search there. The biggest hurdle will be figuring out how to use these messages as a benefit to consumers and not another way to smother them with ads or becoming a nuisance.

What should brands do now to prepare for Messenger advertising in the near future? Start testing ways to start conversations with consumers through Messenger. Encourage consumers to create chat threads with you. Customer service-oriented chats are a great way to do this, answering product questions or responding to concerns or product reviews.

Starting the conversation now will help advertisers better utilize Messenger’s features (and ad capabilities) later.

Starting the conversation with the right audience

Using Facebook’s advanced options for Custom Audiences from your website will help identify the consumers that have more value to and the highest interest in your brand. Advanced options include frequency, time spent, dynamic date, aggregated values, and devices. These enable advertisers to target their paid assets to people who are most likely to view and engage with them.

Facebook Messenger’s new features are the start of truly one-to-one chat relationships between consumers and brands in the digital space. Mobile messaging will continue to expand and as the platform enables advertising, it becomes more important for companies to take advantage.

Therefore, companies need to make chatting with customers on Facebook a marketing priority; start building those relationships now. As mobile messaging evolves, marketers must adapt their activations to connect with consumers not only where they are, but how they want to be reached.

After all, 900 million Facebook users can’t all be wrong.

Morgan Swingle is a media manager at MMI Agency.

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