It’s always dangerous to start writing about Facebook at this time of year.
As soon as you begin, Facebook uses its annual conference to launch a raft of changes that render your existing views obsolete. This year’s F8 developer conference has been no different, with plenty of new features making an impact. I’ve listed the main ones below, along with the tech news headlines you can expect to see about them this week.
- Video profile images (“Facebook is going after Snapchat next’ ),
- Save articles feature (“Facebook is going after Pocket and Nuzzel next”)
- New Video copyright permissions (“Facebook is building its own YouTube”)
- Quote/Snippet sharing (Is this the year Facebook finally kills Twitter?”)
- Actually really really goodlooking VR glasses (Facebook plans to DESTROY Apple’s device market with radical new design focus).
And… chat bots.
Which sound like the least interesting, but actually the opposite is true. Microsoft recently reframed the conversation around chatbots with its Tay shenanigans on Twitter, but they also offer great possibilities for ecommerce, content distribution and amplification, and customer service in particular.
Adding an API function allows businesses to easily set up simple bots that can relay a variety of messages to the 900 million monthly active messenger users out there.
This is obviously a boon to customer service as it allows for simple FAQ information to be automated efficiently through a widely used app, but it also has wider consequences which are worth thinking about.
From Facebook’s perspective, it strengthens the ‘walled garden’, with users tending to utilise less apps, instead opting for ones with sprawling functionality, it keeps them inside Facebook and away from the likes of Line.
For marketers (and remember, Facebook sells itself as a marketing platform, rather than a social network) this also offers the chance to send different types of messaging easily. Essentially you can now set up drip nurturing campaigns directing users to various content, and host it directly inside messenger.
Facebook has made it clear that there will be powerful controls available to users so that they are not deluged with spam, but presumably this means that the messages that do get through will be opt-in. The value of these actively consumed messages should be clear – much of Snapchat’s valuation currently rests on this.
Facebook is clearly betting heavily on this, even promising to help build your bots for you using messenger’s ‘Wit.AI’, a natural language interface which should allow bots to learn and offer more effective responses over time.
As mentioned, this is a boon for customer service teams, and will allow simple automation of key tasks – checking in to a hotel or ordering a coffee for example – but the use should be considered carefully if you are planning on using it to push ads or content.
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